October 21, 2021

Episode 292: What To Do When Things Start Off Poorly at a Big Event

In this episode (19:40)

In this episode, the BDA coaches give handlers advice on what to do when things start off poorly at a trial that’s very important to them.

You Will Learn

  • How the format of the event impacts handler psychology.
  • Jennifer’s 3 step plan for dealing with early disappointment.
  • Esteban’s key tip for moving on after a bad run.


(upbeat techno music plays) - [Announcer] Welcome to Bad Dog Agility! - (dog barks excitedly) - [Announcer] A podcast, helping you reach all of your dog agility goals. Whether it's competing under the bright lights of the televised finals at Westminster or, successfully navigating a homemade course in your own backyard. We'll bring you training tips, interviews, and news about the great sport of dog agility. Are you ready? - [Esteban]

I'm ready. - [Sarah] I'm ready. - [Jennifer] I'm ready. The show starts with your hosts, Jennifer, Esteban, and Sarah. - [Jennifer] I'm Jennifer. [Esteban] I'm Esteban. - [Sarah] And I'm Sarah. - [Sarah] And this is episode 292. today's podcast is brought to you by HitItBoard.com and the new Teeter TeachIt; an easy to use tool that controls the amount of tip on your Teeter so you can introduce motion

to your dog in a gradual way. Go to HitItBoard.com for the new Teeter TeachIt, and other training tools and toys. Use discount code BDA10, get 10% off your order. That's HitItBoard.com. Today's podcast is also brought to you by the Westminster Kennel Club. - [Esteban] That's right. The Westminster Kennel Club has announced that the 9th Annual Masters Agility Championship will be held on January 22nd, 2022, at Pier 36

in New York City. I personally competed at Westminster twice and I loved it! Running in the nationally televised finals is one of my favorite agility memories. And while I didn't win at all, I know someone who did. - [Jennifer] And winning that Westminster three consecutive years in a row was a complete thrill and very exciting, but it's the entire event that I really love. The fast courses, the

lights, I mean just being in New York City, everything about it is super exciting and fun. So for 2022, your dog will need a MACH Title to enter the regular class for a PACH Title to enter the preferred class. And they must have the appropriate title at the time of entry. Entries are limited to 350 dogs and will be first received and entries open on November 17th at

7:00 AM eastern time. Westminster typically fills on the first day, so you want to be mindful of that opening date. - [Sarah] Westminster is going to make a $5,000 donation in the name of the Masters Agility champion to the AKC agility training club of their choice or the AKC Humane Fund. $1,000 donations will be made in the name of the highest scoring All-American dog, as well as each

of the four remaining first place dogs in their height classes. Per New York City regulations, everyone in attendance must be vaccinated for COVID-19 in order to enter the venue. Entries close December 22nd and check out our "Show Notes" page for a link to the premium and all the details. - [Esteban] Westminster puts on a fantastic trial and I highly recommend it to anyone who's thinking about competing there.

Welcome everyone, and in this podcast, we're going to talk about what to do when things start off poorly at a big event. And this is not just limited to big events. I think a lot of people find themselves in the situation where you're very excited about a trial, you've put in a lot of work, maybe you've done some retraining, maybe it's your very first agility trial. You have

big expectations-- at least hopes if you don't have expectations-- and you get out there and you have the first run and it's just a disaster. Everything goes wrong; if you can imagine yourself, for example, being at an event like AKC Nationals or the Invitational or the World Championship, and you just mess up that first run, and now you're out of the running, right? Because you need it all

clean runs basically to make the big, final, the big event or to have a chance at medaling. Now it depends very much on the structure of the event. So there's a big event going on this weekend that Jennifer Crank is at. Jennifer, tell us where you are and what you are doing this weekend. - [Jennifer] I am actively in Murfreesboro, Tennessee in the middle of the USDAA Nationals,

or what a lot of people refer to as Sino Sports. It's USDA's national event, right? So we have a huge five day,four ring event that many people have worked all year for, qualified all year for, and here we are at one of these big events that you're talking about. - [Esteban] Well, let's start off with a USDAA then. So it's going to be a little bit different, the

format at this big national event than it might be for say the U.S. Open. Although I think it's a little more similar to UKI US Open than it is to, say AKC's Invitational or National Agility Championship. So let's start with USDAA. When you get there, like, what are the events that you're kind of running? What's available to you? And how bad is it to really mess up that

first run? Are there any warm-up runs? Is there a warm-up day? How does that work? - [Jennifer] What I really love about USAA Nationals is you have a variety of events that you will enter or can enter, I should say. And they are not all going to run connected to one another or linked together in the results. So we have a Grand Prix, Steeplechase, Biathlon and Team. And

you can go out and you can have a miserable Grand Prix run and still have a shot at winning overall in Steeplechase. Or you can be the winner in Team, and maybe had a fault in Biathlon. So I think in terms of my mental game and kind of pushing through mistakes and pushing through faults, USA has really helped me to kind of step out of any kind of

mental lack that I've had. So you go out there, you hit the first bar of the first course of Grand Prix quarterfinals, let's say. And yeah, you're bummed, right? You've worked all year, you've come this far, and it's the end of the road, right? It's quarterfinals and you're out already. No semis, no finals, but brush it off because in two hours, you're going to be going out into

the ring for Steeplechase semi-finals. So it really forces you to have that time to yourself. For me, that kind of let down, especially right at the beginning of the weekend, usually is followed up by a good 15-20 minutes of time to myself, walking my dog. Cause I'm, I'm a very emotional person. When I run in the moment, I can be very upset or very happy, and I just

need that time. And then kind of can get step back and think about, okay, there were good elements of that. You know, I've now gone to my stall, I've had my moment, I've eaten my chocolate bar to make myself feel better, and you have to snap out of it. So I think the great part about USA, I have actually found that to really help with my mental game

because it forces you to kind of move on and, and regroup before the next event. - [Esteban] Yeah. I mean, I feel like you just gave us a very good three step process, right? So step number one is feel the feelings. - [Sarah] (chuckles) Yeah. Right, so a lot of people are going to try and deny their feelings, but certainly assuming you have time between runs and you're

not rushing off for maybe a second dog in the same class or something along those lines, you know, you can take a few minutes at least to go ahead and be upset. And usually, you you're going to want to do that away from other people. So, you know, when you're throwing things around, you're not hitting someone in the face, your dog's, tug toy, fleece tug toy, of course.

And so that's step one, I think, you know, just acknowledging your feelings, feeling the feelings. And then number two, I really like how you threw the chocolate in there because I think it's all about perking yourself up a little bit of uh, I think it's called self-soothing? - [Sarah] Ooh yes. - [Esteban] I also like to eat my feelings. - [Sarah] Oh yeah, we eat our feelings all

the time. - [Esteban] That's what we call it. Eating, eating our feelings. - [Sarah] We DoorDash our feelings. (Sarah chuckles) - [Esteban] Sometimes I'll, I'll put off eating my feelings until the end of the day. So if you have a bad first run and then you go run your second run, and then that evening you can pound three or four desserts at whatever local restaurant is at your

national event. And then the third step that you put in there was to really regroup, right? Put all that behind you and get focused on what is upcoming. And so I think a lot of people are going to have problems with all of this and a lot of it stems from expectations, right? And in my view, people spend too much time on expectations, right? They are really disappointed

with what happened because they had these high, incredible expectations. But I think if we set that aside and you focus on the actual mechanics of what you're doing, it helps to really zoom in on it. So say for example, I were at an international type tryout event. Right? And for most of those events, at least several years ago, there would be maybe four or five rounds. Let's, --let's

assume it's five rounds. And you... get eliminated on the first round, eliminated on the second round. And you kind of feel like you're out of the running. You know, as far as team selection, or winning an automatic spot or anything like that. You can really, after you have your disappointment and eat your candy bar, you can really focus on very specific things such as: maybe I'm going to

maintain my contact criteria, right? Maybe I'm going to be a little more aggressive on leaving on my backside. So I'm not going to be babying the dogs so much on backsides. And a lot of people, I find that after they've messed up these runs, suddenly they turn in really spectacular in rounds three, four, and five, right? When other people might say, well, there's nothing on the line. Well,

okay. Yeah. Maybe that's part of it. But maybe also they recognize that, "Hey, let me, let me get something from this. Let me work on something, let me test the skill." Right? And so I really like how you frame that. So tell us a little bit about the difference between some of these "one mistake and you're out" type competitions and USDAA, where you're at now, which sounds really

good to me. Like you're never out of it, you know, one, one bad run, but basically you're saying they crown like four different champions. Like you can think about it in each of the Heights over the course of the week. - [Jennifer] Yeah. Not only do you have the different events, but you have events that having a fault, doesn't take you out of it. So for example, Team

right? Team is made up of two or three people. I'm on a three dog team this weekend and all of us have five runs. So 15 runs are getting combined together. So a knocked bar here, or a miss contact there, is not going to be the end of it. I've had been fortunate enough to have won team many years in the past. And there was no scenario in

which all of those 15 sports were perfect runs. So I think that's also a whole other element to it of not just, oh, as soon as you have a nut bar give up, like, you gotta fight for it. You gotta work for it. And Steeplechase the same way. You can have salts depending on the round, often in quarter-finals it's not abnormal for a dog with a fault to

make it on to semi-finals if their time was fast enough. So again, kind of, you don't let down. And I think of this compared specifically to me to AKC Nationals, AKC Nationals is something that I've attended every year for as long as I can remember. And it's a very, very different format. It is much higher pressure for me-- - [Esteban] Mm-hmm - [Jennifer] --much more nerve wracking for

me, - [Esteban] Absolutely. - [Jennifer] I think a potentially bigger challenge on mental game because of exactly what you just said. Okay, you had a mistake. You're not out of it. All right, let's go right back in. So almost lower pressure. You can step to the line at USA Nationals and go, "Ehh if we don't make it through this one, we got another class this afternoon." Where you--where

AKC Nationals, excuse me, you hit that first bar of that first class invitational. You hit the first bar of the first class in, and a lot of cases, that's it, you're out for finals. Now that doesn't mean you still can't make a great weekend out of it and have a lot of takeaways. A lot of the things that you just mentioned, you know, using those runs and saying,

"Okay, this isn't going to be my AKC Nationals. So even though I, I had that fault on that first run, let's treat these next two rounds as beginning my preparation for next year." - [Esteban] Mm-hmm. - [Jennifer] You know, how am I going to want to run them? Where a lot of people have that mistake and they think, well, might as well pack up my bags and go

home. Absolutely not. Arguably, you have a better chance to go out there and train and learn and improve than the person who is now still trying to just survive the run and run clear. So AKC Nationals, AKC Invitational-- if you're not real familiar with those, those are ones where there's the consistency factor, right? There's only one event there's only one champion per height. So at AKC Nationals to

get into finals, the traditional way, it's three clear. There is the option for challengers, right? But AKC Invitational. I mean, that's even harder. It's FOUR rounds and there's no challengers. So, you know, and again, you've worked all year to qualify and maybe really put in that rush at the end of the qualifying period to make sure you're top five and you could go out there and in that

very first round, you have that mistake. And that's it. And that's hard to come back from. So I think talking about kind of having a game plan, how we can recover, what learning experience we can take away from that, is something that I think will hit hard to a lot of listeners. - [Sarah] Right? Yeah. And I think, I think another thing to do, I mean, part of

what we're talking about is essentially really reset, like resetting your goals, right? So the majority of people who are going to Nationals like the goal is to do well at Nationals, right? The ultimate goal is to make Finals, you know, and then on top of that, to win. So if you can no longer make finals, then you can go back and say, "Well, what can I do with

my remaining time?" And that's kind of what you were talking about. About, you know, can I test a particular skill? Can I test, you know, my running contact under pressure? Can I test my mental game? But you might even say like, "Can I win a class?" Like I am like, - [Esteban] Sure. - [Sarah] I'm thinking of like world championships, right? I would be, I mean, I'd be

sad to be out of it at the world championships. But I'd be pretty pumped to win any single run at the world championships. Right? I mean, you're up there on the podium. They're going to have your flag. I mean, that's still a very big deal. So you can make changes to that goal that are still attainable. - [Esteban] Right. I think I've seen differences in competitors. You know,

some people are very good coming back after a bad run or an elimination run. And they're able to really go out there and have some really good runs and other people just when the first run goes wrong, they just, they really give up and you can, you can see it in their body language and the way that they're handling their dog. And you don't want to be like

that because it's really not fair to your dog, right? Your dog really doesn't know or understand that concept in terms of expectations, right, outcomes for these big events in the same way that we as humans can, right? So I think you want to be fair to your teammate. And I think the other trap that people fall into is really thinking that because things have gone wrong right off

the bat, and they have no chance of meeting the expectations that they set for themselves, whether they really were realistic expectations or not they say, "I shouldn't have come at all". - [Sarah] Right. - [Esteban] Right. And that is one of the biggest-- falsehoods-- I think agility handlers tell themselves. - [Jennifer] Well-- - [Esteban] Because you can build on that. You need that experience. Jennifer, how many times

did you go to tryouts for, let's say agility world championship was swift before, but well--before you even made the team? Did you go to your first one and make the team like the very first time out? - [Jennifer] No. I remember actually my first tryouts, very vividly, because I eat in both rounds on the first day and I was in dead last. Dead last. So they list that

and there I am right at the bottom of my jump height. My mom walks over, goes, "Well, there's nowhere to go but up". - (Esteban and Sarah chuckling) - [Jennifer] And sure enough the next day, I came out and placed in both of the next two rounds because I really was--where was I going to go, but try to improve on it and do better? And I think, you

know, the, the pressure off of me honestly, and knowing that I had two horrible rounds and I was like, well, all right, now I can just relax and go run how I know I can run it and not be nervous about this scenario and use the experience to work through those ring nerves for future use. - [Esteban] Right. And, and you absolutely did. Right? So I'm thinking of

what's the event where I swift one, everything, every round? - [Sarah] Tryouts. It's a different tryout. - [Esteban] A different tryouts right? But a different event. So a lot of people look at something and they say, wow, you know, that's Jennifer. And that's what she does. And that's what they've always done, you know? And that's not true. So Jennifer now is telling you a very personal story, right?

How she, she messed up these first two rounds, right? And, you know, you're presumably down about it. I'm sure she ate some chocolate and you know, and her mom had some things to say. And so she is able to take that experience, turn it around for that event. And then that entire event becomes a stepping stone. So now you have a stepping stone to get to a goal

that you were hoping was going to be at this event, but now maybe it's the following year, right? And as I like to say, agility is a sport where we measured the results, the outcomes in years-- - [Sarah] And -- - [Esteban] --not weeks or days or sessions or minutes. - [Sarah] And sometimes it's not even with that dog, it's with the next dog who learns, who, who

benefits from everything you learned with the previous dogs so--. - [Esteban] People really don't like hearing that. - [Sarah] But it's, but it's true. - [Esteban] Some people. - [Sarah] Like you are building up experience, you're building up experience for your dog, but you're also building up experience for yourself. - [Esteban] That's right. - [Sarah] And I'm like, I'm like a numbers, logic person right? Like I like

things to like, make sense and have like logic and order and everything. And so like my counter to like, oh, I shouldn't have come is like, okay, well there's like 1400 people at Nationals. Are we saying that like 1300 of them shouldn't have bothered coming? That would be a pretty lame event if only the people who made it to the finals, you know, if you had a crystal

ball and everybody that wasn't going to make it to the finals, didn't show up? Like that would-- - [Esteban] Like, "I'm not going." - [Sarah] "I'm not going." - [Esteban] I see no possible benefit here unless I make the finals, right? It's flawed thinking. - [Sarah] It's very flawed thinking. And so I think we just can't think that way and be so, so very results-oriented. And as somebody

who has competed at Nationals many times, but I've also been as a spectator when I didn't have a dog, but I was there supporting you, Esteban, or I was at, you know, Worlds supporting Jennifer. I've been to some very big events as a spectator. And let me tell you, I had a fantastic time! - (Sarah chuckles) - [Sarah] You know, I, I so love being able to talk

to people that I haven't seen in awhile who don't live near me locally and the social aspect of it and watching some of the fastest dogs in the world. And so, you know, and I didn't have a dog to run. So, clearly I'm not making the finals. So there is so much at these events that's positive, outside of strictly just running your dog as well. - [Esteban] Yeah.

Thank you for sharing that. I also enjoy not making the finals. No, not actually. - (Sarah laughs) - [Esteban] I would prefer to make the finals, but the years I didn't make the finals. I'm thinking of the National Agility Championship for AKC. We did the, the live stream where we did the commentary and that was super fun as well. So it's, it was a great consolation prize. But

I'm always learning about agility. I enjoy watching other people compete as well. All right. Well, I think that's it for this week's podcast. - [Sarah] We'd like to thank our sponsors, HitItBoard.com and the Westminster Kennel Club. Happy training! (upbeat techno music plays) - [Announcer] Thank you for listening to Bad Dog Agility. We hope you enjoyed today's episode. For more information, updates, and links to all our socials, just

check out our website, www.baddogagility.com. If you haven't already signed up for our email subscription, we would love to have you join the BDA community. Until next time, take care!

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