Growing up I was forgetful. And not just ditzy, little kid forgetful either. I forget everything– everything. I was the kid who was driven back to school almost every night because I forgot a notebook, a book, the homework, my calculator.. my backpack— and that’s if I even remembered that I forgot it in the first place. I forgot about book reports sometimes until the morning they were due, or worse, as soon as I walked into class and was supposed to present. It was like living in one of those dreams were you forgot the test was scheduled that day for a class you never signed up for, except mine was real– I lived it. No matter how many times that hot, sinking wave of panic washed over me it never made me remember better. I don’t know why, it just didn’t.
A lot has changed since then (thankfully). I organize everything in some way now. I have three calendars, a daily/ monthly agenda. Things from school have been color-coordinated since sophomore year of high school. Agility includes spreadsheets and notebooks and marked up courses and details about bad runs and good ones. I make training lists of which things I want to work on and by when. Summer to-do lists, winter to-do lists; skills that need honing. I love the feeling of checking things off as they get done.
Last night I re-watched Bolt’s runs from tryouts. It was the first time I have since May, since the video itself was made and uploaded to Youtube. I think I changed the way those runs actually happened in my head over the last few months. I thought things had been rougher around the edges, that our threadle mistakes had been easy lines, that we were lacking some of the skills we really needed. The truth? The threadles that caught us, caught many other more experienced teams. That the rest of our runs together looked beautiful: in synch, fast, with tight turns, start line stays, hard weave pole entries clung to, with lovely contacts. Despite the E’s, they are some of the best runs of my agility career, and something I’m incredibly proud of. I’m not sure I would have been able to say that in my younger years. But what that dwelling the last few months did is cast doubt on what skills I thought we had. I completely lost sight of what the runs actually looked like, and it made me less confident in what we were capable of doing.
When I started showing Nike in 2006 (was that really 8 years ago!?) video playback wasn’t really an option. Sometimes we had a camera with us, but it was rare. It wasn’t until very recently that video became so accessible– with iPads and iPhones and lightweight video cameras and videographers: every run has become available to us. We can step out of the ring and watch playback immediately.
We watch our NQs dozens of times. We slow them down frame by frame. We point out exactly what went wrong. We point it out to our friends, we send them to our instructors. We watch the bar fall over, and over. We watch our dogs leap impressively over the yellow bit of the contacts. We watch them slide off the table, or break their start line, or scoot behind us on a cross and take an off course. We play the “what if’s”– what if I hadn’t done a blind cross there… what if I had stopped motion… what if I had done the front cross like I planned… We start to cast doubt in what we thought was the right plan.
The next time you step in to the ring you might start to question your instincts– you might think a front cross is the right option but now you don’t know. You’re not sure because it didn’t work in “that run”. You’ll get out in the middle of your walk through, watching those electric red numbers dwindle down until you realize that you’ve walked the same line three different ways and still aren’t sure which one is the best. You’ll eavesdrop at people walking the same spot, copying what they do, even though they might have a dog radically different than yours. Before you know it the judge has whistled you off course and you still haven’t made a decision. At this point, throwing together a good run isn’t as likely as it would have been if you had stuck to a plan– if you had followed your gut.
So… forget it.
Leave the baggage you load on your shoulders outside the ring.
Make a plan early on and try to stick with it– adjust if needed, of course. But don’t doubt yourself. Don’t listen to what every person in your walk thru says. Forget what happened before. Forget what didn’t work “that one time”. Watch your runs, NQs included, but don’t obsess. Find where you made good choices, and where better choices could have been made. Write them down, set the sequence up, and try it again; you’ll get it right the next time around. Save good runs. Remind yourself of what you do well, and what amazing skills your dog has.
I promise, it’s a much better experience.
Oh, and here’s our runs from tryouts. So many lovely things!