How Many BC Staff? Part 2

I have to admit that I find the idea of running separate BC tables with separate staffs within the same hall completely bewildering—I cannot imagine how it could be supposed to improve the running of national fencing tournaments.

Even assuming we had enough BC volunteers to double up the staffing and were willing to pay extra for a second stage, additional computers, and a second microphone, I can’t see how it would work. We couldn’t simply split the hall evenly in half. Throughout any given day, the number of strips required to run a single event can vary from 40 or more for the pool round down to a single pod of 4 strips—and then the finals strip. As the 3 to 10 events of differing sizes we’d run each day progressed, we’d constantly need to shift the allocation of strips between each BC table—either that, or we’d need to split events themselves into smaller pieces, which would be even more confusing.

And then there’s that second microphone. We usually have two for Summer Nationals, so that the BC staff running team events can call their captains directly from the team table. In such close proximity, it’s pretty easy to see and hear when someone is already talking over the PA system. But with widely separated BC stages, announcements in a venue with a less-than-ideal sound system (as in Detroit this month) would be completely incomprehensible (instead of just mostly incomprehensible).

But there are already circumstances where we run, in effect, satellite BC tables. Take teams, for instance. At NACs, it’s less apparent, because team events are relatively small, but we usually run team events relatively independently from the individual events, from a dedicated floor-level team table. We set up a team computer with a single computer operator plus table staff for each team event, though at NACs, there are seldom multiple team events running at the same time. We run team events on Fencing Time, a huge improvement over when I started, when they were run entirely by hand. (I wrote in detail about running a team event in my BC Diary: Day 7, so check that out if you’re interested in more details—just scroll down past the Congress Meeting description.)

At Summer Nationals, where there is often more than one team event going on at once, we usually allocate a block of strips to the team table, to be used by all the team events as needed. There’s a bit of shifting strips back and forth throughout the day as needed, but with the team table staff there within easy reach of the BC chair, it’s easy to manage (as long as there are enough strips in the room for the total we need, which for SN is not always true—but that’s a different issue).

In the past, when we’ve used convention centers or hotels with split venues, we’ve created satellite BCs to work the second room, along with an armorer and trainer to handle problems as they occur. At the JOs at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs a few years back, most of the saber events were isolated in a ballroom across the lake from the main part of the venue. And I still laugh at how John Carollo, bored serving as the lone trainer in a small, column-cluttered second room at a Reno NAC one March, insisted on acting as “personal executive assistant” to me and Gerrie Baumgart, posting sheets for us, and directing fencers to the proper places from which to address us.

If we had unlimited personnel, both BC staff and volunteers, we could set up a satellite table near the pods used for an event’s DEs, so that fencers wouldn’t need to walk all the way to the BC table and back each time they won a bout. It wouldn’t make much difference in the running of the tournament or in the overall length of the day, but it might be nicer for the fencers (though that’s one of my favorite parts of running tournaments—I’d miss talking with fencers through the whole DE tableau). We’d just need the one or two people to run the tableau, some visible place for them to sit out by the pods, and volunteers to run the bout slips back to the computer operators at the main BC table every so often.

In a way, this is what we do now when we assign DEs by pod; we just designate one referee as pod chief or pod captain to run a small section of the tableau out there, except that we don’t make the pod captains keep track of the completed bout slips. But if we had enough BC staff to run sections of the tableaux out near the strips where the bouts occur, that would free up referees from administration to work more bouts as referees. (Though I’m not sure I can imagine an épée event without Mr. Alperstein and his famous Alperstein System demonstrating the proper way to run a DE quadrant.)

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One comment on “How Many BC Staff? Part 2

  1. “We’d constantly need to shift the allocation of strips between each BC table.”

    You realize that other organizations somehow manage this sort of thing on a much larger scale all the time, right? You have a factory making widgets, you need to expand production, so you open a second factory. And you allocate resources—including raw materials and labor—so that total production from both is at the level needed to maximize profit. Probably you are going to have some excess capacity somewhere from timne to time, but that’s still better than too little.

    Isn’t that what management is all about? Solving the problems which come up, rather than throwing up your hands and saying “Oh, it can’t be done, what an unworkable idea, let’s not try that!”

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