AAC Nationals 2011

AAC Nationals

I’m taking a bit of a break from packing for the Nationals (i.e., Agility Association of Canada’s National Championship) and thought I’d put it out there and ask what are the essential things you pack for a competition. More specifically, are there any items or tools you bring that help you with your mental game?

For me, planning is everything. Knowing that I have the schedule for the event and directions on how to get to the venue, my hotel, and if I’m really on the ball, directions to the restaurants/grocery stores I will be visiting, goes a long way in making me feel comfortable and relaxed.

There are two more things that I like to have with me to help my mental game. A fully charged mp3 player with my favourite songs and 3×5 cue cards with a pen. The music helps me get my arousal level where I need it to perform. Depending on the sport and requirement for that competition, I will customize the playlist. It also helps me maintain focus on what I need to do to execute at my best. When I have the headphones on, I am much better at shutting out external distractions. It can even help with some of the internal distractions as well (e.g., negative self-talk).

The cue cards are something that I picked up when I transitioned from a player to a coach, but it’s been very useful for me both as a coach (yes there are some performance aspects for the coach as well) and an athlete. It’s also been effective for the athletes I’ve worked with.

I keep the cards and pen on me as much as I can. When things cross my mind, either ideas or some form of self-talk, I jot them down. I use them as a back up memory system. Sort of a catch-all. I have lots of good ideas (lots of bad ones, too) but I forget most of them. This way I minimize the forgetting.

I also use the cards as a place to park negativity. After a performance if there are things I’m upset about or know that I should work on, I write them down on the cards and forget about them until I can do something about it. By using the cue cards, I can focus on my upcoming performances and not worry about forgetting those important “lessons” everyone gets from a sub-par performance. I don’t have to dwell on the negative thoughts. It’s also a great place to write about when really good things happen. Down the road, weeks, months, and years later, you can go back and relive those special times. It’s a great motivator and provides a pick-me-up when you need it.

I’ve have a lot of great memories from the AAC Nationals. This is my 7th one I will be attending and I’m excited. It’s also when Kim and I lost our Maddie girl last year. The tears have gone and in their place are lots of happy memories. Good luck to everyone going to this year’s championship. Enjoy the competition and enjoy the time with your friends. We are here for far too short a time.

Leave A Reply (7 comments so far)

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  1. Patty
    7 years ago

    What a wonderful tribute.

  2. Lee Waterhouse
    7 years ago

    What a beautiful tribute to a well loved friend!

    See you at Nats perhaps.

  3. karin
    7 years ago


  4. Shirley Holmes
    7 years ago

    Beautiful. Brings tears to my eyes all over again at the loss of our Red B. C.

  5. Melissa Myers
    7 years ago

    Ok…that made me cry! Very sweet tribute to your family member. Reminds me that you never know when it’s going to be your last run, and to cherish the moments, like hanging out and watching TV or just letting dogs just be dogs. Loved it!

  6. Sarah
    7 years ago

    Thanks first of all John for this amazing tribute to Maddie. I thought about her (and you and Kim) a lot this weekend.

    To your original question – what to pack. I make a list of all necessary dog & human things to bring to competition and post it on the fridge. For me the list in hard copy helps to ensure nothing is left behind. I also try to keep ‘competition stuff’ (e.g. tarps, clips, extra leashes, video camera, etc) in a separate training bag so that it’s always ready to go when needed.

  7. Debra
    6 years ago

    What a heart felt video…thank you. My red/white BC is my “heart dog”. Brought tears to my eyes….I need to go hug my “Snap” again…

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