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IFCS Team Coach Profile: Rachel Sanders

A profile of Rachel Sanders, the coach for the IFCS 2016 Team USA, competing in The Netherlands this month.

The World Agility Championship in The Netherlands is coming up this month! Meet Team Coach Rachel Sanders and her dog Gifted.


Rachel and her dogs have been USDAA Cynosport World Games event finalists starting in 1996 and then every year from 1999-2014 including many podium placements listed below.

  • 4th place 2014 USDAA Cynosport World Games Grand Prix - 26" division (Gifted)
  • Finalist 2013 USDAA Cynosport World Games Grand Prix - 26" division (Gifted)
  • 2nd place 2013 USDAA Cynosport World Games - Performance Speed Jumping 22" division (Stuie)
  • 2nd place 2012 USDAA Cynosport World Games - Performance Speed Jumping 22" division (Stuie)
  • 4th place 2009 USDAA Cynosport World Games Dog Agility Masters Team (Fable)
  • 2008 Silver medalist IFCS World Agility Championships (Fable) 
  • 4th place 2007 USDAA Cynosport World Games Steeplechase Championships - 26" division (Fable) 
  • 4th place 2006 USDAA Cynosport World Games Grand Prix - 26" division (Fable)
  • 3rd place 2006 USDAA Cynosport World Games Steeplechase Championships - 26" division (Fable)
  • 1st place 2003 USDAA Cynosport World Games Veterans Champion - 16" division (Whist) 
  • 1st place 2002 USDAA National Champion - 12" division (Trump) 
  • 3rd place 2001 USDAA National Champion - 22" division (Whist)
  • 1st place 2000 USDAA National Steeplechase Champion - 12" division (Trump) 
  • 1st place 1999 USDAA National Champion - 26" division (Whist)

She teaches agility to all levels of handlers and dogs and is a popular camp and seminar presenter and OneMind Dogs Coach. She has been the USDAA IFCS World Team Coach since 2012. Rachel has been a regular contributor to Clean Run Magazine and is the author of several training DVDs available through Clean Run.


Where do you live?

Atascadero, CA.

How did you first get involved with agility?

I became involved in agility in 1993/4 as an alternative competitive sport to U.S. Obedience.

How long have you been involved with USDAA?

Since 1993.

What made you decide to compete?

I have competed in many sports and participated in obedience competitions in the U.K. but after moving to the U.S. I found I did not enjoy U.S. obedience and so started competing in agility.

Do you have other dogs/pets aside from your IFCS dog? Tell us more about them:

I currently have eight dogs (five Border Collies and three Terriers). The oldest are Trump at 18 and Fable at 15 and the youngest is Bright at 14 months.

Describe for us what you do in your "other" non-agility life/work life?

With eight dogs to care for, full-time agility coaching, seminars across the country, four dogs to train (one nearly retired and one nearing competing) two dogs to qualify for national/international events, IFCS coaching, hosting USDAA events through our newly formed USDAA Club RACE, there really isn't much time for "other" non-agility life. Although I do remember having season tickets for the San Francisco Ballet and the San Jose Rep in years past!

What are your goals and challenges as a coach? What do you enjoy?

My goal as a coach is to help create a supportive environment where each team member can achieve their best performance. As far as challenges go, unfortunately not every run will be fantastic at the event. As the first person a team member will see when finishing the course, it's important that I have something encouraging and supportive to say if things didn't go according to plan. Additionally, coordinating 20 people is challenging. I have been the U.S. Coach since 2012 and have enjoyed getting to know many new people and dogs. I have especially enjoyed seeing how much Team USA has become a cohesive group of competitors ready to cheer and support each other during the competition and forming friendships that continue for many years.

Do you face any challenges with coaching people remotely all over the country?

Not really! Each of team member and their dogs have different skills and weaknesses and are experienced enough with top level competitions to recognize which areas of their training require full attention or just a little maintenance. Courses from each of the judges are available on line for the team members to set up for training. Collectively, our weakest area is probably Gambles and I have provided gamble exercises for the team to use. Team member, Jeannette Hutchison has offered an online class for the team also. I am available as a resource for training/courses/exercises if the team members need help.

What do you like about Team USAs selection process and the team it produces?

Team selection is based on competition points alone. Team members are not selected. This year we introduced a new "proportional ranking system." Meaning that points were awarded based on your time/score relative to the winning dog in the class. 

Example: Nell - 1st place with 28:00 seconds - 20 points awarded, Rip - 2nd place with 29.5 seconds - 18.5 points awarded (20 points minus the difference in time/score) 20-1.5 = 18.5.

This system has several benefits over the previous years placement points. It is based on the winning dog and how close you come to equaling or beating that score, not just on placement points. Placement points do not take into consideration the size of the class. In addition, if a dog competing for points withdraws, any points they have would have been awarded to another competitor therefore skewing the end results. At the first IFCS tryout event in January, this process produced a competition that pushed competitors to go as fast as possible but didn't knock you out of contention if you had a small fault. The IFCS event is scored time plus faults for the All Around and Biathlon competition, with individual placements scored faults then time.

I enjoy coaching an "all-star" team. They are team members based on their own merit.

What are you looking forward to the most at the World Agility Championship event in The Netherlands this April?

Everyone arriving in The Netherlands safely and on time. Uniforms arriving with the correct spelling and sizes. Seeing team members standing on boxes throughout the week. The beer a team member brings me as the last team member crosses the finish jump at the end of the day. Laughing with each other over dinner at the end of a tiring day.

People who enjoy agility with their dogs are often intimidated by the idea of competition - what advice would you give them to encourage them to take the plunge?

Agility is an exacting sport and it doesn't matter who you are, how much experience you have or how much past success you have had, things can go wrong in a fraction of a second. Other competitors may be watching outside the ring but unless you do something bad to your dog or are a bad sport in some way, no one really remembers if you mess up because we are too busy worrying about ourselves. So really there is nothing to be intimidated by, just do it.

Photo by In Motion Photos


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