Layout & Strips, Part 2: Numbering Strips

Seriously? She’s going to write a post about numbering strips? Don’t you just start at the beginning with 1 and go on until you run out of strips?

Once upon a time, it was almost that easy. When strips were set up in rows from one end of the hall to the other, the only question we had to decide was whether to go back to the other end to start numbering the next row or to snake the numbering back and forth. When I first began working bout committee, I favored going back to the start, so that the numbers all increased in the same direction. It seemed to me that way was the easiest for fencers and coaches and spectators to grasp. But snaking has its advantages, often allowing strips across both rows at the same end of the hall to be numbered consecutively. (This only works at one end of the hall, though.)

But straight rows aren’t the only way strips are laid. Sometimes we get one row straight down the length of the hall and several clumps of strips at right angles to those, with or without large gaps between groups. (Structural columns and power access plates in the floor are often the reasons for such odd layouts.)

With pods, we number consecutively within the pods, and then down the rows through the pods in order. Not only does this make sense to fencers looking for their strips, it makes it easy for the strip assigner to keep track of which events are where—pods are always contiguous numbers on the chart we use to track our assignments.

(One time a few years ago, I arrived on setup day to find that the strips had already been numbered. Unfortunately, whoever’d done it had put the numbers up before the pipe barriers had been installed, so that the numbers went straight down to the rows with no regard for the pods. This meant that the first pod had strips 1, 2, 15, and 16, the second had 3, 4, 17, and 18, and so on. Keeping track of which pairs of strips matched up into pods would have been ridiculously confusing—we changed the strip numbering immediately.)

With some layouts, such as the one we had for Summer Nationals this year in Atlanta, there is no obviously good way to number the strips. When I first looked at the map of the layout, I thought, “There’s got to be a better way,” but after looking at it for a few minutes, I realized that it was already numbered in the least horrible order. (Sigh. So much in Atlanta this year amounted to “least horrible” options.)

With a good pod layout, good numbering can make the strip assigner’s job much easier. When pods are strips 1–4. 5–8, 9–12, and so on, it’s easy to visualize where strips and events are. In Atlanta, with that less-than-optimal layout, the first pod contained only two numbered strips (along with the Wheelchair frames), so that the pod numbering was off—whole pods were 3–6, 7–10, and so on. Combine that with the odd groups of two and three strips in half the hall, and it was almost impossible to assign events without constantly referring to a map. The layout and numbering were so unusual that it never began to feel familiar over the whole ten days.

Another issue to think about when numbering strips is whether a finals strip should be included in the numbering system. Actually, this is an issue that shouldn’t take any thinking—unless it’s absolutely the last strip, it shouldn’t be numbered at all. Anywhere else, that single strip will mess up the pod numbers and make the strip assigner’s job half again as difficult as it might otherwise be.

Next time: Figuring out which strips to use.


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