How is your mental game of dog agility? This article
helps you improve your mental approach to competition.
Soon, competitors from all over will descend upon the Cynosport
World Games in August in Morgan Hill, California. This is the
world series of dog agility competitions, and I'll be there as a
mental game coach to some of the competitors. When I coach these
folks I focus on first helping them develop a solid understanding
of the entire scope of the mental game of dog agility. Next, I help
them become self aware about their mental strengths and weaknesses,
and finally, I give them techniques and methods that help them handle
their own stress, that of their dogs, and to maintain focus over
a long series of days competing in the sun. This all improves their
mental game of dog agility.
Am I an animal behavior expert? No. Am I an expert in the psychology
of dog handling? Kind of. Even though I love dogs and all animals,
I really primarily work with the handlers on how to read their dog's
mood, connect with their dog using rapport, communicate with their
dog, and mainly to help the owner to manage their own mind, emotions
and behavior. To that end, here are two mental game of dog agility
approaches you can use right away to get some fast traction.
- Control What You Can, And Let The Rest Go: Performers
who are wise know what they can control, and what they cannot
control. They make this distinction so they can manage their mind
and emotions better. Most worry and stress comes from trying to
control those things over which we have limited or no control.
This is the definition of insanity-doing the same thing over and
over again, yet expecting different results! First, make a list
of all those things and situations over which you have zero control.
That would be key things such as environmental conditions, scheduling
factors and even who your opponents are, or what capabilities
they possess. All of these you cannot affect in the slightest.
To perform well, you need to accept these conditions. This of
course does not mean you like them, want them or approve of them.
It only means you accept them as a reality that you must deal
with if you hope to be successful.
Next, make a list of those things and situations over which you
have partial control. These largely tend to be the people in your
events. For example, if you are nice to people, they tend to be
nice back to you. This Golden rule effect (Karma if you prefer)
is operating so you might as well tap into it. This may or may
not apply to your opponents, but it should apply to your staff,
officials, teammates, friends, family, etc.
Finally, make a list of those factors over which you have 100%
control. Guess what? That would be YOU. Yes, you. The only thing
you have direct control over in a performance is yourself. That
would primarily be your breath, your muscles, your mind, and your
behavior. By the way, since you have a dog with his own mind and
officials that have their own mind, winning is not directly in
Can you control what someone may be thinking about you? No. Let
it go. Can you control what you are thinking, about anything?
Yes. It's very simple, but it takes discipline and mental control.
Try it--you'll be amazed at how something so simple can be so
powerful. These three control boxes help you maintain mental and
emotional discipline. Use this in practice and in competitions.
- Focus On Process: Performers who are able to create
sustainable peak performance are process focused. Inconsistent
performers, or those who feel huge pressure and choke tend to
be outcome focused. Process focused means to pay attention to
the factors that guide your behavior moment to moment in a competition.
These are generally under your control to a very high degree.
Outcome focused means you pay attention to the score, how you
are doing, and keeping track of whether you will win or not. You
focus on the end result. Winning is not under your direct control.
You cannot make up your mind that you will win, and then simply
win. Why? You usually have an opponent trying to do the same thing.
And of course, you have a dog, who may suddenly decide that chasing
another dog is more exciting than following you. Of course, if
you are far superior to your opponents the chances of you winning
certainly increase, but there is still no guarantee. Focusing
on a result makes you lose sight of the process required to get
you to that result.
Here is the saying I use to show this process-outcome relationship.
"Mile by mile it's a trial. Yard by yard it's hard. But inch by
inch it's a cinch". If you focus on one small thing over and over,
the next thing you know, you've advanced by quite a bit. This
is a process focus. But unfortunately the wheels often come off
for competitors when they get closer to the finish line. They
may be having a great run, and they suddenly think, "Wow, I'm
nailing this. I could win this. That would be awesome." And they
take their mind off what they were doing that got them to this
point. They begin savoring "the fruits of victory". And they fail.
Don't let that happen to you. Stay process focused.
Now you have some new mental insights into the
mental game of mental game of dog agility. And now you know more
about how to handle your mind, and how to manage your stress and
energy and focus. Take these out to your next tournament and put
them to good use. Good luck!
For a comprehensive overview of your mental abilities you need an
assessment instrument that identifies your complete mental strengths
and weaknesses. Here is a free, easy-to-take 65-item sport
psychology assessment tool you can score right on the spot.
This assessment gives you a quick snapshot of your strengths and
weaknesses in your mental game. You can use this as a guide in creating
your own mental training program, or as the basis for a program
you undertake with mental coach
Bill Cole, MS, MA to improve your mental game. This assessment
would be an excellent first step to help you get the big picture
about your mental game.
Copyright © 2014 Bill Cole, MS, MA. All rights reserved.
Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on sports psychology, peak performance,
mental toughness and coaching, is founder and CEO of William
B. Cole Consultants, a consulting firm that helps sports teams and individuals
achieve more success. He is also the Founder and President of the International
Mental Game Coaching Association, an organization dedicated to advancing
the research, development, professionalism and growth of mental game coaching
worldwide. He is a multiple Hall-Of-Fame honoree as an athlete, coach and school
alumnus, an award-winning scholar-athlete, published author of books and articles,
and has coached at the highest levels of major-league pro sports and big-time
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The Mental Game of Dog Agility