The Mental Game Of Dog Agility
Manage Pressure And Stay Process Focused
Bill Cole, MS, MA
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
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 your control.
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 ityou'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!
Copyright © Bill Cole, MS., MA. 2014 All rights reserved.
This article covers only one small part of the mental game.
A complete mental training program includes motivation and
goal-setting, pre-event mental preparation, post-event review
and analysis, mental strengthening, self-regulation training,
breath control training, motor skill training, mental rehearsal,
concentration training, pressure-proofing, communication training,
confidence-building, breaking through mental barriers, slump
prevention, mental toughness training, flow training, relaxation
training, momentum training, psych-out proofing and media
For a comprehensive overview of your mental abilities you
need an assessment instrument that identifies your complete
mental strengths and weaknesses. For a free, easy-to-take
65-item sport psychology assessment tool you can score right
on the spot, visit https://www.mentalgamecoach.com/Assessments/MentalGameOfSports.html.
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 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.
Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on peak performance, mental toughness
and coaching, is founder and President of the International Mental Game Coaching
Bill is also founder and CEO of William B. Cole Consultants, a consulting firm that helps
organizations and professionals achieve more success in business, life and sports.
He is a multiple Hall of Fame honoree, an award-winning scholar-athlete, published
book author and articles author, and has coached at the highest levels of major-league
pro sports, big-time college athletics and corporate America. For a free, extensive
article archive, or for questions and comments visit him at www.MentalGameCoach.com.
Article Source: SportsPsychologyCoaching.com
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