Yesterday I started explaining my thoughts on the evolution of ourselves as competitors. Remember Stage one was the “Romance Stage” where ignorance is bliss and we get extreme joy just watching our dog being able to do a sequence of 2 or 3 jumps in a row without going around one of them. Stage Two, the “Information Seeking” stage is where our drive to improve starts to shine through .
Today I follow up with my thoughts on Stages 3 and 4.
Stage Three: We Compete. In this stage we have an awareness of other dog and handlers and their talents. We are now“competing”. Our self esteem and enjoyment of the trial may now be linked to how well we placed at an event or if we got our “qualifying score” or “double Q” that day.
We start jonesing after clean runs, wins and titles like a junkie seeking his next fix and may suffer sleepless nights re-living mistakes or failures that haunt the person we have now become.
Here in this stage, it is easy to forget ,as Zig Zigler says, that “failure is an event not a person” and although we still love our dog we suffer disappointment in him, even calling him names such as a “bar knocker”, “shut down dog”, “pokey-potato”, “wild lunatic” ( or maybe worst), should he not consistently perform at the level we have come to expect from him. We may now stray from our previous training path or coach to find “something or someone better” because second place is now not good enough to satisfy our craving for perfection.
Stage Four: The Trophies are in the Closet. Here we concentrate only on the execution or the mastery of our sport. Outcome goals, although they may exist, are never much of a consideration at or near any competition. We have moved to a mental place where we enjoy the sport for how beautiful we can make it with our dog. Competing never results in dissatisfaction with the dog regardless of the outcome and all disappointments are experiences we learn from and then dismiss.
Our goals are now focused on the harmonious performance of a dog and handler team maneuvering with an effortlessness that allows two minds to appear to be functioning as one.
I believe it is possible to be competing in this last stage without ever performing at the “elite” level of the sport. I don’t believe there are definitive boundaries between any of these stages. Some people may dwell longer than others in one stage, some may skip a stage altogether while others may find themselves bouncing between two stages for years. I think your relationship with your dog can dictate how you evolve as a competitor.
I also think that ultimately, people who never reach the last, more harmonious stage of competition, will move on to other sports or hobbies seeking that what they desire in some other outlet of their life.
I can honestly say, as much as I love to win (and I do love to win), there is no greater feeling of success than that which you get when the artistry of what you are doing becomes so much a part of why you are doing it, that the mastery is very obvious to all that witness the performance.
Today I grateful for existence of peaceful success.