Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Mental Game of Agility

Agility can be confusing, to say the least....especially if you're competing. Do you admit you're IN IT TO WIN? Or do you say that you're training (and competing) JUST FOR FUN?  How do you mentally prepare for an agility trial?  What do you think about - winning? and/or fun??  (Because you can't deny that winning is fun...)

I think agility is a good way to discover the wonder and glory of teamwork with a dog. And entering a trial is a way to share your discovery.

Maybe we don't need to think of WINNING and/or JUST HAVING FUN. It's not always easy to develop and maintain the kind of 'mental game' needed for either one of those goals.  Sometimes we have physical limitations or family concerns. We don't always feel graceful. We don't always feel fun.

So maybe we can try to focus our mental game on SHARING. Our goal can be to simply share the beauty of our teamwork...AS IS. Because it's a beautiful thing - warts and all. Think about it! We have worked with our dogs enough to build this beautiful ability to get through an agility course as a team.

Even if you get clumsy and your dog drops a bar, or you don't run fast enough to prevent an off-course, you're still a TEAM. You were golden before you even stepped up to the start line.  Why worry about winning?  Instead, concentrate on your partnership with your dog.  Think about how lucky you are to be at the start line, and then go play for a minute. 

Another nice thing to think about - you can always BRING HOME COOL STUFF from an agility trial, without any ribbons or qualifying runs.

If you keep your eyes and ears open, if you figure out how to relax and listen while you "hurry up and wait", if you're willing to share the glory of your team, if you're willing to learn from the glory of the teams around get cool stuff.

A few examples:
1) Funny stories
2) Training ideas (you'll see some amazing runs!)
3) Smooth dance moves from a walk-thru flash mob
4) The brand name of a great folding chair
5) The chance to hold a new puppy (or a smiling baby!)
6) Laughter
7) Love

And for more totally cool thoughts on the mental game, check out
You'll be glad you did!


Mufaasa's Mum said...

See, I don't find those statements mutually exclusive. I *am* in it for the fun, but I aspire to go as far as possible in the sport because I find the challenge fun. I'm less concerned with "winning" because often you can win a class and be a terrible handler at the same time. I'm concerned with seeing how far me and my dogs can get, what we can accomplished, can we figure out a way to navigate that technical course. I don't need an arbitrary set of rules to tell me whether my run was good or not, only I can decide that for myself.
You can be competitive, but only against yourself. If you can do that, and still have fun at the same time, then I'd say you mastered the mental game.

Celeste said...

Yes, thanks... I totally agree that thinking about "winning" and "fun" are not exclusive! Although some folks might dispute the semantics. We can all safely say that Winning is Fun, that it's Fun to Win - I love winning! While Winning is not always defined as First Place, it can generally be defined as Reaching a Goal.
My point in this post (which could use some editing!) is that you've already won, and you don't have to worry about anything. By the time you stand at the start-line, you've developed a marvelous partnership with your dog, and you should be happy you're about to share it with other folks! As nervous as you might be, regarding whether or not you will Win and/or Have Fun, you don't have to concentrate on those ideas. Concentrate on your partnership instead! Enjoy sharing the bond you have with your dog...which always glorious, even when it's a "work in progress"!

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