Posted by: allstaragility | January 2, 2015

A Great Big Slice of Humble Pie!

We all know agility is a humbling activity and I have certainly eaten plenty of that pie over the years.   I want to share a particular incident from 2006 of which the impact has resonated throughout my career.

The back-story: I had not competed much in USDAA.  The little money and time I did have was dedicated to trialing in AKC and working towards my goal to represent the USA at the FCI Agility World Championships with Skye.  I mean, being on the World Team is what defined somebody as successful back then, wasn’t it (Yeah I know, but that is a different story).  The few ventures I had taken in USDAA had been with my mostly feral, 20” Sheltie named Derby years previously and they had not been very fruitful.  Besides, I really didn’t see how being good in USDAA classes was going to help me reach the BIG goal.

In May of 2006, Skye and I earned a spot on the 2006 AKC/USA World Team.  My dream had come true!! Becoming a member of Team USA for the first time felt like being drafted for a pro sport or making an Olympic team.  I really felt like I had finally “arrived” in the agility world.  And, I will readily admit, that type of achievement can cause varying degrees of the mysterious condition commonly known as Big Head.

It was time to get serious about honing our skills for our big trip to Switzerland.  Because the event was going to be on turf and, at that time, we didn’t have any local AKC trials in our area on turf, I decided to enter a 1-ring USDAA trial that was held in a small soccer facility.  It would give use the chance to run on that surface and, since I didn’t really care about USDAA, I could focus on using my runs to practice our skills.  I so clearly remember going to that trial feeling like we could take on anything and everything.

Then we ran snooker…

I was dumbfounded. How was it possible that we could stink so badly in that class?!?  And it was STARTERS snooker!!! We were on the World Team for crying out loud. I had arrived, dammit!  How could a few measly red jumps so easily knock me off my pedestal, sending me crashing back down to earth?

The answer was simple.  We were lacking some major skills.  Don’t get me wrong, Skye was an amazing dog and we were a pretty good team on the challenges we had trained.  This was 8 ½ years ago (Already? Good grief!) and international courses weren’t anything like they are today.  Sending the dog to the back-side of a jump which then required them to wrap all the way back around to the take-off side was the “big thing” we were working on that year since one of the judges we would have at FCI AWC had it frequently in her courses.   Snooker was an entirely different beast… or so I thought.

I was determined.  Not one to shirk from a challenge (or an embarrassing showing in snooker), I made it a new goal to conquer the class I once saw as insignificant.   What happened amazed me.  Strengthening the skills with my dog to do well in snooker resulted in a complete transformation of our teamwork.  We couldn’t just get through things, we could get through them really well!  I truly began to realize how some skills we think are only necessary in that one class can have unlimited applications in others.  It was the missing link in our teamwork jigsaw puzzle. Skye and I were members of the 2006 and 2007 AKC Team USA.  They are wonderful memories, and reminders that none of us truly ever “arrive”.  The journey we call agility is without end.

Fast forward to the spring of 2012.   This time Solei and I are members of Team USA at the World Agility Open and our very first international medal is GOLD!  The event is the Games Biathlon (Snooker and Gamblers).  I smile thinking how very fitting…  We have gone on to earn 9 medals at WAO and IFCS WAC.  While just 3 of them are for “games” classes, I honestly believe that we wouldn’t have earned any of them (or be on those teams, for that matter) had I not learned to appreciate that beauty of the perfectly handled dance of snooker.

Looking back, I am now so thankful we attended that USDAA trial.  For me it was a much needed ego check and the largest dose of humble pie I ever ate.  Most importantly, that weekend marks a huge milestone, having a profound impact on my development as a handler, competitor, teammate and instructor.

If you are interested in learning more about Snooker and improving your skills, I am offering a Snooker 101 class on Daisy Peel’s Online Classroom.  And now you know the story behind why I am teaching it!  This class will be beneficial to everybody from Starters to Masters (and even those who don’t play USDAA!).

Check it out HERE

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