On Wednesday morning Agility Team GB leave for the European Open in France. It's an exciting time for the 19 handlers who have trained hard to prepare for this competition.
International competition is quite different to the domestic game, as I'm sure anyone who has competed in any sport overseas will know. For a start it involves spending time away travelling, living, eating and socialising with a group of people you only usually see at the weekend. For the dogs it involves travel, hotel rooms and many different environments.
Then there is the competition itself. Although the game is mainly the same, albeit with a few different rules, the competition is different. The vast majority of the dogs and handlers have gone through a selection process like our team. So they are the best of the best, all 800 of them.
The journey to international competition is a long and tough one. Each handler has had to make many sacrifices to dedicate the time, energy and resources to make it to this level in their sport. Their reward is to represent their country. It's only when you work and support these top handlers and dogs do you realise just how much they've put in to earn their place on the team.
Like any sport there are casualties along the way. As Team Manager I have to make some tough decisions. Those decisions are always easier to make when it's about the dogs fitness and health, there is no decision, that always comes first. Thankfully handlers at this level make those decisions for me. Unfortunately two of this years team members have had to withdraw through dogs fitness. It's a terrible blow to the handlers, but their dogs come first.
The Team GB handlers going to the EO this week are well prepared and excited. The Coaching team have supported them throughout their journey helping them prepare in many areas needed for the competition. One of our final jobs is to make sure they get to the start line on time.
I know the agility community will be supporting the team next weekend, you can follow the event on live stream and on the usual social media channels. Or, the competition is only in Calais come and join us, it'll probably be quicker getting there than the M1 on Friday night.