There is little doubt that this years team demonstrated that we have the dogs, handlers, skills and attitude to win medals at international events, and this was no ordinary EO.
So how do we maintain this performance and go even further.
Agility is catching up with other mainstream sports. There are more professionals in the sport; purpose bred dogs are becoming common place; more knowledge is being gained and technical innovations being introduced. Much of this is developed at the top end of the sport - a bit like formula 1 develops new innovations that eventually appear on everyday cars on the road. So if we're going to continue competing at the top we need to be at the leading edge of the sport, and in theory everyone should benefit as that learning gets shared.
Here are a few area I think we need to focus on and address at National level to help equip our future international teams:
- The structure of the sport - particularly G7 and Champ. These classes are now far too big to be called 'the top grades'. Why will this help? Because our 'top' handlers need to compete against the truly top on a more regular basis.
- Judging - course design, training and mentoring programmes need to be established to help our judges judge to a similar standard as the rest of Europe where it can take over two years to be qualified. Why is this important? Because we simply don't see courses of the standard we saw in Belgium.
- Encourage more sponsorship - The Kennel Club and CSJ have been fantastic to the team this year, the results support that. Imagine what we could do with even more resources to draw upon.
- Align KC rules & regulations with FCI. For example there is no maximum distance between obstacles on our rules, FCI rules state a minimum and a maximum. This is so important for good course design. Adopt FCI start line rules, this would deter dogs who are clearly not ready for competition stepping into the ring.
I will repeat what I wrote at the beginning. We have the right dogs, handlers, skills and attitudes, we need to channel this in the right direction.
I hope you've enjoyed reading these blogs, its been good for me to reflect. I'm looking forward to the KC Festival next weekend and then I start work on preparations for next years squad.