Pigeon Talk: Overrated Average Speed Scenario

December 19, 2017
Cindy and Alex Beiche

Cindy and Alex Beiche

By Alex Bieche

The average speed award is, by many American flyers, the best, or most sought after award. This award was actually inherited from the English. If you go to Europe and mention average speed they will not know what you are talking about.

Let’s review what the average speed award gives us and also some shortcomings or drawbacks to the system.

This award is normally won by the flyer that makes the least mistakes. It is also supposed to be a good indicator of who had a fairly good season.  One thing for sure, it always shows who participated in all the races, because if you missed a race, for whatever reason, you were out. In my opinion that average speed award has been drastically over-rated and has done more harm than good. To me, even the word average implies something not necessarily that spectacular, but just “average.” Yes, I myself like to go after the average speed award, but does that mean it is the best or is it maybe that we are all just accustomed to the system as a whole? A flyer may not have even won a club race all season but still ends up winning the average speed award. To me it shows consistency, not necessarily skill.

If you want to know who the race winner is then you have the race sheet. If you want to see who entered all the races and came up on top, then you have the average speed award. But if you want to see which flyer really had the best overall race team that year, than there is a much better system. Some clubs already use this system in one form or the other.

Most clubs that use this system call this award “Master Flyer” or “Champion Loft” award. For example, if your club uses the top 10% of the birds clocked receiving points then the winning bird would receive a given number of points, and every bird behind the winning bird would receive one less point than the bird in front of it. Using today’s computers, this is a piece of cake. At the end of the year it is a real eye opener to see the strength of some teams.

You can rest assured that the average speed winner is not necessarily the Mater Flyer of the year. To me this is a much better award to shoot for, and it will also pinpoint the winning team. The strength in numbers doesn’t lie. You may also have a loft that wins the Master Flyer award with the highest loft points and did not even enter every race. This is where flyers don’t get penalized for missing a race. The flyer can sit out a race station, for whatever reason.

You may ask if some flyers don’t race every week then who pays for the shipping of the birds? I don’t have a problem with paying the upfront shipping fee because I realize that it takes a commitment of flyers to make it work and pay the way. In my opinion; flyers feeling a pressure to fly every race for winning an award are wrong. Let me list a few examples why I feel that the average speed awards have done more harm than good.

Many of us flyers, me included, have sent pigeons to races where we really shouldn’t have. If you shouldn’t have, why then did you send them? For average speed, of course. Then you have the new flyer who has been told how great it is to win the average speed award. So rather than taking his time to build up a good team he sends his birds each and every week, hoping to win this converted prize. In most cases you can see the handwriting on the wall. Not only is he at a disadvantage and in all likelihood, will make a few extra mistakes, but if he has a smash race, you’ve lost a flyer for the year. If he comes back the next year you are very lucky.

The average speed award in this case could have lost you a flyer.

The last reason the average speed award has done more harm than good may be the most valid one of all. Without question the number one subject we pigeon flyers argue about is race stations. If you or I were after the almighty, then we would both fight tooth and nail to get all the race stations in our favor.

After all, if the other guy gets a few good stations he may take this award for you, right? This to me is called stacking the deck, making sure all the cards are in your favor. It happens in ever combine every year. Why? Because of the average speed award.

In my own Bay City Combine, we have three sections. And for a combine that is spread out as far as we are, this seems to make sense. And, yes, we have the same race station arguments every year, and also, for the same reason – average speed. Without the pressure of average speed in a three section combine, flying nine YB races, each section could have three race stations that they favor as long as they are within reason. In this case no one has a perfect schedule, but you at least feel part of the family with a little input. If you don’t feel the pressure of having to race every race station then you will not mind giving a few stations up for someone else’s benefit. After racing this schedule, if there is a race station that is definitely not fair to the other two sections two years in a row then without argument, this race station must be changed.

A good start would be if no other flyer in the other two sections has birds in the top 5%. Now changing the race station is for the right reason, not the wrong. The wrong reason would be to change the race station just because you won the race two years in a row. After several years of using this system you would come up with as close to a fair racing schedule as you can possibly have. Also, if there were no average speed award you could select not to fly a particular race station or wait for some better weather if that were the case. In some cases we take far too many chances. It’s like taking a pigeon and throwing him through a fan and hoping he will come out okay on the other end.

If we all took this average speed monkey off our back we could possible create a little lost harmony called sportsmanship. In searching your own mind I bet you too can think of at least one or two flyers who threw in the towel just because of race stations. Maybe even the AU could take a large step forward by downplaying the average speed award. Eliminating it would be a great start. If it eliminates just a few arguments about race stations just imagine where the racing pigeons sport could be in the future.



5 Responses to Pigeon Talk: Overrated Average Speed Scenario

  1. Tom Wesner on December 22, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    I agree and while their at it get rid of champion
    loft as it favors only the big team guys.

  2. Mike on December 22, 2017 at 9:35 pm

    Total agreement with Alex.

    There is another reason why average speed is a disaster.

    Pushing the risk level;ruining/losing your best birds is counter to building your racing and particularly the breeding team over time.

    Because so many start over every year, because their best have been thrown away, they keep too many birds, haven’t tested/evaluated them appropriately, don’t know what they have at the end of the year and go looking to purchase more, just like they have every other year.

    ‘Average speed” feeds the grass is greener syndrome cementing flyers into a never ending search for better birds. The problem is, if you fly till you lose them, there is no way of knowing how the new birds compare with what you already have.

  3. Mike Clements on December 24, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    Additionally, in the USA and UK emphasis has been placed on long distance. Such flying requires greater risk (high levels of attrition), longer testing periods and reliance on esoteric theories in place of extensive performance testing.

  4. Jerome on December 30, 2017 at 11:48 pm

    This is a long running debate. I personally feel that there is great skill required by a handler to have their birds in the top 10% week in and week out regardless if they win a race or not in any given season.

    To me it shows that the handler knows how to get his birds in the the required condition as well as properly motivated to perform at such a level.

    A term I have often heard is horses for courses. This is something I am in total agreement with. Many fliers have teams made up of birds meant to compete at select race stations. If a flier manages to have such a team compete at such a level to be awarded the “Average Speed Champion”, should their performance not be acknowledged by their peers for a job well done?

    To be honest I find flaws in the point system used to calculate “Champion Loft “. The points awarded are more often than not heavily influenced by the birdcage in any given race. Let’s face it, the early and shorter races will always see more lofts/birds competing than the later/longer races. Why should a winning bird possibly score twice the number of points for winning a 100 mile race versus a pigeon that wins a 500 mile race? Because there were more birds competing? Did either of these birds not succeed in doing what they were sent out to do? This also holds true for birds shipped to a given race with the anticipation of it being a tough race verses a favourable race due to weather conditions.

    Then there is also the fact of what is known as a mob flyer. Does someone who let’s say for arguments sake thay has a team 2 to 3 times larger than their fellow competitor(s) not stand a better chance of scoring more points week in week out? I have read articles about clubs overseas whose members are only able to ship/nominate 5 birds each, each week for a given race. Better know your birds real well to be an “Average Speed/Champion Loft” Winner under such circumstances.

    Perhaps what needs to be done is breaking down the “Average Speed/Champion Loft” Winner into three categories. Short/Middle/Long distance. Obviously the average speeds for each category will differ, but you will have a winner for each category. You may even find that a flier wins two of the three categories, hardly an average performance for a given season. Winning all three would be a real eye opener for many. As for the champion loft award, the points awarded for each of the three categories must be distributed equally regardless of birdcage. There would also need to be an equal distribution of races in each category for this award to hold it’s weight.

    Just some thoughts on the subject at hand. There will never be a perfect solution for all, but a bit of tinkering here and there for these various awards would leave less room for the endless debate by the mass majority of those concerned about these matters

  5. Mike Clements on January 1, 2018 at 2:52 am

    Racing for average speed is fine and does require skill, if that is what you value and want to reward.
    Just realize that racing for average speed does not encourage, naturally result in, reward behavior that is most ideally suited to the long term development of a successful racing or breeding program.
    Ideally the sport’s award systems should build on behaviors that move the sport and individual lofts forward.

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