Posted Date: April 4, 2016
Some thoughts on what it's like to be a brand new competitor in agility by Stephanie Morgan.
by Stephanie Morgan
There's a First Time for Everything
You enter the large area
full of busy people that you don't know. You've never been there before and
don't know where to go. Your dog feels your energy and starts to
bark, which only heightens your own anxiety. Your chair and stuff start to get
heavy so you scan the arena in a heightened sense of urgency. Where to go? What
thing first, where should you put your dog and stuff? Is there a method to this
crating thing, are there rules? So you test the waters and plop your stuff
down. Now what? You've trained your dog, you've looked up rules, you feel prepared
for the actual competition, but you didn't think about this, or in truth didn't
know anyone to ask. You imagine you are starting to look like a deer in
headlights with the nervous sweat to match.
runs through your mind? "OMG, what was I thinking, why did I want to do
agility?" Ok, calm down, you remember that you love your dog and you've
worked hard to train for this competition. You wanted to expand your world,
meet new people, try new things. You are free from the bustle of child rearing
and need something to keep you physically and mentally challenged! Take some deep
cleansing breaths (think Lamaze) and dive in!
How to Make a Difference
that you? Have you been in those shoes? Are you so familiar with agility that
you've forgotten what it was like to be new? What about something not agility
related? Can you remember how it feels to be somewhere where you are completely
out of your familiar setting and don't know anything about the people or place?
Be the Difference!
you are already acclimated to this brave new world of agility, and are so
familiar that it's become routine, why not make a difference for someone? Smile,
say "Hi, my name is ___." Open
the "friendly door" to allow someone new to feel welcome. They might be able to
ask you a question if they need help. If you are only able to offer a smile and
be on your way to walk your dog, walk the course, check the results--whatever--it
still means something. Point out where the check in table is located. Explain
how to find their results. Show the lost person how to get their own ribbons.
These are not things everyone naturally understands--they have to be taught. Just
a simple, "Great run" comment can mean so much. But most of all, have
empathy for the person who's been brave enough to try to start something new in
Ready with a Theory
mother always taught me to try to see the other side of the story, no matter
what. So when it seems that people are being antisocial, I think on my theory.
It's really simple. People come from all different backgrounds and have all
different personalities. Some, like me are naturally gregarious. Some are not, maybe even feeling wary of
strangers. My theory also allows that everyone has their own struggles, or
manner of dealing with situations. Maybe their minds are deep in thought on how
to run their course, or some other agility related puzzle. Maybe they use
agility as a way a way to relax and spend quality time with their dog. I don't
know and it doesn't really matter. The point of a theory to begin with is to understand that they mean no ill-will
towards me and should not cause me to feel badly towards them either. But for
those that can extend a welcome, it doesn't take much to be a ray of light. I
guarantee the newbie won't forget how you helped them cope with that scary
moment, even years later when they are celebrating some great accomplishment,
they will remember YOU and your kindness.
Push Through the Fear to Enjoy Your
Ultimately, for the
"New to Agility," it's a thing you will enjoy once you get over the scary
bits. Regardless of whether anyone is friendly or not, you will enjoy the
connection you have with your dog and want to participate no matter what or who
at least that goes true for me. I enjoy my time with my dogs and want to play
with them in this exciting new way. I've dreamed of competing with them in
agility for so many years that just arriving at the trial location feels like a
big WIN for me. As time has passed, I've met some new people and enjoy seeing
them at each event. I'm sure that circle will expand as I continue on this
journey. But I hope I never forget what it was like to be new.
Stephanie Morgan has been training all her pets since she was a young
girl. This includes cats, dogs, birds and horses. About 25 years ago she
read a book about agility and has wanted to train and compete since then.
Finally, in 2014 she was able to start competing with her Papillon, Bandit.
Shortly afterwards, she started competing with her new baby dog Emma. Her
experiences as a new handler in a strange new world inspired her to start a
blog for beginners. That's
My Super Dog.com