Hints for the Chief Steward in Obedience
© Geoff Stern 1996-2009. This document may not be copied, reprinted, or distributed without the permission of the author.
Thanks for the advice and expertise of many instructors and trainers including George Hanson, Linda Holway, and Ruth Ivers of NEW ENGLAND DOG TRAINING CLUB; Fran Boyle, Rena Fucillo, Wendy McNaughton, and Betty Belliveau of CHARLES RIVER DOG TRAINING CLUB; and several members of the OBED-COMP and OBED-TEACH electronic mail lists. Special thanks to Roseann Mandell (as always) and to Pat Scott (of Fido Flats in Fremont, NE) who’ll recognize some of the wording here as her own. Errors, however, are mine.
The chief steward is a member of the match/trial committee and in charge of recruiting and assigning stewards. Depending on how the committee is organized, the chief steward may have some other logistical duties, such as setting up the rings, preparing the ring signs, organizing or coordinating a cleanup crew, and so on. (For example, at large shows, the chief steward usually has a walkie-talkie for paging the cleanup crew and show photographer.)
Here are some helpful hints in case you’re the chief steward for the club’s match or trial — especially if it’s your first time as chief steward.
- Recruit early — don’t wait until just before the show. The League of the Competent is few: The people you want as stewards are likely to be in demand for other jobs. Coordinate your recruiting efforts with other members of the show committee who want to draft the same people for catalog sales, the trophy table, hospitality, and so on.
- Don’t neglect the rookies. Stewarding is a good way for people to learn about obedience competition and to fuel their interest in the sport. It gives newcomers a chance to meet other club members and encourages their continued involvement in club activities. For that matter, it’s also a good way to get non-members interested in joining.
- Get the right people for each class, and the right mix of personalities and experience.
Match up stewards according to how they’ll get along with the judge and with each other, as well as according to their experience and abilities. Stewards have to work as a team, so avoid assigning people who have a chemistry clash to the same class. (Unfortunately, such problems are common in clubs.)
- Don’t assign an all-rookie team (unless you really hate a particular judge). Make sure at least one steward in each class is a veteran who can serve as a mentor for the rookies. Obviously, it’s educational for rookies to steward in Novice (or a non-regular class).
- Ideally, you’ll have three stewards per class. However, Utility and any non-regular classes are usually small enough so you can get away with two stewards. Open really can use three stewards, unless the entries are very low.
- Whoever you assign to the Open classes must be physically able to wrestle with the jumps. It’s less of an issue in Utility which typically has smaller classes and has no group exercises (so the stewards don’t have to dismantle and reassemble the jumps). For people who are "arithmetically challenged," give them the cheat sheets for the order of exercises, jump heights, and so on.
- In assigning stewards, try to accomodate people’s schedules and interests. For example, avoid assigning someone who lives far away from the site to an 8:00 AM class. Stewards are volunteering out of loyalty to the club, friendship to you, and dedication to the sport — all respectable motives. If possible, arrange the assignments to let the stewards see the other parts of the show (such as the judging of their favorite breed).
NOTE: If you have to juggle people’s schedules, keep in mind the rate for Novice is about 8 dogs an hour; for Open, about 7 per hour; and for Utility, about 6 per hour.
- If possible, have one "floating" steward to give people a break (and, of course, you should be ready to do this yourself). For example, you might need a floating steward around lunch time or if a steward’s spouse or friend is showing a dog.
- Unless you’re really short-handed, don’t assign yourself to a class (except, perhaps, one of the non-regular classes, typically at the end of the match or trial). You might need to step in and relieve a steward, and you’ll probably have to help with trophies and ribbons
Getting the stewards ready
- Before the show, give your stewards a copy of the stewarding hints (or the AKC booklet Obedience Regulations, Obedience Judges Guidelines, and The Steward in Obedience ). Give any rookies a dry run.
- Send out a confirmation or reminder note with all the information they’ll need — well before the show date:
- Directions — including where to park
- Entry ticket, if necessary (such as if the trial is in conjunction with an all-breed show)
- Stewarding assignment — including the time for stewards to report, ring number, and names of the judge and other stewards
- Other instructions, such as guidelines on dress (if the show committee wants all the stewards to wear a kind of "club uniform") or reminders to bring raingear or a hat (outdoors)
At the show
What You’ll Need …
At the chief steward’s table…
- Extra set of tongs (for handling Utility scent articles)
- Extra markers and pencils
- Duct tape (to repair mats, gates, and jumps)
- Folding ruler (for measuring the Broad Jump)
- "Poop" bags"… and other clean-up supplies
- AKC Obedience Regulations and other rule books
- Catalog and list of entries
- Class schedules and stewarding assignments
- For outdoor shows: Insect repellent and sun-screen; maybe a hat and raingear, and plastic bags (for protecting paperwork, etc.)
In each ring…
- Catalog and pen (for the gate or table steward)
- Ring sign with the correct information (class, judge’s name, armband numbers) and a marker
- Armbands and rubber bands
- Equipment — high jump and broad jump for Open; high jump and bar jump for Utility (HINT: Make sure there’s the correct number and sizes of boards.)
- Badges for the judge and the stewards
- Checklists for stewards
- Leashes for stewards to restrain a dog who breaks during the group exercises (Inexpensive "noose-style" leashes used by vet techs are perfect for this.)
After the show
- Be sure to send each steward a written thank-you note. Clubs run on etiquette and camaraderie. People who volunteer to steward or otherwise help run a show deserve and appreciate having their efforts acknowledged. Depending on the club’s finances, you might give each of the stewards a small gift — even a simple dog biscuit tied with a piece of ribbon is a nice gesture — especially if they had to pay for their own parking at a large show site.
- If the club’s finances allow it, make sure that each steward gets reimbursement for parking fees and lunch. (If the club can’t afford to reiumburse stewards for their expenses, make sure everyone knows this beforehand.)
- Repeat your thanks, listing all of the stewards, in the next issue of the club’s newsletter. This will serve as a mild nudge for other members who didn’t steward this time.
- If someone was especially helpful — for example, the custodian of the high school gym where your show was held — be sure to let the show chair or club president know so she can extend the club’s thanks. (Show sites are hard to get, so it pays to cultivate powerful allies, like school custodians.)
Order of Exercises — some "cheat sheets"