“You can improve as a competitor and it’s an ongoing process – as long as you remember it doesn’t happen on its own” says Mari Mäkelä from Agilityflow. Mari is a mental coach (Master of Psychology), who also has experience in competing in agility. Mari has put together a list of three practical and concrete tips that you can make use of right away!
Developing as a competitor is an ongoing process and, most often, it doesn’t happen on its own. However, there are ways to speed up improvement. Below, you can find three practical tips, with which you may be able to progress quicker and learn more about you and your dog as a team! Have you included them in your training plan already?
1. Train like you compete
What you practice, develops. Competition-like training is key to improving your skills as a competitor! Often in practice the course is divided into smaller parts so that the same technique may be refined endlessly. A competition run, however, requires different skills, such as maintaining concentration and more extensive course reading skills.
It’s probable that at some point during an agility course, something doesn’t go according to plan. In that instance, can you react fast enough? On a competition course, there is so much speed that there isn’t time for rational thinking; instead, you have to trust that your body can automatically make the right decisions based on training.
2. A plan
You always want to do your best in competition. But do you know how to accomplish that? What kind of things can help you and your dog find optimal state of mind? Many leave competition preparation to chance instead of creating a plan beforehand, which could improve performance even before entering an agility ring.
Write down your own competition plan, with a few bullet points. When should you warm up? At what point during the competition day should you eat and what? When you have a plan that’s easy to follow, you know what to do at every point of a competition day and after the competition you’ll know what helped you perform and what didn’t. Next time you’ll know how to make an even better plan!
Everything rarely goes exactly like planned, so it’s most important to recognize the key elements for your performance and leave room for flexibility. You can also try out the plan in practice. Can you notice a difference in how well practice went?
3. Diverse goals
Although you do not achieve the result you want on a course, it can include many successes! When your goals are diverse enough, it’s easier for you to recognize smaller successes as well, which is significant for development!
Try and set yourself a performance-related goal in the next competition. If you have been training independent backsides, for example, your goal can be to try one on the course. You can also try setting a mental goal such as finding an instant during the competition day to calm down and relax with your dog.
Rewarding competition moments for you and your dog!