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Thread: Taking the USFCA online

  1. #1
    Senior Member RoninX's Avatar
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    Taking the USFCA online

    Yes. I am aware that the US Fencing Coaches Association has a website.

    But why don't they have webcasts?*

    It is very likely that not every event at the annual conference or the regional workshops is appropriate for broadcast. Online learning and conferencing has progressed in ease and affordability by leaps and bounds in the last few years. Resources like Dimdim mean that literally anybody can host and recorded webcast content for under $100 for small groups to under $500 for larger groups, this includes reasonable webcams, mics etc (ones that I have actually used to webcast with succesfully).

    Now, certainly any hands on work would not translate, but I know that numerous coaches are unable to attended on a yearly basis largely because of travel expenses and the time required. I am not a coach, but "coached" epee in college out of necessity and have aspirations of teaching fencing again some day. When that day comes I certainly plan on making use of whatever resources the USFCA has available through membership.

    I understand that the USFCA is a membership organization, and (I believe) its activities are almost entirely supported through membership dues. I do not know what the financial situation for the USFCA, but every group could use more paying members. I for one would pay the very reasonable $50/year membership fee now just to have access to webcast material (no certification level is required to be a member), and there must be more like me.

    I guess my main question is: does anyone know if this has this been seriously looked at by the USFCA for the yearly meeting, or coaching clinics.

    Thoughts? Concerns? Anyone familiar with the org know why this can't or wouldn't be doable?

    *I know not everyone is a fan of the USFCA, but this same question could certainly be asked of the some of the Coaches College presenations, as well as basic USFA ref clinics.
    Last edited by RoninX; 05-28-2010 at 05:59 PM.
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    MdA
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    It's a great idea and one that has been discussed before. The USFCA can afford the hosting. But, the USFCA runs on volunteer power. Join up and volunteer to run the program.

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    Senior Member RoninX's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MdA View Post
    It's a great idea and one that has been discussed before. The USFCA can afford the hosting. But, the USFCA runs on volunteer power. Join up and volunteer to run the program.
    Frankly, I would, but I can't actually be there or even (participate in real time for the whole duration) and it really does help to have someone on the ground to adjust mics, cameras etc. I have run a range of webcasts for our research group now though on tight budgets, so if there actually IS interest in getting this off the ground I would be happy to volunteer to talk to someone.
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    Quote Originally Posted by RoninX View Post
    . . . so if there actually IS interest in getting this off the ground . . . .
    Me - me - me!
    *waving hand vigorously*

    I'd love to have access to webcasts of coaching clinics and events. I belong to other professional organizations that require CE to maintain certification, and attending webcasts are just one way to do that. Its also nice to have the recorded events available to view afterwards - may not be able to ask real time questions, but at least you can pause and re-wind.

    Maybe you could do a pilot program, start smaller than the annual conference. I'd suggest a 30 min to one hour session - topic TBD, maybe a series of five? and see how that flies. Could be revenue producing too if you charge a nominal fee - $10 to be part of the real - time webcast. I'd probably spend that much just in gas to get to a weedend clinic.

    Anyway, just my thoughts, ignore at will.
    PS I'm also a dues paying USFCA member

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    Senior Member RoninX's Avatar
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    Assuming the "in person" session pilot that would be broadcast would be a smaller group (5-25 in person attendees), here is what I would recommend to start with:

    Webcam:
    We have had great success with the Logitech Quickcam Orbit AF (~$100). The best thing about this is the mic seems very good a picking up sounds in a 360 degree arc (though this could be a drawback in the wrong setting). In a normal meeting room it can capture sounds pretty well from all participants as long as they speak up. This negates the need for separate participant mics. We also have used this successfully in a larger conference setting where the speaker was the primary focus, we had questions asked form a regular floor mic though. Other options are certainly available.

    Webcasting service:
    The best I have found so far is Dimdim. Their free client allows 20 attendees, the "Pro" version allows secure rooms, more control options and up to 50 attendees at a cost of $25/month (and the "webinar" version allows up to 25). You can record your meetings and they will store them indeinitely at no charge, so you do not need massive server storage. We had a 11 hour video that was up and available for us to link to within 36 hours. you also can still access these videos even if you choose to let your paid subscription lapse.

    Someone does have to "run" the online meeting with "pro" and "pass" the virtual microphone if you want the online attendees to be able to ask audible questions, but this is pretty easy and the client is also fully chat enabled. You can allow send electronic invites, control registration etc. It is just a great service.

    Extra Mics:
    If needed I am also partial to the logitech deck mics, but audio quality doesn't seem to vary as much as range and directionality with this mics.

    If someone wants to do a test session with me sometime to see this in action let me know. you can also do it on your own, through the free account or take the 30 day "test drive" either one lets you sign up for the free introductory webinars that the company runs 3-4 times a day.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MdA View Post
    It's a great idea and one that has been discussed before. The USFCA can afford the hosting. But, the USFCA runs on volunteer power. Join up and volunteer to run the program.
    Quote Originally Posted by RoninX View Post
    If someone wants to do a test session with me sometime to see this in action let me know. you can also do it on your own, through the free account or take the 30 day "test drive" either one lets you sign up for the free introductory webinars that the company runs 3-4 times a day.
    1. Who would the contact be at USFCA to get this 'sanctioned'?
    a. also think towards the future - what determines a seminar to be eligble to be part of the USFCA website?
    1. Any coach send in a web-video, or create their own webinar if they're inclined and have the technical and
    organizational skills. How do you narrow down a potential onslaught of information? Okay, maybe only one or
    two would do this, but its certainly a possibility that needs to be considered. [I'd suggest throwing out a coaching
    topic each quarter, and then taking the best one to two submits to be run]
    2. How would the coach/organizers be compensated? This may not be applicable for a test run, but certainly applicable for future use (i.e. does a coach get reimbursed every time the video is 'viewed' historically, one time fee, signing over limited rights of use of the video? etc.)
    3. Can the USFCA website support this venture? Has the current webmaster, Rick Thompson, been contacted for his input?
    4. Are there any physical requirements for a set? or things to stay away from for that matter. I'm thinking large gym with wooden floor = BAD acoustics. The coach might also need some 'stage directions' - i.e. be sure to perform demonstration twice, once perpendicular to the camera angle and once going towards the camera.

    RobinX - is the Logitech/webcam better than using a video camera? I'm not trying to question your suggestion, and am completely out of my element in this part of the discussion. Personally I have a cheap logitech but have a Sony Handycam SR47 with tripod. I'm going to research the webservices a bit, and try to bring my knowledge base up a bit. Feel free to PM me if you have other specifics not pertinent to discussion on the thread.

    MdA - how would one 'volunteer' with the USFCA to get this pilot to the next step? as above - you can PM me info.

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    Senior Member Allen Evans's Avatar
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    A couple o things about web casts:

    1. The best video I've seen of people giving lessons have a couple of things in common:

    • They have been scripted. That means that the coach and the student know what they are going to be doing, and there is a minimal amount of "dead time".
    • The actions are performed by a coach and student who know what they are doing.
    • There is usually a lead in of the principal idea for each segment, either by the coach, in a voice over, or in captions.
    • One action is usually presented from multiple angles, slow motion, or both.
    • The filming is usually isolated from any other activity in order to minimize interference (even a cheap mike can be sensitive to certain sounds) or the sound system is of such a sort that extraneous sounds can be filtered or edited.

    All of this implies a certain amount of preparation, and perhaps some post production
    work.

    2. Web broadcasts of Coaches College would not be very useful unless the format of CC changes. Coaches College is primarily a "hands on" program. The ratio of talking to doing is pretty lop-sided. To make video taping or web casting CC useful, the coaches would have to work up presentations that are a little more tightly focused OR the videographer would take a lot of video of the class in session, and then edit it down to capture key concepts -- a considerable amount of work, and not really compatible with the idea of web cast, though it would be very useful in video.

    3. With all of this, I would like to see video presentations of clinics and other topics. The Mike Pederson DVD done at the last Coaches College AGM was a good first attempt, and has some of the elements that I thought made a good instructional video. It also had some elements that made it very difficult to watch (sound, esp). As a first attempt I think it was a good step. I got a lot out of the Tyshler video tapes and DVD's, and I'd like to see more like this on the market.

    A

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    Senior Member RoninX's Avatar
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    @ Allen - I agree with all of your points about the production regarding lessons. However, I was thinking more about the presentation style segments rather than a coach/student "on the strip" approach for all the reasons you laid out. Ultimately getting there in terms of structure and production would be great, but for starters getting some of the other content streaming would be great If there is not enough of this conference style content to mnake it worthwhile that is another story.

    Lets keep in mind that streaming (and making available afterward) some sessions/clinics/discussions is very different in terms of scale from actually producing videos (online or otherwise) and both have their benefits.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pinky-N-T-Brain View Post
    a. also think towards the future - what determines a seminar to be eligble to be part of the USFCA website?
    1. Any coach send in a web-video, or create their own webinar if they're inclined and have the technical and
    organizational skills. How do you narrow down a potential onslaught of information? Okay, maybe only one or
    two would do this, but its certainly a possibility that needs to be considered. [I'd suggest throwing out a coaching
    topic each quarter, and then taking the best one to two submits to be run]
    Right now anyone could do this anywa, and post stuff on youTube. Surely the organization has some means in place of selecting topics and determining if the presenter is appropriate or not? I would keep this in place in the short term and expand the "call for proposals" once everyone gets a feeling for the process.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pinky-N-T-Brain View Post
    2. How would the coach/organizers be compensated? This may not be applicable for a test run, but certainly applicable for future use (i.e. does a coach get reimbursed every time the video is 'viewed' historically, one time fee, signing over limited rights of use of the video? etc.)
    Right now presentations are done on a voluntary basis, (maybe per diem/travel?) right? That would probably have to continue in the short run, Potentially the online "gate" could help go towards some speaker/presenter compensation.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pinky-N-T-Brain View Post
    3. Can the USFCA website support this venture? Has the current webmaster, Rick Thompson, been contacted for his input?
    I haven't spoken to him, though I'll try to find an email and direct him to this thread, as his thoughts would obviously be very important. However, the video content would be hosted remotely (eg. youTube or through Dimdim - both of which provide "embedded link" code) so the demands on the current website shouldn't be severe. The key would be payment processing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pinky-N-T-Brain View Post
    4. Are there any physical requirements for a set? or things to stay away from for that matter. I'm thinking large gym with wooden floor = BAD acoustics. The coach might also need some 'stage directions' - i.e. be sure to perform demonstration twice, once perpendicular to the camera angle and once going towards the camera.
    Not sure about this. Is everything basically conducted in a gym/"on the strip" situation?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pinky-N-T-Brain View Post
    RobinX - is the Logitech/webcam better than using a video camera? I'm not trying to question your suggestion, and am completely out of my element in this part of the discussion. Personally I have a cheap logitech but have a Sony Handycam SR47 with tripod. I'm going to research the webservices a bit, and try to bring my knowledge base up a bit. Feel free to PM me if you have other specifics not pertinent to discussion on the thread.
    This gets back to the difference in goals, are we interested in streaming content (probably best for "sit down" discussions on theory/marketing(?) types of things) or producing "how to coach" videos. The former is much better with a webcam because video definition is not a major issue, in fact webcams are designed to give reasonable definition in combination with file sizes that are reasonable to stream/download. Video on the other hand can be much larger, and often needs to be chopped up a bit for streaming purposes (though the services are getting better about this). You would not want to use webcams for any kind of "on the strip" coaching.

    How much of the USFCA content falls into the former vs. the latter? Is it 20/80, 40/60? Are there any conference style presentations/discussion boards?
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    Senior Member Allen Evans's Avatar
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    I have had only a few discussions with coaches of the type that would work well in a "streaming video" environment. For the most part, coaches meetings/clinics/discussions tend to be upright, with a blade in your hands. Now, does that mean that they shouldn't be held, and if held, broadcast? Not at all. This brings us around -- again -- to what the content of the 'cast is going to be, and how it's going to be "sold" to people who are interested in watching it.

    I'm not sure how much work the USFCA has done in this area. The USFCA is just now pulling itself out of the dark ages in considering that these sorts of discussions (business, marketing, finanace, organization, club governence) are important. I know a lot of clubs that still don't think they are important (and these aren't one man shops in the middle of no where). So the first attempts to do something like this has to be pretty hard hitting, to avoid having people pay for it (or at least take the trouble to sign up for it) only to see three or four coaches sitting around talking about putting flyers around their local college campuses (this is, believe it or not, a true life example).

    So. What information do you want to get out? Who has it? Does anyone want it? What's the best way to present it?

    We can talk about web 2.0 all we want, but I'm old fashioned, and feel that the web should still be content driven.

    A

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    My intuition says that a 'real time' webinar would work best on beginning coaching topics - this is where there may be more talking with Q&A, versus demonstration. Or maybe this is just what I'm thinking because that was what my first few coaching seminars were like. I can also see development of a powerpoint presentation on basic sport physiology and training concepts taken from the text's suggested by the USFCA - i.e. Sharkey's "A Coach's Guide to Sport Physiology". This could be the lead in, then with some discussion on developing lesson plans, a few demonstrations of different warm ups, examples of the different types of drills, etc. Most college courses are taught using these tools, and it would be in keeping with modern teaching, and may appeal to the up and coming fencer/novice coach.

    More advanced topics I think would be handled through video/DVD creation - RobinX, I don't want to speak for you when I say that it didn't seem like this was your intent with your original question.

    I think the USFCA could charge a nominal fee - say $5-10, to attend the live webinar (registration either through AskFred or the USFCA?) and once registration is confirmed, the participant could be sent the log in codes via. email. The coach could then get 75% or so of the fee and the rest go toward admin costs?

    Would the natural next step be to approach a reputable coach with the proposition of doing a test run? I'm willing to go out on a limb here if that is the next step . . .

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    MdA
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    I suggest your contact the USFCA President Abel Salem directly. His contact info is on the USFCA website. I think the USFCA is transitioning to a new webmaster...you can ask him. Also I suggest you set up a meeting with him and other officers...possibly the new webmaster at Summer Nationals. Go back and do a little of the ground work and come back to the Annual Conference and meeting in Louisville, the weekend of July 30, 2010. Present your ideas to the membership and form a webminar committee.

    This is a good time frame to take action and get something like this going.

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    Senior Member Allen Evans's Avatar
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    Does there really need to be a committee to decide this?

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    Senior Member RoninX's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pinky-N-T-Brain View Post
    My intuition says that a 'real time' webinar would work best on beginning coaching topics - this is where there may be more talking with Q&A, versus demonstration.

    Or maybe this is just what I'm thinking because that was what my first few coaching seminars were like. I can also see development of a powerpoint presentation on basic sport physiology and training concepts taken from the text's suggested by the USFCA - i.e. Sharkey's "A Coach's Guide to Sport Physiology". This could be the lead in, then with some discussion on developing lesson plans, a few demonstrations of different warm ups, examples of the different types of drills, etc. Most college courses are taught using these tools, and it would be in keeping with modern teaching, and may appeal to the up and coming fencer/novice coach.
    I agree that "basic" or "beginning" topics are easiest to translate, but I think there is a lot to gain from discussion of teaching/learning methodologies and pedagogical approaches as well as learning how to conduct drills etc, and these are things that can certainly be addressed in more of a classroom setting. It doesn't have to end there though.

    One of the most fascinating discussions I have ever heard were two high level college coaches breaking down a DE bout their fencers just fenced and discussing the points at which the tactics within the bout changed. The precision was jaw dropping, and did as much to expand my fencing horizons as anything had at the time. Having these kind of discussions helps develop a very valuable coaching skill.

    If these issues are not surrently being addressed by the USFCA, then that is a different matter. Even if you stick to "the basics" getting novice coaches interested in the group via webcasts also seems like a good membership tool

    Quote Originally Posted by Pinky-N-T-Brain View Post
    More advanced topics I think would be handled through video/DVD creation - RobinX, I don't want to speak for you when I say that it didn't seem like this was your intent with your original question.
    See above. I think many advanced topics could be addressed in a webinar/classroom format. But certainly more hands on topics need something else.


    Quote Originally Posted by MdA View Post
    I suggest your contact the USFCA President Abel Salem directly.
    Pinky, as a current dues paying member would you be willing to do this? I stand ready to help in any way I can with the technical aspects I have experience with, but unfortunately am not attending Nats (alas, no time or money, I'm building a basement apt, and have a baby on the way!).
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    Senior Member Rick Thompson's Avatar
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    This is an excellent discussion - some very good ideas being tossed about here. We have great plans for doing more videos and training "films". We haven't really tackled the idea of doing a "live" webcast. It's worth trying, and I'll fly this by the organizers of the conference.

    Having said that, here are the issues I see with a conference-based webcast.
    For the presentations that are "standing and talking", there's not really an issue. The presenter would need to agree to allow the webcast, and to be miked and so on.

    Materials used in a presentation (and there are usually some), would have to be made available ahead of time (to the webcast crew), and and some arrangements made for presenting them to the webcast viewers. Again, the presenter would have to agree to this.

    The demonstration type presentations are intended primarily for the attendees, and the locale and presentation styles are set up for that. Sometimes the demonstration is on a stage or limited area. In this, the area of "action" is greater, requiring more camera work, and miking a presenter is mre of a challenge, since they are often raising and lowering their masks.

    The hands-on presentations or demonstrations "in the round" are the hardest to deal with. Historically, these presentation are done with the attendees gathered around the instructors and their demonstrators. Camera work in this regard is more difficult, and questions and comments from the group are difficult to capture. Also, the hands-on presentations have about 1/2 of their time as "go and try this stuff". The instructor may answer questions or help certain people, but trying to capture this portion of the presentation ends up looking like the "Blair Witch Project." So there would be a lot of dead or non-productive time.

    Perhaps a better way to do it would be to have a specific web-cast session, where the primary audience is the internet. This would eliminate the issues in dealing with a crowd of people, would allow better control of recording equipment, and could be partially scripted to allow better use of time.
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    Senior Member DangerMouse's Avatar
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    For what it's worth, I am not a member of the USFCA because I don't have the money to travel to clinics and while I'm still in grad school, I also don't have the time to read the theses. I would absolutely join the USFCA for access to webcasts.

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    MdA
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allen Evans View Post
    Does there really need to be a committee to decide this?
    They don't need a committee to decide. The membership can decide at the Anual General Meeting (AGM) in Louisville. You need a committee to do the work...unless the one person wants to do it all by themself. It's best to show up with your manpower when you suggest a new activity. This is your best chance for getting members who are qualified and really have an interest in this work.

    Otherwise, you leave it to the Executive Committee to draft members to do the work...or assign it to a group that already has other tasks.

    It's like any other volunteer organization. If you really want something done...do it yourself...the USFCA will provide the funding...but you need people with the skills and the time to do the work.

    Remember, the USFCA is made up of fencing coaches...and many of them are part-time fencing coaches who are working other full time jobs...like yourself. Suggesting additional activities is great....but most members have limited time if they are actively coaching teams and clubs.

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    MdA
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Thompson View Post
    This is an excellent discussion -....
    Perhaps a better way to do it would be to have a specific web-cast session, where the primary audience is the internet. This would eliminate the issues in dealing with a crowd of people, would allow better control of recording equipment, and could be partially scripted to allow better use of time.
    I think this is the best idea. I small session set up specifically for the webinar. You can choose the instructor and the best student coaches and have some top level fencers for the lessons. You could even rehearse a little before the webinar to make sure the presentation is good.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Allen Evans's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MdA
    It's like any other volunteer organization. If you really want something done...do it yourself...the USFCA will provide the funding...but you need people with the skills and the time to do the work.
    I think this was sort of my point. It's a good idea, it doesn't really need to be studied, and the more time spent working on it, rather than just discussing it, the better. There seems to be some qualified people already to roll with it.

    Quote Originally Posted by MdA
    You could even rehearse a little before the webinar to make sure the presentation is good.
    I would HIGHLY suggest some rehersal before putting on something like this, or it's going to look like some of the YouTube stuff I've seen, and turn off anyone who had to pay for it.

    A

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    Quote Originally Posted by MdA View Post
    I suggest your contact the USFCA President Abel Salem directly. . . . .Go back and do a little of the ground work and come back to the Annual Conference and meeting in Louisville, the weekend of July 30, 2010. Present your ideas to the membership and form a webminar committee.
    No problem contacting people at the USFCA - already planning an attack approach to this, including using survey monkey for pre-test and post test surveys (getting people used to post testing from inception, makes it easier to transition this to a CE format) again, I digress. . .

    Getting to the annual conference - that's where things grind to a screeching halt . . .

    Quote Originally Posted by RoninX View Post
    I agree that "basic" or "beginning" topics are easiest to translate, but I think there is a lot to gain from discussion of teaching/learning methodologies and pedagogical approaches as well as learning how to conduct drills etc, and these are things that can certainly be addressed in more of a classroom setting. It doesn't have to end there though.
    I'd like to see some annual webinars that help to teach the concepts necessary for the Moniteur and Prevot certifications. I'm not a self study type, and think there are others who would like a something resembling a classroom setting to gain confiedence in taking the certifications. But that is another idea for the future.

    Quote Originally Posted by RoninX View Post
    One of the most fascinating discussions I have ever heard were two high level college coaches breaking down a DE bout their fencers just fenced and discussing the points at which the tactics within the bout changed. The precision was jaw dropping, and did as much to expand my fencing horizons as anything had at the time.
    Wish I could have witnessed it.

    Quote Originally Posted by RoninX View Post
    Pinky, as a current dues paying member would you be willing to do this? I stand ready to help in any way I can with the technical aspects I have experience with, but unfortunately am not attending Nats (alas, no time or money, I'm building a basement apt, and have a baby on the way!).
    First, congrats! To the baby, not the basement. . . Understand about the time/money issues

    Quote Originally Posted by MdA View Post
    They don't need a committee to decide. The membership can decide at the Anual General Meeting (AGM) in Louisville. You need a committee to do the work...unless the one person wants to do it all by themself. It's best to show up with your manpower when you suggest a new activity. This is your best chance for getting members who are qualified and really have an interest in this work.

    Otherwise, you leave it to the Executive Committee to draft members to do the work...or assign it to a group that already has other tasks.

    It's like any other volunteer organization. If you really want something done...do it yourself...the USFCA will provide the funding...but you need people with the skills and the time to do the work.
    What if I draft a really good proposal and have it presented electronically to the board, can someone else present it to the general membership for me in abstentia? (reference earlier comment on annual conference)

    Quote Originally Posted by MdA View Post
    I think this is the best idea. 1 small session set up specifically for the webinar. You can choose the instructor and the best student coaches and have some top level fencers for the lessons. You could even rehearse a little before the webinar to make sure the presentation is good.
    All part of the plan . . . I've seen the Fnet polls, would you recommend for or against posting a poll of several possible coaching topics and finding which ones interest the membership most? However, there is a valid arguement for making an executive decision.

    Quote Originally Posted by Allen Evans View Post
    I think this was sort of my point. It's a good idea, it doesn't really need to be studied, and the more time spent working on it, rather than just discussing it, the better. There seems to be some qualified people already to roll with it.

    I would HIGHLY suggest some rehersal before putting on something like this, or it's going to look like some of the YouTube stuff I've seen, and turn off anyone who had to pay for it. A
    Any YouTube things in particular? I'd like to see what the WORST things are, so that it can be said that at least we didn't do THAT! Its so boosting to morale.

    RobinX: I'm going to try and put some thougths together to form a rough draft proposal, are you wiling to preview if I PM it to you?

    DangerMouse: Any particular topics youd like to see discussed?

  20. #20
    MdA
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    You can send your proposal to President Abdel Salem. He can present it to the membership or have someone else present it. It would also help to send a DVD with other videos or webinars you have produced.

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