Goal Setting, Defining Moments and Being the Best for The Dog You Love

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better!”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

When I was 10 years old I wanted to play organized ice hockey… you know, with coaches and team jerseys the whole big shebang. The only problem was there were no organized girls hockey teams in our city back then…however, there was a sport very similar for girls called  “Ringette.” So that became my goal…I wanted to play Ringette.

You see, I had been playing hockey with the boys in our neighbourhood since I was 8 or 9 years old. They were all getting better because they were all playing on organized teams… with real coaches!

Ringette was my only option, but there were two obstacles in my way…


Sunday dinner at the Garretts…circa 1979

First, the games were only played on Sunday, and my parents didn’t allow us to play sports on a Sunday (church and family only on Sundays). But that wasn’t all. Even if I somehow was able to convince my parents to allow me to play, my next obstacle to overcome was the fact that the hockey rink where the games were played was a mile away. With 7 siblings (and the 8th was on his way), my father a shift worker, and my mother a “non driver”, it didn’t look like a drive to the rink would ever happen.

I persisted…it took me a few years, but I did it.

By the time I was 13 years old, I had convinced my parents that if I didn’t miss church and I carried all of the goalie equipment on my back, I could walk that mile each way to the rink….no problem.

Well maybe not “no problem” ….do you have any idea how heavy goalie equipment gets after you roll around on the ice for an hour? But it didn’t deter me. When you set a goal and you are convinced it is worth while, you persist.


I played ringette until dog sports took over my time!

From that point in my life until I left for university, I walked that mile to the rink every Sunday through the winter…yes Canadian winters… to play Ringette… it was so worth it. I ended up on the city All Star team by my second year and was consistently selected to represent my region in the Ontario Winter Games throughout my youth.

Jan 6I was tenacious about achieving that goal because I wanted to get better…I wanted to get the kind of coaching my friends were getting…I wanted to improve. I had a ton of obstacles to overcome, but it was worth it because I wanted to see the rapid improvement that I saw in all of the boys in my neighbourhood.

Looking back at the experience today, I realize I got something far more valuable than just the chance to play Ringette.

I got the experience of having a vision and patiently working towards something I wanted. I learned how much faster you can improve with good coaching. That going it alone may create incremental progress but “incremental” pales compared to the exponential improvement of working with an experienced coach.  I realize now that the focus I have today to work towards something I really want was all born out of my unwavering desire to play ice hockey all of those years ago.

Those are lessons I have carried with me to this very day.

It all comes back to stepping outside of your comfort zone to achieve a goal, trusting someone else’s experience to guide you, and every day creating just a little momentum towards your goals. I can still remember the first time I got to skate out onto the ice for my first team practice. Perhaps it was a “defining moment” in my life…one of many.  I don’t think many of us have “A” defining moment, but I think we all have many. They just stack one on top of the other, altering the direction of our lives and the person we are becoming as we journey onward. They add another layer to the person we are growing into. It isn’t something that just happens to 10 year old kids who want to play ice hockey. It happens to people of all ages and walks of life who are willing to step up to be the kind of person/dog owner/trainer/agility competitor they have scarily allowed themselves to dream of being.

Here we are at the beginning of a new year, and many people are setting goals. If you haven’t set any yet, please do. Not as a “resolution”, but rather as a promisewhy to yourself because you deserve it. As you write your goals, be sure you also write down  your “whys” of each goal. Why is achieving this goal important to you? Who do you become? What other opportunities will open up to you? The “WHY” is what gives all of us motivation to stay the course and achieve those goals during the down turns when we may otherwise consider giving up. What do you want to achieve that you have been putting off? For yourself, your family, your dogs?
Over the next few weeks I am going to share several stories of my students who have inspired me and our community with their willingness to embrace challenge, and to be persistent about achieving their goals. They are every day people who have a desire to be better for their dogs. None of them are “professional” who make a living from dog training, they are all just regular people who dared to dream and welcomed success into their lives because they knew they deserved it. I know you are going to love their stories as much I have enjoyed watching the progressions of their journeys.

Today I am grateful for all of my early coaches who pushed me to be much better than even I thought I could be, because that is what the great coaches do.

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