Tuesday, July 18, 2006

SN: Part Two

This second installment on bout committee at this year's Summer Nationals—like the first—is coming substantially later than planned (but we'll get to the reasons for that later).

Last time, I outlined a few of the jobs done up on the bout committee platform. This time I'll give an overview of a typical event at a national fencing tournament, NAC or SN, and then I'll talk about how SN is different from a regular season NAC (including how this year's SN was different from those previous).

Prior to the start of the tournament, a tournament database is created and is loaded onto the tournament computers. Entries for each day's events are printed and posted the evening before in the designated posting areas. Usually, we try to have at least three or four posting areas spread throughout the venue.

In the morning, each of us who is running an event gets signs to designate our table location, and picks a color—a marker which is used to make it easier distinguish all the paper for that one event from all the paper for all the other events going on that day. This is especially useful when two or more events are handled by the same computer operator at the same time.

At the close of check-in (or, ideally, a few minutes before), the registration staff provide us with the registration list, showing who checked in and who did not, and a set of index cards, each stuck with a label containing the name, club, and division of a fencer who did not check in. These are what are used to make the standard "The following fencers have not yet checked in and must report to the bout committee immediately . . . " announcement. Usually, we call all the no-shows, wait four or five minutes, call them again with a 60-second warning, and then announce that the event is closed. Anyone who has not checked in with the bout committee by the end of that final 60 seconds is then withdrawn from the event. Once this is done (along with any other adds or withdrawals which might have been sent along with the registration list and the no-show cards), a revised seeding list is printed and posted, and we announce that the revised seeding is posted.

While the revised list is being posted, the pool lists are printed. One copy goes to the FOC rep for that weapon, who will assign the referees for each pool. The BC event chair talks to the strip manager to get strips assigned for the pool round, and notes the strip numbers on her copy, which is then copied and posted.

The event chair then marks the actual pool sheets with the event color, adds the strip numbers, gets the referee list from the FOC and adds the referee names as well. Then we announce that the pool and strip assignments are posted, that fencers should report to their strips, and call the referees to pick up their pool sheets.

In theory, this whole process could be handled in 20 minutes or less, but often takes longer, depending on how complicated the day's schedule is, how many events have the same start time, whether there are enough strips or any events must be double-flighted, whether there are so many fencers from a single club or division that conflicts within pools must be resolved, whether the necessary referees have all checked in for duty, and any number of other little problems, singly or in combination. Normally, if we get all the 8:00 events out by 9:00, we're happy—that will at least get the day started well.

Once the pools are out, the BC staff gets a bit of a break—we go get coffee or even watch some fencing. About halfway through the time the pools are expected to last, we may go round the room and check to see whether any pools are running significantly more slowly than they should, and let the FOCs know if some referees may need help. If the event has some pools of 7 and some of 6, we usually try to assign the 6s next to 7s, so that once the smaller pools are done, the empty strip can then be used to for double-stripping the 7s.

Eventually, all the pools finish up and the pool sheets are turned in to the BC. The computer operator enters the pool results, and then prints out all the information we need for the next round: the round results ("ups and outs," which shows where the cutoff is if there's a cut before the next round), the DE table (1 to 8 pages, depending on the size of the event), and the DE bout slips, four to a page.

The round results are copied, posted, and announced. The BC chair/strip manager, the FOC, and the event chair confer to discuss how many strips will be used for the next round, and how they will be arranged. The number of strips depends, once again, on how many events are running that day and how many have yet to start, and how many referees are available (and whether they've had a chance to eat lunch yet). Most often, DEs are run on 8, 12, or 16 strips, though 24 and 32 are not unknown at SN.

We mark the strip numbers on the DE tables, get those copied, posted, and announced, give a copy to the FOC, and sit down for the slicing and dicing—cutting and sorting the bout slips to give to the referees. (We also mark them with the event color, of course—this is the stage where the colors can really make a difference keeping all the paper sorted properly.) Once we have the slips grouped and ready, with a copy of the portion of the table that each referee or group of referees is handling, we call the referees and send them out to the strips.

Once the referees are out for the DEs, we can finish sorting the remaining bout slips for the event, so we'll be ready to handle the incoming slips as the winning fencers bring them back to us. When fencers bring their bout slips, we ask their name, verify the score, and record the result on our paper table in front of us. The ritualized nature of this process is deliberate—it's not that we can't read fencers' names on their uniforms or the scores written on the bout slips, but that fencers often sign slips that say their opponent won, and we want to catch those errors before they get into the computer. (Catching those errors is also one of the most fun things we get to do, too—asking a fencer to read a slip that says he lost a bout he *knows* he won elicits some wonderful facial and verbal expressions, and a fencer who signs a scoresheet that says his opponent won is not likely to repeat that particular mistake.)

The returned bout slips are handed off to the computer operator for entry, and as we fill in the table, we send more slips out to the strips for the subsequent rounds. As the number of fencers remaining in the event gets smaller, the strip manager may pull some strips for use in another event just starting. Eventually, the table will be down to the final round of 8, which might continue on some of the original assigned strips or might be assigned to completely different strips, depending on the current conditions. As the 8 finalists are determined, we hand out bio forms for them to fill out, to be read later at the medal presentation.

From the round of 8 on, referees are usually assigned individually, and the bouts are usually announced on the PA system. If possible, we try to get these last few bouts on strips with timers and scores, and at the ends of pods, to make it easier for spectators to see. And if we've got a raised finals strip, we'll try to get the gold medal bout there.

Once the event is over and the last bout slip turned in and entered, the medal presentation is held, and all the DE slips and bio forms are added to the pool sheets, the printed and completed DE table, and the rest of the paper for the event in the event folder, which is shipped back to the national office at the end of the tournament. A copy of the final results is provided to the LOC, which posts all the event results as they are completed, and at the end of each day, the day's complete results are emailed to the webmaster for posting on the USFA website.

At the completion of the event, the bout committee staff member who ran it may be released for the day, or, more likely, will finish running another event that started its pools while the first was in its DEs or help prepare for the next day's events.

Once the last events of the day are down to their last few bouts, all the bulletin boards are cleared, and the seeding for the next day's events is posted. If we're lucky, we'll manage to get five or six hours of sleep before we start the whole process over again in the morning.

This assumes, of course, no disasters—no reseeds, none of what I think of as the "honking big rules discussions," no serious injuries, no tornado warnings or fire alarms, no appeals of rules, and no major errors. What happens with those is what I'll talk about next time.

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