Monthly Archives: July 2011

SN Day 7

It’s amazing what cutting the numbers by 25% does to the feel of the day. Only 528 individual and 29 team entries today, so it’s a much less frantic pace.

We shifted the staffing around a bit to free Carla for the Veteran points calculations—results here in Reno will determine team selection for the Vet Worlds in the fall. The Vet age levels today are the women’s foil—one BC staffer runs all four events (a total of 80 fencers) with the aid of a collection of colored markers to distinguish the paper for all the different events.

All of the events are now small enough that strip management is no longer tricky—no more pulling strips from one event to be able to start another, no more complicated DE layouts crossing pod boundaries. Each event is allocated its strips and essentially stays there until the event is done (or moves onto the finals strip for its last bout or three).

Everything finishes up early enough that I can scoot over to Dave and Lisa’s for more BBQ, this time with fencers and coaches from my daughter’s old club, so a far livelier evening than Sunday.

Tomorrow Jill takes over as BC chair, and I get my other day off.


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SN Day 6

We are over the hump. We’re almost done with the youth and teen events, switching over to the Divs and—tomorrow—the Vets. We are done with the 8-page DE tableaux; the Divs feel like they’re about half the size of the Junior and Cadet events.

Today was not a pretty day, though.

We had one of our increasingly rare reseeds, because the round results and DE tableau for an event were posted simultaneously instead of the round results being posted first to allow time for fencers to check their results. In this particular case, a referee had changed some pool scores after some fencers had signed, and had not called those fencers back to resign the sheet. And the staff member working the event did not have enough experience to understand why we post the round results and tableaux separately and thought to save some time, given the scarcity of runners for posting this year. (The staff member in question—who is well on the way to becoming a reliable BC staffer—now understands exactly why we post them separately.) Another example of why we prefer experienced staff for SN: we don’t have the time or staff to provide adequate training and supervision for less experienced personnel.

We don’t have enough saber referees today. (Of course, there are not enough referees in any weapon, but the problem is particularly acute, as always, in saber.) It’s not so bad in the morning, with 131 entries (19 pools, flighted) in Y12MS, but D2MS closes at 12:30 with 132 entries (another 19 pools, flighted), followed by D1AWS at 1:30 with 71 entries (13 more saber pools).

Normally, we’d put the DEs for a saber event the size of the D2MS out on 12 strips, but with the D1AWS to handle, the men’s DEs have to make do with 8 strips. With the D1AWS pools flighted and its DEs also on 8 strips, we can just barely make it work (but not with the level of refereeing that most fencers and coaches would prefer).

It’s entertaining—and has been all week—watching and listening to the comments and complaints made to the assigners about referees. The complainers and commenters fall into two main categories. There are the furious, sometimes fencers, sometimes coaches, and sometimes parents. These are usually highly agitated people, who say things like, “The referee over on C4 sucks. He completely screwed me/my fencer/my child over, he’s so bad.” Usually, the head referee will attempt to elicit some detail of how the referee is bad, but the complainant is often too incoherent to be specific. (And I adore Sharon’s response as she attempts to evaluate the commentary: “And your referee rating is?”)

The other group is much less outraged and much more effective. They are usually coaches and provide specific information about the referees they’ve watched, about the calls they think the referees are good at and which calls they are weaker on. Members of this group often know very well what they are talking about, but occasionally are just as ill-informed as the outraged crowd. But with a reasonable approach, they at least get listened to.

The last events to finish up today are the Y14WF and the Sr MF Team. Of course, the last events are foil. It’s inevitable—you’d think after all the years since the timing change I’d finally expect foil to take longer than épée, but I still just get frustrated that it takes so long. Coming originally from a saber-only club, it’s hard for me to see foil enough to understand it. Many people tell me foil is just like saber, with attacks and parries and ROW, but it still looks incomprehensible to me, which probably makes foil events seem even longer than they are.


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SN Day 5: Zoo Day

Today was a zoo.

Not the biggest day, nor the most complicated schedule, but just one of those barely-under-control days. Maybe it was the combination of lots of youth events (2 Y10s, 2 Y14s, and 1 Y12), one big event (27 pools followed with an 8-page table in Jr WE), and three good-sized team events (Jr WE, with 17, Sr WS with 15, and Sr ME with 32 teams), but today never felt as though it flowed smoothly—there were always lots of people talking, lots of people running around, lots of noise.

We had a bit of a scare in the Youth 14 MS, thinking for a bit that several incorrect bouts had been fenced in the DEs, but it turned out that it was just confusion over the bout numbers on the scoresheets—the bouts had been sent out on the wrong slips, but the fencers were matched up correctly all the way through, so it only confused the computer operator. It was exciting for a while, though, contemplating the potential for re-fencing a couple of rounds of those DEs. (That kind of thrill is why we prefer not to have trainees at SN.)

I decided today that three teams are too many to have going on at the same time. It wasn’t so much the fencing as the check-in. No matter how often and vehemently we ask for captains only to the team table, there are always quite a few teams who seem to work collaboratively to decide how to fence their event. Which means the whole team comes to the team table to discuss who will be their captain and what the bout order for each round will be—not a bad practice in principle, but a bit overwhelming when you’ve got 64 teams in three events to deal with all at once.

One interesting aspect of the collaborative teams is the difference in dynamics between the men’s and women’s teams. (I don’t contend that this applies uniformly to all teams, but it was fairly common among the teams who hadn’t already organized themselves by check-in or who didn’t have a coach acting as team captain.) With men’s teams, it was routine that more than one of the team members wanted to be captain; with women’s teams, the conversation was more “You should be captain.” “No, I think you’d be better. You should be the captain.” “No, you do it.”

Overall, though, team is much easier to run than it used to be, now that we no longer wait for both team captains to show up before we flip the coin to decide who will be 1-2-3 and who 4-5-6 in the bout order. That saves a huge amount of time moving from one round to the next, both for BC staff and for the fencers who formerly stood around for 15 or 20 minutes each round waiting for the captain of their next opponent to show up.

At least today was the last of the épée events with repéchage. With 186 fencers in the Jr WE today, repéchage added about 2 hours and 45 minutes to the length of that event, which was 2 hours and 45 minutes that those strips could not be used for any other event. Without rep, those 32 Sr ME teams could have started a couple hours earlier in the day.

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SN Day 4

July 4.  Fireworks tonight, though it’s unlikely we’ll be done in time to see them.

It’s also the first day of the Pan American Zonal Championships, which means strips will be easier to assign because all the replay systems but the one on the finals strip have been moved to the Zonals hall. No worrying about funneling rounds of 8 toward the replay systems, often tricky when events we expected to get to that stage consecutively end up nearly simultaneous.

All I need to do is keep an eye on L3, which has congenital grounding issues (eventually the armorers will take it out of service and add a bunch of new rivets, which will fix the problem, at least for this tournament). Strip-wise, it’s a pretty straightforward day.

But today definitely tries my patience in other ways. At least three irate parents have stormed up asking to speak to whoever’s in charge (lucky me) and proceeded to inform me that the way we post events on the bulletin boards is completely unacceptable. “You need a projector,” they rant.

Unfortunately, I haven’t developed the ability to squelch the sarcasm when I say “Thank you for the suggestion.” Do they honestly believe we’ve neither thought of nor tried other options?

The bulletin boards are yet another of the many “least awful” alternatives common to national tournaments. I hate the bulletin boards—they’re wobbly and ungainly and usually far from new, and I inevitably stab myself with pushpins several times each tournament. Posting also eats up a lot of BC staff time when we don’t have a crew of runners, adding as much as 30-40 minutes to the overall length of each event when we have to do our own posting.

You’d think a better way to provide fencers the information they need about their seeding, pools, and DEs would be easy, but it’s not. Take the projector idea, for instance. You need to have a projector, to start with, easier now with all the teeny pico-projectors now available than when we originally looked into the idea, and you need a suitable place to put the projector so that what it projects is visible and in focus. If that’s near the BC stage—easiest for connecting it to the computer that feeds it the content—a screen is necessary. If the projector can be placed so that information is projected on a wall, there needs to be plenty of space in that area, as well as a long, reliable cable back to that computer. (The computer, by the way, needs to be dedicated to the projector feed.)

The lighting in the hall is a huge problem, though. In a hall lit brightly enough to fence in, information projected on a screen is exceedingly difficult to read, even at the highest possible contrast. Possibly a hood of some kind could alleviate that problem, but that limits access and visibility.

Each of our bulletin boards (usually three or four, all posted with the same information) holds information for all of the events held on a single day, anywhere from 4 to 14. Projection on a single screen means that the information has to be scrolled. For a fencer who just missed his event, he’d need to wait through all the other events in progress for the items he needs to come up again; with several events at once, quite a crowd could be gathered in front of the screen, waiting through multiple scrolling cycles.

Oh, and projector bulbs are prohibitively expensive, lasting only tens of hours under continuous use.

A better alternative, eliminating the lighting problem, would be flat LCD screens. We’d need several sets of screens, to minimize the crowding problem (the scrolling would still be a problem), and we’d need considerable space to place them, a problem when we already barely fit the strips we need into the venues we can afford. In addition to the screens themselves, we’d need mounting hardware of some kind (kiosks?), cabling, and shipping crates.

My guess is that most fencers would rather the money be spent on more replay systems.

Several people (various armorers, computer staff, and others) have for years discussed the possibility of implementing a messaging system—fencers could sign up to receive a text message with their strip assignment, probably for a nominal fee, to cover the expense of the system. In some versions, there would also be a kiosk where parents, coaches, or spectators could look up one or more individuals and find out their seeding, where they are fencing, or how they finished. Probably a nice amenity to have someday, but there are other things we need first (such the aforementioned replay systems  and new tournament software).

J.R., though, arranged for the water stations to be refilled on an as-needed basis through Tuesday. Normally, they’re only refilled on a schedule, every few hours, because the convention center charges us $17 per 5-gallon bottle. After tomorrow, our entry numbers are smaller, so going back to the schedule won’t be too much of a hardship when you consider the expense.

J.R. also managed to persuade the Atlantis restaurant management to let officials order anything on the breakfast menu up to $10, too, so we will now have the option of oatmeal or yogurt and granola or a fruit bowl instead of those mammoth cholesterol plates. Yippee!


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