What separates good competitors from great ones? I believe one of the dividing factors is the ability to self-critique and adjust their path from there. Filming every training session & competition run and then being able to watch those videos objectively is a process and a skill that can be practiced and improved upon! When you can self-evaluate, you are better able to track your progress and catch problems before they become problems.
Think about your favorite agility instructor. That eagle-eye that they have, able to pick up on tiny details that make a big difference. That's why that instructor is our favorite! Now, imagine that you have that eagle-eye on your own videos! When you have a process of reviewing your own videos, you become a better trainer for yourself, and you become better at helping others as well. With so much agility education being online nowadays, it may not be possible to have your favorite instructor watch you very often, so improving your self-evaluation skills will bring your agility (or any sport!) game up a notch.
Over the years, I have created a process for self-evaluating my own training and competition, and it's not any different than how I address students in front of me and online. Below, I've outlined that process, and how you can start applying these skills today:
1. What went well? This is the most important skill for any competitor to have. The ability to focus on what you did right gives you the ability to focus on what you want more of. Start by listing at least three specific things that you enjoyed or were proud of in that training session or run. This sets you up to get those results again in the future.
2. Reframe Your Errors! We all have those #human moments and make an error that is not typical for us; our brains know exactly how and why it went wrong before you even finished the run; that's great! You know a lot; now, instead of focusing on how you did it wrong, tell yourself how you will do it correctly next time. Give yourself a mulligan run and replay that sequence going right, the way you do it every time in training. No need to focus on how it went wrong. Again, this visualization sets you up to focus on what you want more of.
3. What Solutions are You Seeking? Now, we can't just visualize our mistakes away. Sometimes we don't know what we don't know! So, if there is a sequence or obstacle skill you are struggling with, you need to get curious about it! Ask yourself when and where and why the problem is occurring! There is always more than one answer to every problem, so you may not have landed on the right solution yet. Keep asking questions.
4. Create a Training Plan (with a timeline)! Take those questions you've asked yourself and create a training plan around them. I emphasize a timeline on these training plans because we often have our next competition picked out and signed up for before we have our problem solved, and this is often a mistake. Prioritize the training that is getting in the way of your goals and put your focus into solving it. If you only have 4 days before your next competition, you are going to need to address that in your training plan!
5. Update Your Clear Round Rulebook! Because not all training problems are going to be solved before the next competition every time, we need to prepare for the next competition in other ways. For example, if my dog was struggling to stay in the weaves when I execute a rear cross at the last trial, and I don't have enough time before the next competition to feel confident in that skill, I am going to adjust my handling plans for the next competition.
6. If necessary, make adjustments to my competition schedule! This one is a reality that we must face. Sometimes, our problems are too big to solve quickly or avoid in competition. Sometimes, we need to take a step back and say “I need to not compete for a bit”. This is ok! You can't solve problems in the context in which they are happening, but we can solve problems when we pull them apart, get curious, and focus on them. If I have a problem that is keeping my from competing, it gets all of my attention that I can give it.
If you're interested in learning more about critiquing your own runs or training sessions, join me for my FDSA Workshop that goes live tomorrow, January 26th! Auditing is unlimited, and auditors are able to ask questions in the forum, and will have access to the feedback I provide the working teams. Register here. Happy Training!