A resolution after my experiences competing at NAGA

For those of you unfamiliar with this situation on March 31st I competed at the NAGA event in Nashville, TN. However, I left the event less than happy about the handling of my divisions. I sought out resolution by filling out the survey on their site and also messaged several staff members including but not limited to the President and Vice President of NAGA. Here is the message I sent to them:

To whom it may concern:

     I’ve filled out the survey on the online website and hoped that my rating of my experience competing at the NAGA Nashville would have been enough to elicit a response. I am contacting you because someone needs to know about the debacle that I regretfully paid 100$ for on March 31, 2012. My name is Shakia Harris, I’m a female blue belt and competed under Team 1/ Bowling Green BJJ. First the issues with my no gi match, I was called to RING 8 and sat there, watched match after match eager for my turn to compete. The ref called my name and then a puzzled look came across his face. No one else was present on the other side to compete against me. I sat there in the middle of the mat alone while I watched that debacle go down. The girls that had just been awarded their medals had long since dispersed. The ref and ring coordinator tried to grab the first female competitor they saw to try and convince her to hurriedly get back on the mat and be my only match. I was furious.

    That experience alone was enough to walk out the door but I had already seen 3 other female blue. I was so excited to see THREE other female blue belts, I’m usually lucky to just have one other show up. Once again I ventured to RING 12, sat and waited. Alas the blue belts commenced. I watched match after match, with each submission I thought, “Oh it’s my turn.” But that never happened. Once again they ran my division, handed out the medals, took the picture with the banner, and I was left sitting on the side with a look of awe. At this point I could not contain my displeasure.

    The female ring coordinator did not appear the least bit concerned. I expressed my extreme displeasure and her reaction to my suggestion to get to compete with the other blue belts offended me. She looked at me as if I had some insane demand. She responded that she guessed she ‘could’ ask the other blue belts if they would compete against me.  Her attitude alone prompted me to respond that at that point I just wanted to compete. She did not ask the other female blue belts, and I had my one and only gi match with a white belt girl who after our match I found out that she had only been training for a couple months. Yes sir, I paid 100$ to drive an hour, paid for gas, trained hard, only to compete against a white belt that had ONLY TRAINED FOR 2 MONTHS, when there were 3 other blue belts in attendance. That was the final straw for me. In that moment i had vowed that I would never participate in another NAGA event.

     Apart from the way my brackets were handled I am surprised by the lack of communication that took place beforehand. I’ve competed several times in the past two years, and granted I’m no black belt but as a paying competitor I should be afforded the same courtesy and respect by any and all workers at the venue. During the rules meeting I thought highly of the kids divisions were going to be handled with the utmost care and consideration. If someone had approached me beforehand and said that there wasn’t anyone in my division, or ASKED me if it was ok to place me with a white belt because they themselves HAD ASKED the other female blue belts and they didn’t want to compete against someone that weighed 155lbs then I would have been more than accepting of what would have followed. Only that did not happen. They sneakily tried to toss a beginner on the mat for my nogi match, they blind sighted me by calling my name in gi and then a white belt emerged out of the crowd.

     In the least I should have been made aware about the situations and given the option for a refund. I am beyond upset. I will continue to send various forms of communication until this issue is addressed by whomever necessary. That experience was nothing to be proud of. I can understand a minor oversight but what happened to me was a crying shame. Instead of leaving the venue with a sense that I had some quality rolls and truly earned my medals, I instead shoved them hurriedly to the bottom of my purse an exited as quickly as possible.


Shakia Harris

I am very impressed by the promptness in which I received a response. I received responses from both the President and VP both very apologetic and unaware of the situation altogether. Literally within minutes it seemed this is part of the response that I received:

     I understand what is going on as I was the person who originally bracketed the women divisions. I do remember your situation. You were the only blue belt at your weight. The other blue belts were 30 plus pounds lighter (approximately, I cannot recall 100%). The brackets were set up so that the winner of that lighter division would face you in a single match or if other blue belts wanted to join in to get more matches they could also compete with you. This was the case for both no-gi and gi. The situation was laid out to those at the ring and they should have notified and spoken with all that were involved. I wish I knew at the tournament this all went down as I could have made efforts to deal with it then.
Like you, I unhappy with how things transpired. We make every effort to give solid, safe and fair competition to all of our competitors. I feel that we failed in this instance. I would like to offer you a comped registration to a future NAGA event and hope you will give us the opportunity to make this up to you. If you decide to take us up on this and I am at the tournament you choose, I will personally take care of you.
I apologize for the experience you had and hope you give us another chance.

   I also received an email promising a follow up with the officials that were involved which brings me some peace.  I also apologized for some of the harshness in tone in my original email.  In retrospect it was too harsh, and as a former journalist I could have gotten my point across in much fewer words.  Nevertheless I tried my best to provide them and each of you with the entire story.  I do feel a little better about this whole situation.  I’m happy to know that it was at least acknowledged and both messages that I have received wer sincere and greatly appreciated.  

  Lately i’ve been trying to brainstorm ways that I myself can work to prevent things like this from happening.  I usually try to not bother the table officials due to the already chaotic environment.  I’m sure they grow tiresome of having people constantly barade them with questions.  Nevertheless if there doesn’t appear to be girls near my weight or belt color I’m just going to start asking questions before its too late.

3 Responses to “A resolution after my experiences competing at NAGA”
  1. SavageKitsune says:

    Man, that sucks! How frustrating!

    Shoddy communication and tourney coordination aside, one aspect of these issues seems to be steadily getting more hopeful: I am heartened to see how many more women are competing these days as opposed to just three years ago. There was a CROWD of female blue belts at the PanAms, including multiple brackets for older women. I anticipate fewer and fewer instances of us going to tournaments and having no other women there of a like weight and rank.

    • shakiaharris says:

      i’m hopefuly. That’s partially why I’m doing the grappler’s quest in ohio and driving 5 1/2 hours because the women compete for free. With that being such a great deal I’m hopeful that I’ll be alright…we’ll see

  2. grapplingvet says:

    I’m so glad to hear that they responded quickly and kindly. It was a really sorry situation they put you in, but at least you know better now for next time about how it is going to work with the female blues, and they comped you a registration. Man, I would have been absolutely furious if that happened to me.

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