It has been a steep learning curve as most of the Committee is new to the job. Right from day one we've been committed to transparency and, following the lead of Fiona (SBU President), are regularly publishing meeting minutes. Personally I wish that the other committees, and the Council, did the same so that there is an easily accessible record of activity and decisions taken.
The main work has been arranging the 2009-2010 trials. We have attempted to build on the aims of the previous Committee by ensuring that the players know where they stand when it comes to the selection process and have introduced the concept of detailed conditions of contest for all the trials. This has been welcomed by the players although we continue to work on some of the detail (a CoC was done by the previous Open selectors, but it became multiple small documents and consolidating these into a single document was important).
At (I believe) Fiona's behest, we have introduced a new stage to the Open Team selection, encouraging players to 'test' the trials process with no commitment to playing in later stages but guaranteeing some places in the next stage and hopefully getting some new blood into all the trials (including Women's, Seniors and Juniors). To be honest this has been more successful than expected and the number of entrants to the trials have nearly doubled.
This new event, and the compressed timetable it has required, has meant that time has been our biggest issue. Getting everything arranged for the end of August, coping with the knock-on effect with the other trial dates, getting the information out to potential new players and the regular triallists, and only starting at the beginning of June has not been easy. No doubt we've made some mistakes, but everything we've done has been (or intended to have been) consistent with the SBU Policy, fair to all the competitors and done openly.
Actions in the past have caused many in Scotland to be deeply suspicious of selectors and it is clear that many, including senior players and experienced administrators, want a completely objective selection methodology. I don't mind this too much so long as there are teams trials for the longer international events, such as the European Team Championships. For short events, like the weekends of the Home International Series, you can pick pairs from a pairs trial as team harmony is less important. But for a week-long affair, you do need to have a team, not three pairs, and this is why we are moving to teams trials for these events.
So we are now approaching the trials season but we are not slowing down. We are already preparing the conditions of contest for the 2010-2011 trials so that the drafts can be published in a couple of months. The European Open trial is set, but we are working on the trials for the European Women's and Seniors.
So how busy have we been?
- I've sent 140 emails and received 220 back over the last two months, just concerning the Selection Committee.
- We've published minutes of two meetings
- We've published detailed conditions of contest for four events (some them revised a couple of times)
- We have draft conditions of contest for two further events almost ready to be published
- We have draft conditions of contest for the 2010-2011 Open Trial ready for review
- Logistics are confirmed for all the trials planned
My biggest concern is that none of this work will directly improve the performance of the Scottish teams. The Scottish way is to leave this to the players themselves, but the SBU Council plays a major role with the funding decisions that it makes and the Tournament Committee with the events that it arranges for our leading players. At the moment I am concerned that neither body is doing enough (although I appreciate it is not easy) while at the same time our leading players are not testing themselves sufficiently. Once we have established the new selection processes and we have time, this is an area I'd like to progress next.