The Light Switch

Photo by Hendricks Photos

Photo by Hendricks Photos

We often treat our performance readiness just like a light switch. Something we can turn on when we need it and off when we don’t. Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works. More often than not, when the time comes to ratchet up our intensity and put on our game face; we throw the switch only to find that the bulb is burned out.

Training in a relaxed, laid back manner sounds nice and it is, if that’s the way you plan on competing. There’s nothing wrong with this at all. Especially in a sport such as agility where, precise timing and controlled movements are essential to success. Being calm and laid back, reassures both you and your dog that you are in control and confident.

However, we all know that when we want to push our limits and shoot for a personal best performance; it requires a little more effort, a little more concentration, and a little more intensity.

This realization leads us to flipping of the switch.

We ramp ourselves up at trials when we want that last Q for our next title or are competing on the big stage at a national championship. We know that to reach the goals we set for ourselves, we have to push just a little bit harder; stretch a little further than we have before.

Our breathing speeds up, our heart beats faster, and our muscles tense. Of course, our dog notices these things too and starts wondering what’s going on.

When it’s our turn to run, it can feel like we haven’t played agility in months. That perfect timing we had in training the week before has mysteriously vanished. We change our handling plan mid-course and things just get worse from there. Yep, we flipped the switch and the light bulb was burned out.

Well you’ll be glad to know that there’s a simple solution to this stumbling block. All you need to do is flip the switch and check if the light bulb still works on a regular basis.

That is you need to practice and train the way you want to compete. You should have a racing heartbeat, sweaty palms, and your game face on regularly in practice. When this becomes normal, you know that you can perform your best in competition.

Many athletes hope that when everything that they’ve spent years training for is on the line, they will rise to the occasion. In reality however, when the chips are down, everyone will sink to the level of their training.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

Leave A Reply (5 comments so far)

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  1. Claire
    5 years ago

    Love it, so true !!

  2. Diana
    5 years ago

    I have been a little off lately. With MACH4 I felt like I no longer needed to prove myself and have let up in my training, and it’s been showing in the trials. Thanks for the reminder John.

  3. Dian
    5 years ago

    YES!! I experienced this at a show this past weekend. I found myself panicking when my dog would not listen. GREAT reminder to practice HARD!!

  4. julie
    5 years ago

    There is nothing more important to me than connecting with my dog in each performance event we do. Q’s are “sweet,” but, more importantly, I want to make sure that light bulb is not burned out, as you so wisely say, and that my dog senses my desire to lead him appropriately. Thank you, John!!!

  5. Gail Banta
    5 years ago

    This is exactly what is happing with my young novice aussie. We just can seem to transition from “training” mode to “compete” mode. When I get pumped at training he shuts down on his startline stay, all the typical nervousness shows on his part – scratching, sniffing. NOTHING I do can bring him back. Suggestions would be so welcome!

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