Throwers Per Flight

How Many Throwers Per Flight or How Many Judges to Hire

The riddle of the number of throwers per flight is not easy to solve as an Athletics Directory (AD) needs to please many people.

Some things the AD may consider are:

  • Judging Costs
  • The Number of Divisions
  • The Number of Events contested
  • Does the competition draw a larger number of traveling throwers?
  • Flexibility for walk-ons.
  • Time Vs Enjoyment

Judging Costs

No matter the number of throwers, the games needs to provide a tent, sound system, and announcer.  This is the overhead (or cost) a festival shoulders when hosting a Heavy Event Competition.  Judging cost is also part of the overhead incurred.

When determining the registration fees, I exclude all overhead so that the registration fee pays part or all of the costs generated by throwers attending the event (t-shirts, lunch, refreshments, …) .

However, the AD also has a responsibility to the festival to control costs, which in turn makes it a desirable proposition to host an athletic event.

In other words cost does factor into the equation of number of throwers in a flight as that impacts the number of judges needed.

Ideal Flight Size

A rule of thumb passed on to me by Ancient Athletics (I think Merl Lawless) that works well is:

8 throwers is ideal.  10 is very do able, 12 is starting to get big.

Big flights always take time in the height events.  For Distance Events,  grumbling about the time between throws is certainly there but when the grumbling starts, I am not sure.

Flexibility for Walk-Ons

Does the event get walk-ons?  Does the AD want to make space for walk-ons?  Do walk-ons throw in a novice flight or C division?

If you pack many throwers into a flight, there will be little room for walk-ons.

Does the event draw a larger number of traveling throwers?

If the event draws many throwers who travel distance to participate, less throwers per flight maybe desired even though this may require more judges.

Smaller throwers per flight allows the athletes to get on the road a bit sooner.

The Number of Events

The AD can get away with larger flights of throwers (less judges) when the number of events contested is smaller.  This is probably most true when one of the events dropped is a height event.

The smaller the number of events contested, the more throwers a flight can handle

The Number of Divisions

If the competition is large enough, the question of the number of judges would be simple.  One Judge per division.  Unfortunately, life is not that easy!  Games often combining divisions into one flight (Masters and Lightweights, B’s and Women, ….) as certain divisions do not draw enough throwers to fill a flight.

Combining multiple divisions into a flight will cut costs but decrease flexibility 

Time Vs Enjoyment – Height Events

In reality, height-events are the time killer.  A large number of throwers in height events make for very long event and a long wait between throws, especially at the earlier heights.  A judge can speed the event up by getting help when adjusting the cross bar, but that does not really help that much.

In parts of the Midwest, many games have been using 3’ jumps for the first few rounds of sheaf and 1.5’ jumps for at least the first round of WOB.  This separates the wheat from the chaff while allowing most to get a mark.  Once the field is down to 4 or 5 throwers, the event goes back to normal jumps.  This speeds up the height events with very little complaints from the throwers.

Bigger jumps in height events shortens the time needed and/or may allow more throwers in a flight.

The Judges Role

A good judge keeps on top of the flight and moves them through the event.  The better the judge the more efficient the event is run and the more throwers an AD can stuff into a flight.  If the judge you hired are not as experienced, keeping the numbers below 12 would help him manage the flight.

Experienced Judges can handle more throwers per flight

Final Thoughts

Because I cater to throwers who travel to a multi-flight 9 event contest,  I often keep the throwers per flight on the smaller side. This gives me the flexibility to take late registrations and walk ons.  This gives me a margin of error when combining divisions into a single flight as there often are a few from each division that sign up late.

However, the best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry and I have run a few big flights.  If this occurs, think on your feet.  If the flight has two division, split them in height events with one doing WOB well the other does sheaf (if throwing pits are open).  Often there are throwers in these flights that can be pressed into service for weight events.