I am mightily trying to revamp my agility goals. The biggest question that pops into my mind is how agility fits into my life mission. Agility is important to me, but it can’t be as important as the bigger things in life: people, relationships, connections, teaching, learning, sharing, and compassion. The problem is that when I start thinking about how to fit agility competitions into the bigger life mission thing and it’s like smashing a square peg into a round hole.
The scenario that keeps coming back to me is Grand Prix semi-finals at Cynosports last year. I had the run of my life with my little dog and knocked the last bar; it doesn’t change the connection that my dog and I had on the course, the subconscious movements, the lines, the teamwork or the energy that was expended. But the bar does mean that no placement happened on paper. I want to feel proud about that run, but since there wasn’t a placement there is some incongruity to the whole predicament. If I just want to feel connection and teamwork I can do that on the training field. So why compete? The mental torture playing that run over and over again in my mind was certainly a bad way to spend my time. Yet, in reality that run was fucking awesome; best run ever! And if you can feel that it was the best run ever even with the bar, what is the point of going up against others? Why go to competitions if failure is acceptable? At an agility trial am I trying to prove something? Satisfy my ego? Fill my time? Competing at agility shows don’t meet my life mission to help people and have compassion for myself and others. It costs a lot of money and takes a large expenditure of time and energy. I am exploring these ideas. Is there a way to go to competitions and enjoy my time there? Reward myself for the awesome but not quite perfect runs? Can I fit my life mission into trialing by whittling the corners down on the square peg?
The absolute best thing about all of this is that my dog doesn’t care one iota about what I decide. He is happy just to do stuff with me, he could care less what it is. I am so thankful to have a training partner that brings 110% to everything we do together. I want to honor that commitment. I want to satisfy my goals without stepping on my bigger ideals. I want to have my cake and eat it too.
Thank you! This has been on my mind since my first trial.
I have had super fun runs that were NQs or Es. And some boring Qs. I’m not working towards titles (I don’t know what they are or enter the classes needed to get them). I don’t care how I do in comparison to others. (Although I am competitive with myself.) So I keep asking myself, why am I paying money for someone to tell me I made a mistake? Why not just have fun at home and push myself to get better in lessons. Maybe its the adrenaline rush of a trial environment? You only get once chance.
Let me know when you figure this out. My bank account would be happy if I stopped the trials!
I too love agility trials for the “competition”, the adrenaline rush, competing against a Standard in front of our peers and more importantly in front of and with our Friends. You can’t do that on the practice field, all the elements aren’t there. Our dogs feel it too, some love it and some do not. Hopefully we learn to find different games for the pups that aren’t “feeling it”. Honestly, if I could not be “competitive” at a trial I don’t think I would play, I would not have traveled from CA to CT playing with my girl. It just would not be the same for me. Many people can compete and enter trials Just For Fun, I am glad they can. Another honest thought is that I’m afraid to get another dog because I fear we won’t have the bond & competitive spirit I have with Nef and then I won’t love agility as much. I LOVE my friends I’ve made all across the country and the camaraderie is a HUGE part of why I play. What if I can’t do that anymore? I think that maybe it’s a huge part of why you play too Alicia, not just the competition but the Love & Respect of your Friends and Peers. I think that’s why maybe many agility folks are feeling a “turmoil” in the last couple of years…the sport has grown in leaps and bounds and many competitors appear to be in it for the Win. Trials are huge and run for efficiency, the fun has been fading. I think eventually, at least I hope so, things will come full circle. We are growing, learning and many of us are wanting to find a way to keep agility Fun AND Competitive in our individual worlds—worlds that are changing as We grow and change. I commend the many instructions and clubs that are working toward this goal.
I will add that Your success on the field does have a higher “value” for you than most folks. You make your living teaching agility(and many other types of dog training classes). How you Perform goes a long way in establishing respect and trust from your students and would be students. I personally could not take an agility lesson from someone that I hadn’t watched and admired how they look on the field and see that skill and working relationship they have with their dog. This is an additional pressure you have to manage.
Please keep passing on your knowledge.
In disc, I go to contests for the camaraderie — to be with people who share my passion for the game.
The competitive part is a bonus for us competitive types, but I think it’s kind of a drag sometimes and makes us all lose perspective.
Nice piece, Fluffy.