A bit nervous to compete? Having a hard time concentrating? Is someone watching me and thinking I’m not good enough? Not good enough for my dog? There are so many different thoughts that can hold us back in competitions, and also in training. Mental aspects play a huge role in success. It’s, of course, easier to be self confident, when your dog is well trained, but, according to Becky Sinclair, the founder of the “Agility mental prep” group on Facebook, we should, nonetheless, work more on our mental skills to get better in agility.
Bad luck with dogs ate up confidence in agility
Becky has had her share of bad luck with dogs - and that affected her, making her worried about doing agility. One of her dogs was diagnosed with congenital Mega Oesophagus at 5 months, and she lost her when she was two and a half years old. Also, her first border collie Sixx retired from agility at two and a half because of injuries, and although her MRI was clear, also a disc problem was suspected.
“When I got Who, I was too scared to do much with him until he was over two and a half! I was convinced something bad would happen and we would never do agility. When he was fine, I suddenly realised that actually I could have goals now! But something was holding me back. I felt that no matter how many skills he had and however much we trained, I just wasn’t running him the way I wanted to.”
You aren’t weak for needing to work on mental strength
Becky had done a goal setting seminar with Mark and Karen Laker. “That was brilliant! The seminar focused on goal setting, including smart goals, big goals and dreams. It really gave me things to work on and helped me think about setting realistic, achievable goals. However, I still didn’t feel confident and I didn’t know how to get the confidence I felt I needed!”
That’s when Becky found “Mind To Win” and Dr Kathrine McAleese. “Working on my mental strength with the help of Dr Kat and the community she offers showed me how vital it is to understand that you aren’t weak for needing to work on this stuff! And you certainly aren’t alone.” Becky got so inspired that she started a group called “Agility Mental Prep” on Facebook.
“Working with your mental strength takes work and it’s more than just ‘thinking happy thoughts’ - but it’s possible! One of my main reasons for starting the Mental Prep group is that when you have a community of like-minded people around you, it enables you to be more mindful of things such as focusing on the positives of a run and developing an attitude of gratitude.”
Handlers on any level benefit from mental prep
Professional athletes don’t do mental preparation because they happen to have so much time on their hands and nothing better to do. They do it because it works. And if it’s available for agility handlers, we should make the most of it. At every level in agility, there are people who have problems with e.g. self confidence and concentration. And at every level, they could get rid of those problems “People seem to think that mental preparation is only for ‘serious competitors’. It’s really not!”
“Without being mentally prepared and confident in our abilities, we won’t be capable of doing our dogs justice. So many of us put so much into training our dogs but don’t put anything into our mental prep. It can really hold us back in terms of confidence and enjoyment of our sport.”
We should build each other up in agility
If you continuously compete with others, you most probably get envious or bitter in time. However, if you continuously compete with yourself, you become better. This, and the fact that good vibes affect everyone’s self confidence, including yours, we should all support each other in agility. Being ambitious and having big goals don’t equal with being arrogant.
“One of the biggest things we can do for each other is to be kind! We all love agility and we all love our dogs, so it’s much better if we can build each other up. When you develop a more positive attitude towards yourself and others, it radiates into all parts of your life and it just makes you happy! Who doesn’t want to be happier?”
Becky has three bordercollies: Sixx, Who and Why. She uses AgiNotes to track her agility training and competitions. Here’s what she says about the app:
“AgiNotes is perfect for me as it will help me record my dogs mps and keep a record of any areas I need to train more. I’m particularly looking forward to recording Why’s show results from his very first season!”