This was posted over on the NEkite listserv....since i know that there are people here who would care:
Over the past few years as an event coordinator, I have tried to address
the most common complaints that I have heard about sport kite competition.
The most common criticism I heard was that comps were too disorganized, and
competitors wanted to have a schedule that was set in advance and stuck to.
I addressed that issue by requiring mandatory pre-event registration for any
event I was running, a practice that has since been adopted by most East
Coast competitions. Pre-registration allows time for the Chief Judge to
establish an exact flying schedule that allows events to run in "real time"
instead of "kite time".
It was always my hope that pre-registration would also address the other
most common complaint, that competitions aren't fun because competitors are
forced to spend too much time as field staff to enjoy the day. While
pre-registration does allow the Chief Judge time to spend balancing judging
assignments so that no one person has to work significantly more time on the
field than anyone else, it can't really relax the work load for a simple
reason: There aren't enough competitors to staff panels for all the
disciplines run. It's simple math, if you have 25 competitors flying in as
many as 22 disciplines, there's no way to avoid having everyone on the field
pressed into service onto at least 3-5 judging panels in addition to the 2-4
events that most folks compete in.
The competitors that suffer the most from being overworked in this manner
are the Novice competitors. We're trying to draw novices into competition,
and as soon as they've flown an event, we're forcing them onto multiple
judging panels. This has several ill effects:
1. Novices don't have time to practice or seek advice. While judging
is valuable experience for a novice competitor, we run the risk of burning
them out before they even get started, or scaring them off by placing too
much responsibility in their hands.
2. The quality of the judging panel suffers. A judge should be an
experienced flier, someone who's familiar with the type of flying that
they're judging. Also, a judge shouldn't also be exhausted because they've
been standing on the field all day.
So how do we fix this problem of understaffed kite competitions? The
resources simply aren't there to bring in non-competitor judges, at least
not in the numbers necessary to significantly reduce the amount of time that
competitors have to spend on a panel. The only side of the equation that
can be modified is the number of disciplines flown, which is why I am
suggesting that sport kite competitions drop precision events, with the
exception of Novice dual-line and multi-line precision, from their
I think it's important to note that there are several good things about the
precision disciplines. Precision competition is great for motivating a
flier to better the fundamentals of sport kite flying. Precision is easier
to compete unprepared, because you're flying 3 predetermined figures and a
short tech routine. The precision technical routine also allows for more
variation than a ballet routine. These are just a few of the benefits of
precision disciplines, but there also a few downsides.
First, precision is anathema to spectators. I watched this first hand in
Ocean City this past weekend. During the music events, every bench on the
boardwalk was full of cheering onlookers. They were paying attention to the
announcer, calling competitors' names and congratulating them. Within 5
minutes of precision starting, the benches cleared, and the boardwalk went
back into motion. If part of the goal is to attract spectators in the
attempt to get kites in their hands, shouldn't we focus our effort on
keeping them there? But I digress. The main reason that I suggest dropping
precision events is time. The average time for a ballet competitor to get
on the field, get set up, fly their routine, and get off the field is 5
minutes. It takes more than twice as long per competitor, 11 minutes, to
complete a precision routine. So basically you've got 32% of the event
disciplines taking up 60% of the time. Finally, if you take a poll of
everyone who's ever judged ballet and precision, I'm pretty sure you'll find
that a vast majority of those polled will tell you they enjoy judging
precision much more than ballet.
By eliminating all precision events except NIP and NMP, you reduce the
number of necessary panels by half (assuming that some events run as
combined), and you reduce the amount of time spent on the field by those
panels by 60%. These numbers are more realistically balanced with the
number of available staff at a sport kite competition. This will also allow
for more flexibility in the schedule to adapt to wind and/or weather
conditions. Furthermore, a more relaxed schedule means more opportunity for
demos and other means to involve spectators.
Of course, there are problems with removing precision. The most obvious of
these is AKAGN qualification, and this would need to be addressed. Given
the small number of competitors currently, I believe the simplest answer is
for the AKA to stop limiting invitations to the AKAGN competition. At this
point, it's ridiculous to prevent anyone from competing. If the AKA is
insistent on maintaining some sort of qualification for AKAGN, then the
rules could be changed to allow those competitors who qualify for ballet at
AKAGN to automatically be qualified for precision as well.
Another option would be the MIX format, which includes 3 compulsory figures
followed by a ballet routine. I've never run the discipline, but I expect
it would take @ 13 minutes per competitor. With the reduced number of
disciplines, the time savings would probably be around 30%. Individual
panels would be on the field longer, but for less disciplines, and with
proper announcing during the compulsory figures, hopefully spectator
interest could be kept. Again, this would require a rules change on the
AKA's part, as MIX is not currently an AKA discipline. Of the two options,
removing precision and changing to MIX, it seems to me that the former would
be the easier to implement.
Sadly, all of this was suggested on the AKA forum 2 years ago, and I was one
of the voices shouting the idea down because, as I said before, I enjoy
flying precision, and I'm better at it than ballet. But if our goal is to
grow sport kite competition, we've got to make it fun, and right now, it
seems too much like work. We've got to cut down the number of disciplines
and time taken to be more balanced with the available resources.
Those are my thoughts, what about yours? It'll be difficult to continue
this discussion via email because I don't want to expose everyone's email
address, but I've also started a post in the Sport Kite Competition section
on the AKA http://www.aka.kite.org
Kite Talk forum called "SKC -
something's gotta give" that repeats this email. Of course, you're welcome
to respond to me, but posting there will allow everyone to share in the
discussion, so I hope you'll consider that.
Marc A. Conklin
Eastern League Sport Kite Associationwww.easternleague.net