Tuesday, July 04, 2006

SN: The First Half

I was definitely right to suspect that daily blogging would be difficult this week. I knew I would be tired each evening, but I'd hoped to have enough energy to post at least a couple of paragraphs daily.

Of course, that was assuming that I'd be done during a part of the day that could legitimately be called "evening," which has mostly turned out not to be the case, with the last touches occurring well into what most of us would call "night."

Last night (Monday), the final touch occurred at about 11:30 pm, about four hours later than we'd planned. Each day this SN has ended substantially later than planned.

So what's the deal? Why can't the bout committee keep things on track and run tournaments more efficiently and competently? Why can't they get things done when they're supposed to be done? What is it that the bout committee does, anyway?

First, let's take a look at who's up on that platform in the middle of the hall:

— the bout committee chair: This is the person who is in charge of running the tournament, and decides how any unexpected problems will be handled.

— the strip manager: This is most often done by the BC chair, but is sometimes handled by another staff person. The strip manager keeps track of strip usage, and assigns groups of strips to each round of each event. Strip management at national tournaments is an arcane art, almost entirely learned by doing. There are perhaps no more than half a dozen of us experienced with managing strips at SN in its current size and configuration — certainly fewer than ten.

— the bout committee staff: The BC staff falls into two groups — the computer side and the table side. Computer side are the computer operators; they set up each event in the tournament software, enter results as they come in, file all the event documentation (not just the pool and DE slips, but medical withdrawals and injury reports, black card information, if any, referee reports, and anything else relevant to each event as it occurs. Table side staff are the people who run each event, allocating their assigned strips, sending out pool sheets with their referees, collecting them as they are returned, "slicing and dicing" — cutting up the sheets of DE slips when they are printed, sorting and distributing them to the appropriate referees, and recording the results on paper tables before sending them back to the computer side for data entry.

— the FOCs: FOC is technically the acronym for the Fencing Officials Commission, the committee with oversight over referee development, but in practice at national tournaments, it is also shorthand for the group of individuals who work any particular tournament and for the specific individual who assigns referees for each weapon. The FOCs are the people who decide which referees work which events, assign them to specific rounds and strips, and evaluate referee performance. The FOCs also handle questions about the rules of fencing and their application, and deal with complaints about referees.

That's the quick overview of the staff. Next time, I'll get to how we all actually work together in practice. (After all, I've an early call tomorrow morning — I'll be the table side person for Division II Men's Saber, which is supposed to have 180+ entries. Definitely time to get some sleep.)

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