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Your Evolution through “Competitiveness”

Posted on 07/27/09 11 Comments

There was discussion this week on one of the agility lists about running agility “just for fun” rather than being competitive about it. It reminded me of a lecture I include when doing Mental Prep for Sport workshops.  It is about each of our own individual evolution as a competitor in sport. This concept was first introduced to me while competing in dressage many years ago.  I wish I could give you a source to look up, but I can’t. What I will present is my own slant on the topic. When I first heard it,  it was like someone was speaking a foreign language.  

Seeing the difference in three people play a game of golf demonstrates the process so well. Three people hit the ball into the ruff, the first person announces to the group, “this is a crappy lie, I am moving my ball” and does so happily taking a penalty stroke. The next golfer will look around to see if anyone is watching before they secretly kick the ball to a better lie (without counting the stroke), while the third golfer will play the shot with the bad lie, without ever once considering moving the ball, thus learning from the experience. Those three people represent three different places in competitive sport evolution.

It has nothing to do with being “right” or “wrong” or having a “better” attitude than the next person or that being “competitive” is a bad character flaw that you should hide from others.  It is recognizing that it is possible for people at the top of a sport to also “have fun” while they win, just as it is equally as possible for another person to have a miserable time while wearing the facade of wanting nothing more from a sport than to “just have fun.”

The evolution of one’s own level of competitiveness passes at different rates for each individual. Even though we all will start at Stage one, we won’t all necessarily find our way to stage four. Over the next two days I will attempt to describe each stage as I see it from the perspective of dog agility.  Understanding this evolution may make it easier to  see why someone may feel they only do agility  “for fun” or may judge someone else as “not appearing to be having any fun” based on where each of us may be on our own journey.

Getting a thrill watching 9" Shelby clear 26" high jump. Circa 1989 (or maybe 1889)
Getting a thrill watching 9" Shelby clear 26" high jump. Circa 1989 (or maybe 1889)


Stage One: The Romance Period.  Here we are just thrilled just to see our dogs “doing it”.  We are learning a new game and the thought of going to an actual trial is the furthest thing from our mind.  It is so much fun to just watch your family pet go through a tunnel or the weave poles, it really doesn’t matter if he finishes all of the poles or not! 

Here we are so excited when we tell our family and friends about what “our dog can do.”  Agility has little to to with teamwork and more closely resembles a series of tricks where the dog performs and we stand and watch in amazement.

Stage Two: Information Seeking.  We are becoming more aware of the existence of criteria to each exercise.  We now actually care if our dog waits at the start line or stops on his contacts.  We still get a real kick out of just being out there, but now getting the occasional ribbon at a trial is an unexpected bonus we rejoice about.  We start to further our education at specialized clinics to learn as much about our sport as we can. It is during this stage we may seek out a mentor or coach that will lead us to a higher level of mastery.

Tomorrow I will describe stages 3 & 4 and let you decide where you believe you are on your journey. If you compete at a trial then like it or not you are a competitor!

Today I am grateful to all of you awesome people that took the time to send me birthday wishes yesterday.  Aaaah yes, 29 has come around yet again!


  1. Cindy says:
    Friday, August 14, 2009 at 3:05pm

    Hey, Jason, it’s called “Peaceful Success” , under the ramblings section


  2. Jason says:
    Friday, August 14, 2009 at 10:50am

    So True, Can’t to see 3 and 4


  3. Fiona Hodgson says:
    Friday, July 31, 2009 at 5:50am

    Oh wow – The sentence in this post (copied below) is something I would love every single person in the sport to read – pure brilliance!!!!! Love it love it love it……………..
    Fiona H

    “It is recognizing that it is possible for people at the top of a sport to also “have fun” while they win, just as it is equally as possible for another person to have a miserable time while wearing the facade of wanting nothing more from a sport than to “just have fun.”


  4. Krystal says:
    Monday, July 27, 2009 at 11:32pm

    I cant wait to see 3 and 4!


  5. Mary M says:
    Monday, July 27, 2009 at 7:47pm

    For me, competition or not, I want to better my skills for my dogs. I am asking so much from them, how selfish would I be to expect their best without offering mine?!

    We are definitely still learning together, but all I learn, inside or outside the ring, with or without them, is for them. I want them to know that their mama will give 110% so that she doesn’t unfairly ask them for more then she is willing to do in this team she has asked them to join.

    And, hey I still get a kick out of the fact that my 9 year old rips through the tunnel…..because he learned agility at the age of 8 years old and is far exceeding my original goal of just helping him to be a more confident dog! And, I get an even bigger kick out of my 2 year old who couldn’t even be around other dogs when we first took him into our home to now being a calm and happy boy at each trial, class and local park we go too!!!

    I am grateful for the lessons I have learned from my pups, I only dream of being able to teach them such wonderful lessons as well!


  6. Ann Hopp says:
    Monday, July 27, 2009 at 6:51pm

    Happy Birthday! And if 39 hasn’t rolled around again, you are still a young’in!


  7. Gail says:
    Monday, July 27, 2009 at 5:43pm

    I think that I start over each step with each dog! Especially since each dog gives you new challenges in training. My first dog taught me to have more patience & to stop luring. My second one taught me how to be more motivating. Now I have my first fast BC & he’s presenting a WHOLE new world of training challenges for me to tackle! I’m currently in step one with Speedy, but it’s time we move on to step two. I’m more concerned with his preformance & the criteria now, making sure that I reward for ONLY the criteria that I want.

    Can’t wait to see what you have as steps 3 & 4!


  8. Nat says:
    Monday, July 27, 2009 at 3:38pm

    Looking forward to reading about the next 2 stages tomorrow. I remember when I was still at Stage One and was happy to see my Mika simply go over a jump!

    Happy belated birthday.



  9. Kristine says:
    Monday, July 27, 2009 at 2:11pm

    Stage 1 was awfully fun! Not to say the rest isn’t – of course it is! But that description brought back a lot of good memories for me.


  10. Julie Jenkins says:
    Monday, July 27, 2009 at 12:24pm

    love the high jump picture. why is it EVERYONE in high jump pictures has one leg up, as if it is helping the dog clear the bars? i think it’s hilarious.
    very much enjoying this topic and can’t wait to read what else you have to say on it.


  11. Trudie says:
    Monday, July 27, 2009 at 4:43am

    Thanks for this post!

    After the first 2 stages, the more I realize what abilities there are to master, the more we work on them, the more exhilarating the feeling when I and my dog do well. To date we’ve been in 8 competitions only in one year, that is more than enough to make it clear what elements I still need to work on. But, I feel is it promising to have earned “excellent”s at least 50 per cent of the time and, most motivating, is that I believe 300% in my dog’s abilities.

    But it was the day we were 4th out of 20 (some much more experienced) dogs with an excellent, and I felt ecstatic ! when someone told me very seriously: “You don’t look like you’re having any fun” — this came as a nasty blow, and it spoiled my fun!


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