Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Time to perform

The Team GB Performance Weekend (PW) schedule has been published this week and we’ve made a few changes this year.

Firstly we’re holding it at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) which the Kennel Club has a partnership with. NTU has excellent facilities for all weathers, classrooms and spectator seating. The next two EOs and EOJ 2018 will be held on sand at equestrian centres, so it makes sense to hold the last squad day on a surface similar to the one we’ll be competing on.

We’re also holding a final for the EO win-on-place (open to squad members) at the PW. This should be an exciting to watch.

Once again the Coaching Team will be looking for up to 12 dogs and handlers to invite to the 2019 development squad. The 2018 development members are all part of this years squad and I hope they have benefitted from working with the Coaching Team. Bringing new people under the Coaching Teams radar is something I’m keen to progress. 

Unfortunately we’ve had to limit the eligible grades and entry numbers again. This is due to the time available and having manageable classes numbers. I’ve been asked if there can be more Team GB events held during the year to attract new handlers. If we had resources to help organise, host and run them that maybe a possibility in the future. In the meantime we’ll be filling the PW to the max in each height.

We will be ‘spotting’ dogs and handlers around the competitions again this year hoping to see some outstanding young partnerships (dogs and handlers) who we can also invite on to the 2019 development squad.

If you’re interested in coming along and watching this years adult squad and the junior team competing on courses set and judged by an international FCI judge then we’d love to see you.

Have a great week.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Just start somewhere...

So 2018 has started I guess a lot of people are going back to the day job today feeling motivated for the new year ahead... or not....

At this time of the year there are a lot of blogs, articles, forums etc. encouraging us to set goals and targets for the new year and how it will make us incredibly successful. The more I read about this the more options I discover. Should I be setting long term goals, short term targets, writing stuff down, using Apps, buying wonderful diaries that will magically enable me to hit every goal...so many choices.

Each year I aim to have two or three big goals in each area of my life, home, career, sport, interests etc. Depending on what they are depends on how I focus on them. Some require project management software to track them, others I use my daily notebook and others I need more of a daily prompt through habit trackers. I've come to the conclusion that there isn't a one-size fits all for me.

What system do you use?

I recently read interesting research on the use of electronic devices v paper. The research showed that over 80% of people using paper systems remembered more of what they wrote than those who used laptops/tablets etc. Apparently there is a strong cognitive connection between taking pen to paper compared to tapping keys. I use both methods and I find physically writing with a pen on paper requires more thinking than tapping keys or even writing with pen on a tablet. 

Personal preferences?

What about those people who never set goals? Research shows we are more focused and enjoy life more if we have something to aim for. That could be a holiday, a family event, a sporting achievement, a financial achievement etc... We are wired to push forward and evolve, so if you've never written goals or targets for the year and don't know where to start, my advice is just start writing. 

There's a great book called 'write it down, make it happen', a good place for anyone wondering about where to start.

Happy New Year.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

An amazing agility year for a junior handler

This week I'm very pleased have Sara Bacon as my guest blogger. Sara is a junior handler who did very well with her three dogs at the Agility Team GB Junior Try-out day making it through to the second day and she also won the Novice Olympia finals this year - an amazing result for a young handler.

Over to Sara...

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

How far have we come ....guest blogger

This weeks blog comes from Laura Hope. Laura was on the Development Squad and has been invited on to this years squad preparing for 2018 Team Selection.

I've asked Laura to write about her experience at her first squad day. 

Squad Day 1……

Upon reflection of my first squad day I have found myself thinking of how far we’ve come.  Jade, my first collie has taken us from grade 1 to 7 and after the performance weekend in 2017 we were asked to join the GB Development Squad and now the 2018 GB Agility Squad. 

This in itself brought up many emotions, excitement, elation and nervousness. This also led me to begin to analyse our performance.  As our first squad day approached I felt apprehensive, a day spent with some of the best agility handlers - eeekk!!!!  I woke up incredibly early on the day and left with plenty of time, arrived and got Jade out of the van to stretch her legs.  I was still incredibly nervous and then I saw a friendly face – Sian Illingworth.  She smiled, said hello, we had a small conversation then went our own way.  I immediately felt a little less nervous (Thank you Sian).  More of the squad arrived and the day began. 

First off, registration and onto the intro where all of the key management members introduced themselves and gave an overview of their roles within the team.  I found this very useful to understand people’s positions and what they are looking at specifically.  All the squad were present for this, we then split into our groups for various activities.

There were four different sections each group participated in.  “Welcome to the Squad 2018” presented by Mark Laker, which really made me think about the squad as a whole and the team work within it.  What it means to be on the squad not just for both Dog and Handler individually but as a team member.  

Second up for my group was a very thought provoking presentation by Martin Cavill around technical analysis.  This session was interesting and caused a lot of discussion within the group.  Having such capacity to analyse courses / runs in such technicality is something I found fascinating.  The conversation within the group was interesting and also comical at times.  Next up was vet/physio check with Maria Johnston and Hana McNicholas who were very friendly and accommodating.  Their manner with Jade was brilliant and just what I expected and wanted from a GB vet/physio. They introduced themselves, were gentle in their approach - spot on in my opinion.  

As our group was the biggest group the vet/physio checks made some of us late for the handler fitness session.  Did we manage to get out of it?  We weren’t that lucky.  There were four different tests with Nicky Grant and Ruth MacGill, all designed to assess different aspects of fitness and I must admit I was surprised at how competitive I got with myself.  As we were a little late with this section and the other groups had pretty much finished they were all congregating in the arena and were able to watch us doing our sprint tests etc.  “Oh no, people are watching - there was that nervous feeling again” I started my sprint test and I heard the group shouting and cheering me on.  The team spirit within the squad and encouragement shone through.

On my way home after stopping for a coffee with Lucie Hinchley, I thought about not only how tired and achy I was but also how much I enjoyed the day.  I will never consider myself an elite agility handler, but being among them on the squad day helped me to realise that we all love the sport, we all want to do and be better, but our dogs are what always come first.  The team spirit within the day was obvious and everyone appeared to embrace this, everyone came together, there was comradery and encouragement alongside support.  A long but a great day.

Thanks Laura, great blog of the first squad day.

To find out more about Agility Team GB visit the Kennel Club International Agility pages

Sunday, 10 December 2017

And we're off again...

The journey to selection for 2018 the GB International Agility Team has started. Last weekend young handlers and this years senior squad attended the first two Agility Team GB days at Nottingham Trent University Brackenhurst Campus.

YKC EOJ Try-out Day 1.
Interest in the European Open Juniors [EOJ] increases each year. Two years ago 70 handlers attended the first try-out day, this year there were 140. And of course the standard increases too. Approx. 50% of the top performing young handlers from day 1 will be invited to go forward to the second day in February.  

We'll then select the team who will represent GB in The Netherlands in 2018.

For the senior handlers their first squad day was designed to set the scene for the 2018 World Championships in Sweden and the European Open in Austria and help them start their preparations. For the first time this years squad includes handlers from the Development squad and ex-juniors. So we have a diverse group with good depth across all heights.

We received useful feedback from this years teams helping to shape our plans for 2018. Preparations are designed around the specific championships, our objectives and longer term plans. Squad Day 1 is an important day to share information with the handlers.

Marc & Mr Big
Sadly we were missing Marc Wingate-Wynn [Team Assistant] at squad day. Marc has decided to set down due to his work and personal commitments. 

Marc has been a huge help and support for me and the Coaching Team. His professionalism and experience will be missed.

I'm sure the Coaching Team, our sponsors and the handlers who've worked with Marc appreciate all his support as Team Assistant.

EO 2017 Coaching Team

To find out more about Agility Team GB visit The Kennel Clubs Team pages 

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Agility Team GB 2018 Squad Selection

Here we go again, Agility Team GB 2018 the journey to The Netherlands, Austria and Sweden starts next month.

The teams annual activities  start with the selection for the senior squad i.e. anyone but juniors. This year we had two new categories of handlers included in our selections.

  • Juniors who had represented Team GB at the EOJ but are now too old for juniors, ‘aged-out’ and, 
  • Handlers on the Development Squad. These are the handlers ‘spotted’ in 2017 as potential future team members.

This year we also introduced an automatic squad qualification threshold of 70 points. So there are a number of handlers who automatically gain a squad place through this route.

Then we have this years team members who are given a squad place because they represented their country this year. There were two reasons this change was introduced two years ago. 

  1. If a dog & handler partnership are good enough to represent their country in July / October, then they should be good enough to be considered for the squad in November and,
  2. I want to encourage team members to focus on the championships they’ve been selected for, not chasing around the UK for squad points for the following year.

Our other squad selection considerations include:  if we have enough pedigree dogs in the squad at each height (only pedigree dogs can enter the World Championships); previous experience at high pressure events; personal circumstances and many other factors.

Our objectives for the squad selection is to:

A).  Have a pool of dedicated, committed elite dogs & handlers to select from for the teams going to the EOs (Austria) and the FCI World Championships (Sweden) and,
B). Develop future partnerships who we believe will win medals at international competitions.

So after the excitement of being selected the work starts. The first squad day is in December where handlers will learn about what they need to do to be selected for the 2018 teams.  

You can find out who is the 2018 squad tomorrow (13/11/2017) at the KC International Agility web page.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

The wind of change

Something I hear a lot following international competitions is:

'why should we have to change the way we do the sport for a handful of people who compete internationally'. 

That's a valid observation, however its missing the fact that agility is changing. 

Dog training techniques improve, equipment improves; dogs are trained to be more skilful; handlers are embracing skills from other sports e.g. to improve their running technique, improve their spacial awareness, to be more concise and accurate with their handling etc. 

Like all sports once you start getting professionals involved, training becomes more targeted, technical and specific and the overall standard should improve.

Many of the people practicing and training-out these skills are members of the international teams who handlers from the agility community pay to train with. So the 'why do I have to change...' argument is lost as people are paying to learn the very skills, ideas and techniques seen overseas.

The trainers who compete overseas are also advocating and training us on courses that flow nicely for the dog & handler. Courses which have fast, exciting lines for the partnership to tackle. They are both enjoyable to run and entertaining to watch. I haven't heard anyone say they don't enjoy running or watching the international style of courses. 

So for those people who resist change, well... we don't have to change, but we are changing by the very fact we're adopting new ideas and we're spending our hard-earned cash learning about a different style of agility.

 'In life, stuff changes'. Dog agility is no different. 

We need to embrace the changes and get involved with taking the sport forward in a way that works for everyone.