Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Possibility increases Probability

I remember when I first started playing the agility game (7 years ago now with Murphy) I watched so many excellent B dogs and excellent B handlers with amazement. I saw consistency,  those team made mistakes but they were so minor - run after run those dogs nailed weave entries and contacts. I saw finished teams and I saw competitors who were superstars inside and outside of the agility ring. They were admirable competitors and they were just good people.  That spirit of good sportsmanship is something I try very hard to maintain for myself and foster in others and it's one of the things I love most about this sport.

To that end, I often stick around to watch the novice handlers, the struggling in open handlers and the excellent A handlers. If I'm sitting ringside watching I clap for every run - if I'm sitting near the out gate I almost always will tell the handlers "Nice Job", "Nice Try", "That was great!", "That was awesome", "You guys rock" - because I know that in some cosmic universe the roles are now reversed. I'm the seasoned competitor with lots of experience, most people know that I'm an instructor and in their perception I've been doing this 'forever'. 
Cheeseburgers seem to help probability too :-)

There's a point here - truly. This past weekend I sought out a competitor who has over the last 6 months or so moved up from Novice A to Open to Excellent A - her dog is running beautifully, but a bit inconsistently in Excellent with the new questions asked of dogs and handlers on excellent courses. I noticed they had two beautiful runs that day (two Q's!)  and I congratulated her on her double-Q. She blushed and said "it's our first double Q, but it's not a real double Q, we're still in A so it doesn't count".

My reply to her? "Of COURSE it counts!!!" And there's my point: Sometimes knowing something is possible increases the probability that it can (and will) happen again. The achievement of a double-Q is the same in A as it is in B. So she needs to earn a couple more A legs before she can start collecting MACH points - but the achievement is the same, two clean fault-free runs in the same days. Two NAILED weave entries, approximately 30 jump bars that weren't knocked, three yellow down-contacts touched, 40 obstacles negotiated and navigated as a team, a hundred distractions ignored and two souls out there running with the same heart.

Agility is so much more than running the course with your dog - there's the training, the relationship, the love of the run and the joy in the game. Remember back to when you first started and your dog sauntered through his first tunnel? That was when the possible became probable. That first time your dog nailed a weave entry with speed - the possible became probable. Your first run at a real-life trial - the possible became probable. That first Q - that first green ribbon when the possible became probable and then probable became reality.

So my message to newbies, to folks that have been out there forever and to folks who maybe are just wondering if they ever could be 'good enough' to play the game: Don't ever forget the milestones along the way that made the theoretically possible a reality. Every step counts, every moment counts - make the most of them and don't ever let anyone (especially yourself) tell you that they don't count. And for the folks that have been around 'forever', remember that your sportsmanship sets the tone of the sport for people who you don't even know - and if you see someone really shining - or struggling step up and offer a pat on the back, a 'nice try', a 'that was a great run' - or a smile. It'll mean a lot.


How Sam Sees It said...

I'm new to agility, but have competed in obedience before as well as shown my horses. A good day to me is day where both my dog (or horse) and I had fun and did well. I don't count our level or even if we got a ribbon. All I want to do is end the day on a good note and see that my pup had fun too!


Helen said...

That was a great post. Once when I first started agility, I was at a trial away from my home. My sister had come to watch me since the trial was close to her home. At the end of the day (very hot)I ran my two dogs with only one dog between them in an Advanced Jumpers. Two clean runs and two Q's. While my sister and I were packing up a guy came over and told me how great my runs were especially at the end of a hot day. My sister was amazed that agility people were like that and I've always remembered that compliment.

Kiyi Kiyi said...

This was a really nice post - thanks for writing it :)
Being new to agility with my first dog who is a non traditional breed - any kind word helps SO MUCH.

It also sometimes feels (just like with any group) that it is hard to break into the agility club and make friends. I don't have a local training group to join and there aren't any people locally training agility, so I've met all my agility friends online.

It's amazing what a little encouragement can do! I hope that I can help new people too someday :)

Hope you don't mind I posted a link to your post on my blog!