Wednesday, 16 January 2019

A significant milestone

A significant milestone for Agility Team GB will be announced today with the launch of the Agility Team GB International Tour. 

This new competition has been designed to give agility handlers in the UK an opportunity to compete on FCI style courses, judged under FCI rules at KC Premier shows. 

The primary reason for introducing the tour has been on the back of feedback I've received every year from team members following an international competition...


"We need more experience at running on FCI courses".

Six tours will be held at KC Premier shows across the UK in 2019. The competition will be open to G4 - 7 handlers and agility team GB squad members. Today's announcement includes an invitation to show secretaries to host one of the tours. 

Last October I asked Neil Ellis to head up this project. Since then Neil has done a fantastic job developing the idea and delivering the proposal. Neil is the Agility Team GB Tour coordinator.
I would like to thank everyone who has worked hard on this project with Neil over the last four months including: Martin Cavil, Becky Sargent, Gina, the KC working groups and the activities committee members who have all helped to get the project this far. 
More information will be released over the coming weeks including the 2019 Performance Weekend schedule which will include a tour class.
There are exciting times ahead.








Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Just a short blog

Happy New Year - I hope you’ve had a good Christmas break; if you did manage to get a break, I know a lot of people had to work over the festive period. 

I’m always amazed at how quickly Christmas goes after the big build-up. Suddenly it’s gone... a part from the mince pies, they’ll be around for a few more days months yet. 




We had a lovely time and lots of dog walks. Each Xmas holiday I plan to catch-up with those things I’ve been wanting to do over the last few months - it never happens. Any free time is spent out with the dogs or catching up with friends and family - and that’s what holidays are meant for and so much more enjoyable.




Have you finished your 2019 plans yet; what you want to achieve; what you want to start doing or maybe stop doing! I’ve nearly finished mine. I need to review and edit them again, but I’m a perfectionist. I’ll have them finished in a week or two.

I generally set three goals in each area of importance to me: career; personal life; sport; business etc. I’m taking a slightly different approach this year. I’ll still set goals for the ‘big ticket items’ I’m aiming for, but I’ll be using a different method to get there. I’ll let you know how I get on and if it works.

So just a short blog this week to wish you a healthy and successful 2019.






Saturday, 22 December 2018

A Xmas special

As I wind down for Xmas like lots of people I’m looking forward to spending time with family and friends over the festive holiday.


2018 has been a mixed year, with exciting highlights and sad times. Our lives move on and hopefully we become a bit wiser and more thoughtful.


One topic that I’ve felt quite moved by this year is the amount of homelessness I see as I travel about the county. In cities like Glasgow and Reading it’s shocking. I’ve noticed it more than ever this year.


With this upsetting situation in mind, Karen and I are donating to Crisis this Christmas, rather than spend money on cards. Hopefully it will give someone a more comfortable Xmas and possibly a new start.


I’d like to thank everyone involved with agility team GB this year, especially the two coaching teams including the support we receive from the Kennel Club. This team work hard all year to deliver professional support to the handlers and of course their dogs.


I wish all my family, friends and blog readers a great Xmas and a happy and relaxing New Year.


Mark

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Commitment and dedication to win


Announcing the Agility Team GB squad is exciting news for some handlers and understandably disappointment for others.

Being called up for the national squad is a huge achievement. It takes a lot of commitment and dedication to win points at top level competitions in the UK and to maintain a high level of performance; plus the competition increases each year.



50 dogs and handlers have been invited onto this years squad. This is a large squad, although a similar number to the last few years. Approximately 10% will drop-out due to many reasons along the way which is natural and others on the Development Programme maybe there for the longer term.

The handlers on this years squad experience a combination of training, education and practice over the winter aimed at preparing them for the Performance Weekend in April (5 - 7).

Anyone who didn’t get called up this year but are interested in international competition, then my advice is to book into the PW; you never know, you maybe spotted for development for the 2020 squad. which will be a historic year in the agility diary as the UK host our first European Open.



Monday, 12 November 2018

A blog on goal setting.

This weeks blog is a bit of a cheat. It’s a blog I recently wrote for Aginotes.com.

I like the idea and functionality of this App and was happy to support it with a blog on goal setting.

I hope you enjoy.

Mark Laker's blog on goal setting






Thursday, 1 November 2018

A different sport?

The planning day has become an important event in the Team GB calendar. We reflect on this years performance and discuss plans for the coming year...and beyond.

Looking back at our performance has become more interesting with the increasing array of data available. Behind the highlights the emerging picture and trends often tell a different story than the one we see in the headlines.

One consistent comment I heard this year was: 'This is a completely different sport to the one we play at home'. We all compete with dogs, we share the same scoring system, a part from that everything else is a variation on a theme. 

Different equipment specs; different surfaces; different rules; different ring size; I could go on. How we better prepare ourselves for these differences in the future was one topic dominating the Planning Day conversations.

Improving our performance is at the heart of everything we do in the Coaching Team. We are constantly looking to shave fractions of a second off each run. We're looking for ways to increase our clear round rate and gain the competitive edge; It's an ongoing focused endeavour. 

Having data to support this focus helps...albeit if it's shining a spot light on information that's hard to acknowledge.

With all the enthusiasm and change in our sport, one necessity remains today as it did when the sport started at Crufts in 1978. You still need to go clear to stand any chance of winning a trophy.


Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Dave and Fames Journey to AWC 2018

My final guest blogger from this years FCI Agility World Championships is Dave Munnings. This was Dave's third year on the team with Fame and proved to be the year when it all came together for him...


The Agility World Championships in Sweden this year was one of the most exciting , well organised and fun events I have ever been to.  The best partnerships from all over the world, all competing against each other to win one of those sought after medals for themselves and to make their countries proud.




We started preparations for international events early in the year but I’m just going to write about what we did post European Opens in July as that’s when we really focussed on AWC preparation. After EO’s Fame took a week off to recover and relax whist I fine tuned our training plan for the next 8 weeks. Sounds like a long time but that goes very fast especially with a lot of big UK competition in between.  I had a fitness plan for me working with Chris Kerton, I started back earlier in the summer and it has definitely made a difference, lots of squats and burpees and other horrible things was definitely helping to increase my fitness which I knew I would need this year looking at previous courses from the judges.  Chris was careful not to push too much in case of injuries before the event, so we just went for more maintenance of what I had already done and a few extras now and again, I love what we do and will 100% be keeping this up now.  Agility has become faster, courses bigger, course design harder and at these big international events fitness definitely helps….or having trained some INCREDIBLE independent dog skills which we definitely saw demonstrated beautifully this year!

Fames plan was similar in the fact that I felt she was already seriously fit after her EO prep and I wanted to maintain that as much as possible without burning her out.  We had KCI and DIN to attend, obviously I wanted to qualify for Olympia but apart from that 1 class I had made the decision all year to stop her in the ring for any poles down the same as I would at training just to keep the consistency up, and after making that decision she decided not to have 1 single pole down! So we ended up just doing our important runs, champ, Olympia and the rest of the time we just did the odd run to train contacts or try some harder weave exits in a competition environment. 



After that It was all about training, fitness and keeping Fame as healthy as possible.  We had an amazing book this year from the coaching team that contained probably 100’s of previous courses from the judges, so I went through that with a fine toothcomb and had tons of sticky notes all over it with common patterns to train, courses I wanted to set up and areas I wanted to set up and time to see which was the fastest route on that particular course.  So the next few weeks were taken up mostly by moving a LOT of equipment around haha. Skills were tested, sequences were timed and whole courses were set up, ones that I knew we would struggle more with.

We met up with the rest of the large team a few times to train on astro turf and once on grass, setting up 2 courses each time to try and get round and I also did some courses with just me, Sian and Dan as I knew we would push and help each other when we needed it.  Our fitness also included regular water treadmill and hydrotherapy sessions, conditioning work as well as regular massages with Alison Pearce to keep Fame as fit and in the nest condition possible.

So when it came time to leave for AWC the week before I really felt this year we were as prepared as we ever had been for an event.  All this prep for just a max of maybe 70s in the ring! Haha it seems crazy when you look at it like that but luckily this year all that hard work and preparation paid off.  We got to Sweden after a 2 day drive and settled into the hotel, went for a lot of delicious food with the team, checked the venue out, did some unnoficial training with the rest of the large team at a venue an hour away from the hotel, then we have official training at the venue on the Wednesday and everything was going very well ready for the competiton to start on the Thursday with Opening ceremony and Team Jumping.  I was just watching and supporting the first 2 days, I have never seen such amazing displays of agility, each year the standard goes up and up.  The GB teams did a great job, some unlucky poles and mistakes this year but we looked like they deserved to be out there. 


So it came to Individual days, Fame was perfect in both of her runs, she couldn’t have given me anymore than she did, the 2 dogs that got the Gold and Silver were just slightly faster than her so I have come home feeling as happy as I possibly could knowing that we both gave it our all and there isn’t one bit I feel I could have improved on.  Fame made my dreams of another medal at the AWC come true, shes an amazing little dog and I feel so proud to have her J  The jumping course was FAST as well as some technical areas but it was one of the most fun courses I have ever run, and for Fame to get 4thplace just 0.5s off the leader made me happier than I can describe, what a cool girl she was around that course.  The agility had a lot of “nemesis” poles for us with a lot of backside slices, I truly believed she would have at least 1 down, but I went out there and didn’t worry about it and handled her as if nothing would come down and they didn’t, such an amazing feeling when you finish a run at the WC and you have gone clear and everyone is cheering, there really is nothing like it anywhere else.



The support this year was amazing, from the people that flew out to watch us in the GB stands to the amazing coaching team that make our lives so simple when we are at the events we don’t have to worry about a thing.  I was very chilled about it all this year stepping onto the line which I think helped massively and a huge part of that was because of the amazing support we have when we are over there.  At the end of the day our dogs are not with us long enough as it is, I want to enjoy every moment I have with them and just being at the event was a huge achievement and when you think like that its much easier not to get over stressed about the actual results, trust the dog, trust your training and try as hard as you can and what will happen will happen I think we sang something like that before course walking Becky! Hahaha).  We are all excited for each other and are so desperate to each member of GB to do well, even if that’s just to achieve personal goals, its horrible and upsetting having to deal with the disappointment of people sometimes but when it goes right it makes all that worth it, to see how happy some people were for me and Famous made me pretty emotional, thanks to everyone who believed in us and was there to support us afterwards, it means so much.