Rehearsing Success

Monday, May 11, 2009

When I was a kid I loved to play and watch hockey. As an adult, I rarely watch and haven’t had an opportunity to play in quite some time. Playoff hockey is pretty much on the TV all the time right now up here in Canada. John likes watching playoff . . . any sport. Being that we are still living in this one room apartment, I am osmotically forced to watch hockey again (while I work at my computer). The game has gotten a little less violent from what I remembered (possibly because it is the playoffs and no one wants to jeopardize their team’s chances by getting into a brawl). So it is still an awesome sport, but the fighting got to be way too much for me back when I did watch it more often.

Any sport at “crunch” time has more significance for the participants and often times makes it more exciting for the spectators.  Running agility is always fun, but when a championship is on the line, the excitement is that much more heightened.  Now I don’t have to be referring to  a World Championships here, it can be an special event, or possibly just a certain class, or venue, or certain people watching that causes your adrenaline to run a little high.  Learning to do your best at these times really is a matter of rehearsals. The way you get better at anything is to create opportunities to repeat those successful events over and over.

One thing that I like to do when I have some spare time is to re-run big events with my younger dogs. It all started about five years ago when we were in Hawaii teaching (now that was a seminar venue!).  I was doing some laundry and the laundry room was in the underground parking lot so I didn’t feel comfortable leaving our clothes unattended. I ended up having to sit around this tiny room all alone. After reading the 6 month old issue of Golf Digest cover-to-cover for the second time,  I made up this cool game that I have played many times since.

I started re-running important agility runs in my mind. I am a great visualizer, I actually get an increase in my breathing and heart rate when I visualize myself running agility. I just close my eyes and see my dog beside me at the start line and then I lead out and way we go! Anyway, after I was finished (and still had time to kill) back in Hawaii,  I decided to run all of those runs again with my puppy (who was “Encore” at the time). Now Encore back then was less than a year old and had never been on any real agility equipment, so I had no idea how she would look going over jumps or through weave poles. However I could see her little puppy face and had seen her run and jump while out on our walks, so I just put her at the start line in my minds eye and started to re-run all of those courses with her.  It was really cool. What ended up happening was by the time Encore had her first real run at an agility trial she had already run hundreds of runs with me in my mind. 

This may take some practice before you get really good at it but do try it. If you have no history of big events of your own, watch someone else on Youtube or on a Championship DVD.  Pick a handler that you can see yourself handling similarly to and try to see the run through that person’s eyes but it will be with your own dog. You end up rehearse success for yourself over and over and over and that is never a bad thing!

Today I am grateful for Mike and John H. showing up to help John clear out some of the downed trees this weekend. It was a little scary to have three men with chainsaws and a guy named Jason helping (ok he was my brother).  All we needed was a few hockey masks to complete the scene from a horror movie!  I am happy to report no such horrors occurred and the view behind the new house has improved dramatically!



  1. Love the advice about visualization! I have a great sense of visualization and this is how I “daydream” — running courses with wee Elle in mind(and the puppy who’s coming home soon). It is reassuring to know I’m not just dreaming, but doing something that will help improve our agility skills, even before we enter our first trials together.

  2. thanks so much for this post.

    that is a great idea to re-run events in my head after the fact, or with a different dog – i do before i run, it really helps. i get made fun of for remembering course from 2 years ago, and dwelling on what i did wrong, or remembering when i did something good.

    i love the idea of feeling comfortable with your dog before you are even in the ring or placing your self in a big competition and still keeping cool, and teaching your brain to handle it.

    a world champion in my mind – that sounds fun!

  3. Just now I tried in vain to remember my last agility from run two weeks ago. It’s gone from my memory already. I can tell that visualization is skill that I will need to practice.

  4. I found your post interesting as I often visualise runs that I have had and find it most useful when I am at the dentist! It makes me concentrate on something else.

    And I hadn’t thought about visualising runs before I have had them, but must confess to my first speeding ticket in years on my way to my first competition with my new pup. Apparently the cop had been behind me for several kms, but I didn’t notice because was running through my proposed first ever run in my head. I didn’t tell him that tho! And the first run was as good as I visualised, nice lateral 3 jump leadout great weave for a clear round and 2nd place.

  5. I’ve been trying to do this for a while now and it seems to be working well. The biggest problem I have is while I’m replaying a run or visualizing an upcoming run the negative aspects always creep in even if it was a clean run. How do you focus past the negative.

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