Monday, 13 March 2017

Four days of green carpet

I reckon there'll be some tired agility dogs and handlers this morning after four fantastic days of Crufts 2017.

I was there with my dog Devo as part of the Scunthorpe team on Thursday, I watched the live stream Friday and was back at the NEC with my Team Manager hat on Sunday. 

For me Crufts brings all the previous years competitions to a big finale. It's also a chance to meet up with friends from the dog world, it's the start of the new agility season and I get to see the best agility in the UK.

My team run didn't go to plan this year for many reasons which I've been reflecting on; that'll be another seminar story in the future... However, I love being part of a team and all the lead up to the event. It's a unique competition with different skill sets and dynamics and very rewarding however it goes.

There were numerous great moments for me over the four days, especially the agility finals. I'm fortunate to work with a lot of the handlers on Agility Team GB, so I know how much they put in behind the scenes that cumulates in what we see on the green carpet. 

Talking of the green carpet, after Crufts 2016 Steve Croxford (KC Vice Chairman) gave me a 'wee' project to come up with suggestions for an alternative surface for the main arena. We both recalled the surface used at the 2012 FCI World Championships in Czech Republic being excellent for agility, so I set about seeing if this would work at Crufts. I'm pleased to say the new surface met the approval of all the disciplines who use it, especially the agility handlers. 


I often get asked how does Agility Team GB benefit the wider agility community. This is a great example of something seen and experienced at international level filtering down to our domestic competition for the benefit of our sport. BTW - Steve's given me another 'wee' project this year....watch this space.

As Agility Team GB Team Manager, Crufts is an opportunity for me to watch handlers deal with the excitement, the competition pressure and their preparations to perform when it really matters. The experienced handlers, and those who train their brains as well as their dogs, perform extremely well in these conditions; in fact they thrive on it. For the less experienced I hope they reflect on the many aspects of their performance and come back even stronger in the future.

A top international rugby player said to me once.

"When I step on to the field, 95% of my performance comes down to the mental game"  

Congratulations to everyone who qualified and ran at Crufts. Congratulations also to the judges who designed testing, fast courses which were exciting and entertaining to watch. 

Thank you to everyone who works tirelessly before and during Crufts too. I know how much goes on behind the scenes. Everyone has a lot of fun, that's why they volunteer year after year, however these are long, full-on days, you are very much appreciated by everyone there. 

The journey to Crufts 2018 begins....




Monday, 6 March 2017

A new season dawns

Last weekend Karen and I delivered the last of this winters inner agility seminars on sports psychology; they were good. We had great engagement from the group, some interesting conversations and I'm sure everyone came away with more knowledge of the subject; including me. I get a lot of benefit out of these sessions too. Especially working with people at different levels of agility.

It's amazing how many hours people spend training their dogs, working on their fitness, their dogs health & welfare (which is good to see), however they do little training on their mental skills. And yet everyone agrees this is the skill you need most when under pressure. People attending our seminar should be better equipped.

As we prepare for this years season I'm encouraged by many of the handlers coming into the sport and their professional approach.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Time to get on the ramp....

It was bought home to me at the weekend that the count down to Crufts 2017 is on, we had a team carpet training session.

My focus is now switching to Devo and ramping up his preparations for Crufts. It was nice to have a bit of daylight after 5pm today to go out and get a short session in with him.


It has been a messy year for agility training for me so far. I've had a few annoying injuries, trying to juggle the day job and other activities has been challenging at times and I'm also conscious that I like to give my dogs a break from agility over the winter. However, now we really need to get stuck into some proper training....no more messing about and excuses I hear you say

We have been focusing on Devo's core fitness over the winter as there are certain areas which we felt he needed to be more agility fit in. One of the things I've learnt through working with the physio's and fitness people on the team is agility is more demanding on our dogs than we sometimes think.

One of my criticism of agility in the UK is that people devote too much time to competing and not enough time on quality training and agility specific fitness. The result is dogs with more injuries, lowering of performance and dogs looking 'agility tired' by the middle of the season. I have no scientific evidence of this, these are just my observations. So as I start ramping up with Devo, Moog is going to be on agility maintenance until after Crufts.




Tuesday, 31 January 2017

A future full of blog articles...

It has been a while since I last wrote my blog. As usual there is always plenty to write about, I just need to make the time.

I'm in to the seminar season now which I really enjoy. They have been interactive, engaging and attracting a wide range of people from across all levels of the dog agility spectrum.

Of course at this time of year people are trying to maintain their New Year Resolutions which in the world of dog agility usually involves training more regularly, getting fitter (handlers), entering shows earlier to get camping and, promising not to 'let my dog down this year'... That's an interesting one, a future blog article.

I've taken a slightly different approach to my goal setting this year. I'm experimenting with a couple of different ideas. One engages new technology and convenience, another is 'old school' but reliable and feels like you've achieved something every day... another future blog article.

Anyway, whatever you set out achieve this year, I hope you're enjoying the journey and perhaps you could tell me about how its going for you...maybe another future blog article...



Saturday, 24 December 2016

Time for a break

Just a short blog from me today to wish all my followers, friends and family a happy Christmas and a great New Year.

We've got a few days at home with Michael who's back from his travels. We've some long dog walks planned and we'll be enjoying time with family and friends. 

The run up to Christmas this year seemed to start even earlier and I'm certainly looking forward to a long break.

So whatever you're planning, have a great Christmas, try to get a bit of a beak to enjoy it and I hope to see you in 2017.

Mark

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Where has the time gone..and a guest blogger

Wow I realised I wrote my last blog in October, that's a long time ago, I've been seriously slipping and a lot has gone on since then.

I actually write something everyday as a habit to keep me focused on the important things. The days go by so quickly and before I know it will be Xmas.... oh it nearly is!

Since my last blog the Agility Team GB Coaching Team and I have selected the 2017 squad and we've had our first squad day which was a full-on day. Due to venue availability and timings I decided to hold the junior try-out day and the first adult squad day on the same day at the same venue. I was concerned I may have taken on a wee bit too much for one day. However, thanks to the fantastic support I have from the YKC, the KC and both Coaching Teams the day went to plan.

Thanks also have to go to the junior handlers, their parents and the adult squad. Everyone stuck to the plan (I like a good plan) and a good time was had by all.

I asked Sarah who had her first experience of a squad day if she would write a short summary of her experience. Over to Sarah...all her own words with no editing.

Team GB Day – First Time

I recently attended the Team GB squad day at Nottingham Trent University. I have to say I was very nervous going into this environment for the first time. Thinking about all the big shots that will be there and if I will fit in and be made welcome.

I have to say I had a brilliant day and had nothing to worry about. The team management are all incredible, they take everything on board you say to help improve the team and I got the impression they had a great forward thinking attitude! And the team themselves were all very friendly and positive.

The day included, first of all, for large handlers, running improvements. We all had to do an Illinois test where everyone cheered everyone on to go as fast as they could, which was a great team attitude already, even if they didn’t know people. This was followed with tips on how to improve acceleration, putting this into practice, then turning and how to execute a turn more efficiently. It was brilliant and didn’t matter how good of a runner you are, everyone was made to feel they could improve with these valuable tips. I loved it, and actually was really, really aching the next day – Thanks Al!

Next up for us was a team talk, giving us information on travel and what to expect of the events. Everyone who had been on the team shared some experiences and we watched a video of one of the events where we won GOLD! Amazing! We also made some notes on how it would make us feel to represent team GB and what it would mean to be selected.

Following that we had vet and physio checks where the dogs were checked over. I did find I had a weakness here as I couldn’t get my dog to stay on his feet, at least I know what to expect now and have something to work on.

Overall the day was a brilliant experience and I really look forward to the next one in Feb when we actually get to run our dogs over some European style courses! Can’t wait! Thanks for the invitation.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Working for the future

Someone asked me the other day if there was a break in the Agility Team GB calendar, I replied that there was a wee gap between the World Championships and the Planning day; a couple of weeks. People are already asking for the dates of team events and where the championships will be in 2017/18; our planning process is always working far into the future which we need to keep ahead of.

The Planning day was very productive and generated a lot of discussions amongst the Coaching Team. We reviewed the 2016 performance, we looked at the results from a recent survey and then armed with this information, spent the rest of the day planning for 2017.

One of the dynamics I really like about the current coaching team is, everyone has something original and interesting to bring to the table. I feel very lucky to be working with a diverse and professional group of people, all dedicated to building a successful team.

As I write we haven't announced the 2017 squad yet. We're waiting for a few dates etc. to be confirmed so when we do write out (early November) we can give the new squad the full picture for 2017.

Meanwhile at home our dogs are having a well earned break from competition agility. We'll focus on their general fitness and health over the winter. We're feeling enthusiastic and keen with our winter training plans which are taking a different tact this year; more of that in another blog.

I've had a calf muscle strain fixed, so I'm out running again and planning to do my first Cani-cross run with Moog over the winter.

And Agility1st will be holding their annual conference on 06 November. If you're an Agility1st member it'll be great to see you there.