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!