Today we have announced the teams attending the two FCI competitions we'll be competing at this year. The European Open in Austria (July) and the World Championships in Sweden (October).
After five years of being Team Manager I fully appreciate that team selection isn't an easy part of the role. Each year brings its own rewards and challenges. There will always be winners and losers but that's sport. If you play at the top, winning is fantastic and challenging to sustain, and losing becomes harder to deal with.
Each year the Coaching Team produce their plan and objectives for the year. This sets our course for preparing the squad and influences our team selections. When selecting we consider past performance at FCI international competitions, performance on the squad, The Performance Weekend results and of course future potential.
This year we've had the first group of handlers coming through the Development Programme into the main squad; some of those dogs and handlers have been selected for this years teams. They've done really well considering this is a huge step up from domestic agility.
The Development Programme was put in place to encourage younger dogs into the squad and to give experience to handlers new to international competition. Judging by the feedback we've received it's worked well and we'll repeat it again this year...with a bit of tweaking.
We've also seen juniors progressing from the YKC Team onto the adult squad and once again this year an ex junior has been selected for the adult team.
Our selection process has also evolved over the last few years. I take an inclusive position with the Coaching Team, they're experts and professionals in their given fields and as such they all have an input into our selections. Ultimately as Manager I'm responsible for our decisions, however they're informed decisions supported by the Coaching Team.
One of the many things we've learnt about bringing dogs and handlers into the team is that we need to be mindful of what's happening in domestic agility and be bold in our decisions.
This year we're being bold with a decision to call up Marita Davies with her young dog Duka to the EO team. I've been amazed by the number of people in agility who have contacted me to check that this partnership is on my radar...they certainly have been.
Marita & Duka won't replace anyone on the team, they'll be in addition to the planned selected team as a recognition of their outstanding performance so far this year. In the past we've over-looked young talented partnerships for various reasons. We've learnt that if we see world class talent we have to act on it and not delay in getting them on the road to international championships.
Handler Fitness & Movement Coach Ruth MacGill commented.
'Handler Fitness took on a new dimension this year with the introduction of carefully selected fitness tests, with a focus on fast running and strength. Most took up the challenge and enjoyed the competitive edge and the desire to improve. I believe we have probably selected the fittest ever group of handlers for this year's EO and FCI Teams'.
On the dogs side we've also seen a general improvement in peoples understanding of the high level of fitness, strength and conditioning required at the top level of our sport. Team Physiotherapist Maria Johnson quotes.
'As a veterinary physiotherapist and hydrotherapist being part of the coaching team brings the opportunity to assess, treat and work with the best partnerships in GB agility. It is rewarding and exciting to watch the development of these athletic dogs to ensure injury limitation, optimum fitness and performance'.
Exciting times ahead for the team getting ready for these two big championships and the competitions themselves.
I believe we have selected a strong team for both the EO and the World Championships capable of competing on the international stage against the best in the world.
I'll be posting regular updates on our preparations on my blog, on the Agility Team GB Supporters Facebook Group and our twitter feed.