Friday, June 24, 2011

Faith, Results and Opinions

Okay I am about to rant and rave about one of my favourite subjects again... well kind of, from a slightly different angle.

You don't have to be a good handler, to be a good trainer.  Likewise you don't have to be a good trainer, to be a good handler.  The question is, do you have to be a good trainer and/or handler to be a good coach?  Personally I don't think you have to NECESSARILY be either, of course it is a huge advantage if you are either or preferably both.  But coaching is primarily about natural instinct, observation skills and VERY importantly knowledge.  If you are going to stand around on your feet for hours on end, making yourself hoarse trying to tell people what to do and how to do it, you better be damn sure that you are up to date in the ever-evolving sport of Agility.  Of course this does NOT mean that you have to agree with everything, but you at least have to know what is going on.  We all have our own styles and preferences and we will apply those, but at the end of the day, it is the results that matter right?

If your students are truly listening to you and practising and participating in your coaching and lessons, but their results are just not improving you seriously should take a look at yourself.  Equally, if you are taking lessons or coaching from someone and you can honestly say that you are applying every little piece of advice (oh yes, sit down with a glass of wine and be REALLY honest) and you are not improving or the results are not satisfactory then perhaps that is not the coach for you.  Okay I won't get started on the difficulty of the teaching again.  That is a whole other post.  My point is that when coaching/lessons is not successful the problem has to lie SOMEWHERE.

Not everyone is cut out to be a teacher of agility... first of all there is of course the patience issue, which is a biggie, then there is the natural talent of spotting problems or places where there is room for improvement.  Naturally being able to assess handlers and dogs to give them the best advice possible is no easy task.  Believing in the methods you train, but being flexible within the range of those methods to include all your students' different styles.  Not beating people with a cross-bar when they don't listen or practise.  This is of course, if you are not just ripping people off to make a few bucks.  As a teacher you have to take a stand, your students are inevitably a reflection of your ability.  If you are a student and you don't agree with the stand being taken, then you need to find a new teacher, simple as that.  I know I sound harsh, haha, what is new... in Afrikaans there is a saying 'ek draai nie doekies om nie', directly translated it means 'I don't change diapers' which basically means I don't beat around the bush.  There is your proverb lesson for the evening...

Anyhow, here in South Africa we have VERY few teachers and even fewer training schools.  All of them are located in four major cities only.  We also have bad traffic and very short days compared to most parts of Europe (in winter it gets dark at about 17h30 and in summer at about 19h00).  None of the training schools have access to indoor facilities (we don't have snow), few have flood lights.  This in general means that people attend the training schools that are convenient to them.  However, and shoot me if you disagree, what is the point in GOING to an ACTUAL lesson if you A. Plan not to listen, because you always know best.  B. Plan not to listen because you think your trainer is a moron. C.  You are not improving/happy with the results.  If you ask me, it would be better for you to then approach a handler/trainer that you can admire and respect and ask them if they would be willing to either train with you or give you information or SOMETHING.  So rather see if someone you have faith in CAN help you, than go to someone you don't have faith in just because you CAN.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Disappointment and overcoming it.

Well I guess from the title of this post and my long absence you know that I did not qualify for the world team.  To be honest this gutted me, mostly because I failed myself and I failed my dog.  I mean the Spaz has been working like a dream, he has really been an awesome boy, but as I predicted, my failure was my mental game.  Cautious handling, ridiculous choices and over-all lack in confidence out there on the field.  This will be my goal to REALLY fix in the next year.  I mean, not just moan about it on here.  I am making a lot of changes mentally. I am taking every single round seriously and not just half-arsing it.  I mean of course still having fun along the way.  But I am sticking to a routine now, keeping my training diary updated, complete with video clips.  So before every show I will go through it now, slap myself against the cheek thirteen times and say: 'See you can do it you moron'...  It took me a few days to get over the disappointment, in fact I am still getting over it.  But it has actually been my training that has helped me overcome it, mainly because it reminded me how much I love the sport and thus made me set new goals for the year... I won't bore you with all of it, but lets just say it involves going clear and winning A LOT.  

So below are some of the rounds from SA Champs and a couple of shows afterwards. Yeah yeah, they are atrocious I know.  I promise the handler will catch a major wake-up :)

Now I have to back track a bit...  Before SA Champs something terrible happened.  For those that have not seen this video yet:

Now Alison has been a very good friend of mine for a very long time and I was absolutely gutted by this whole ordeal.  I actually don't even know what to say about this without starting to swear, so I will leave it to you to watch.  Just as a note, it was actually Alison that we were supposed to be visiting now when we visited the UK, but she ofc was not there, as she is sitting in Europe with the dogs.  So not only did this greatly affect their lives, but it had many other repercussions, including some in my life.

Now back to the present.  I am enjoying my training more than ever and my dogs are feeling it... and of course I forgot to say, Quake did his first OFFICIAL competitions recently!  And came away with a second and a third place believe it or not.  He still lacks a ton of confidence at shows and I will have to keep on reviewing goals with him, but for now we will wait and see what happens.  Anyhow, so here are some training videos from this afternoon.  Oh and yes I KNOW I sound like a retard when I train my dog and I am going to try to change that too!