Bud and I talked on the way to and from Wisconsin about revising our camp program to answer the needs (both time-wise and money-wise) of agility enthusiasts.
Since 1999 we’ve done camps as “package deals.” Like seminars or workshops, the camper paid a flat fee and everyone got the same product. Four days of agility, 6 hours a day, plus a meal, accommodations extra whether campers stayed in a motel or stayed in our cottages.
I’m convinced that today’s agility exhibitor wants more flexibility. Our 2010 camps are going to be sold as components, with every camper getting to customize their training experience.
Instead of having 6-7 people check in on Sunday night for a Monday-through-Thursday camp, some people will arrive Sunday, some perhaps Monday, some may leave on Tuesday, some stay until Friday, etc.
Instead of having accommodations be a block fee it will be based on the number of nights you need a bed.
Instead of assuming everyone wants to attend a group dinner in the evening we’ll offer that as an option and let people opt in or out of group meals.
The biggest problem is probably going to be explaining this system to folks.
For example, in order to give Bud some sort of regular schedule during camps we’ll keep the morning (9am to noon) group session. If folks want to participate in that group training the cost is $35 per dog.
Beginning at 1pm we’ll have 1-hour blocks set aside for private lessons. Cost will be $65/hour. Friends training and traveling together may bundle their private lessons and turn them into a group event.
A camper may choose to arrive Monday, have a private lesson Monday evening, attend the group session Tuesday morning, have a private lesson Tuesday afternoon, attend a group dinner Tuesday evening, work 2 dogs in the group session Wednesday morning, have another private lesson Wednesday afternoon and depart for home. This example would cost $290 ($40/night for bed x2, $35/group class x2, $65/private lesson x2, $10/meal x1).
Another camper might want to do the full package — 4-5 nights in a bed, all 4 morning sessions, 4 private lessons, 4 group meals, depart on Friday morning. This example would cost $640 ($40/night for bed x 5, $35/group class x 4, $65/private lesson x 4, $10/meal x 4).
Additionally, we’re rethinking the entire deposit process. We’ve gone from a $100 deposit in 1999 to a $200 deposit in 2009. We’re going to roll back the deposit to $100, and give a $25 bonus to early-bird registrants (before 12/15/09). We’ve offered this discount before, but the discount was always off the balance due rather than the deposit. Now, if you register early, your deposit is only $75.
Deposits will still be non-refundable, but transferrable (portable) once in the calendar year. So, if you put a deposit in early for a week in May and have to move it to June you’re not penalized.
This lower deposit will reflect the decrease in camp fees paid by folks wanting 2-3 days of vacation. Instead of making all our camps weekday camps we’ll also be doing some long weekend camps — Friday through Monday.
I’d really like to see a camp season where every day sees campers arriving and campers departing, and every one of them getting a customized vacation.
This will complicate my “chambermaid” duties a little, but there might be a time when your clean sheets are folded neatly on top of your mattress, rather than having every bed pre-made and sitting ready for you.
Most camps will become a bit “free-form.” No real roster, people coming and going, groups growing and shrinking.
However, we’re going to put our THEMED camps again, with topics including distance, foundation training, teacup, masters, and novice.
We’ll also be encouraging breed-specific camp registration … how fun to train with 4-5 others who share your love of your special breed!
While we’re rethinking the whole camp process we’re also instituting weeknight classes. When we moved here we swore off weeknight classes but they’ve gradually crept back into our schedule.
On Tuesday evenings we’re expecting a flexible and ever-changing group of people and dogs. We’ll start the evening with a 6-7pm foundation training class with homework from my 2-Minute Dog Trainer protocols. At 7pm we’ll break off to be briefed for the week’s game, walk and run the game. At 7:30pm Bud or I will teach a sequencing class, probably based on the league course and the challenges it presented. Cost per event, per class, per dog, is $5 — pay-as-you-play.
On Thursday evenings we’ve sold class slots in a 6-7 masters handling class, followed by a 7pm league play (same course as Tuesdays), followed by a 7:30 intermediates-to-advanced handling class. Cost is $35/month regardless on whether there are 4-or-5 Thursdays, with no make-ups for bad weather, and no prorating (that means, if you join for the last 2 weeks of the month the cost is still $35 to claim that slot).
We’re looking for students on Thursday nights who are serious about doing homework and seeing improvement.
We’re hoping that the Thursday night classes will take some of the pressure off the Sunday afternoon workshops. When Bud’s here we’re able to do split group work but his travel schedule has him gone for 1-2 workshops per quarter. By myself I’m hard-pressed to wear out 12 handlers and their dogs.
We going to adding THEMES as a training option for the Sunday workshops as well including, teacup, distance, masters, etc.
We’re eager to see how all these changes will play out with customers, campers, and students.