Episode 1 – Keep A Journal 


Each week of The Agility Challenge, you’ll get a newsletter designed to help you stick to purposeful and deliberate practice and training with your dog. Why is this important? Well, I strongly believe, and the evidence supports that we just don’t get better if we’re not being purposeful with our training and handling! In his book The little book of talent, author Daniel Coyle states that:

A high percentage of top performers keeps some form of daily performance journal. Tennis champion Serena Williams and former World Series MVP Curt Schilling use notebooks; the rapper Eminem and the choreographer Twyla Tharp use shoeboxes, which they fill with ideas written on scrap paper. What matters is not the precise form. What matters is that you write stuff down and reflect on it. Results from today. Ideas for tomorrow. Goals for next week. A notebook works like a map: It creates clarity.Daniel Coyle

I’m going to be referencing The little book of talent throughout the year – you don’t need to own it, I’m just letting you know where I’m drawing my material from! You’ll also notice, if you have the book, that this isn’t actually Tip #1 – however, I wanted to cover it first, since it’s January, and the sooner you can get a notebook, or means of keeping records, the better!

There are all sorts of different ways that you can keep a recordbook or notebook. If you’re in to fancy papers, then a nice notebook might be just the thing. Maybe you’re more the engineering type, and in that case a composition notebook might be the thing for you (I prefer mine with graph paper inside). Maybe a bullet journal, or a private Facebook page that’s just for you where you can keep records and upload videos. It can be electronic or paper – I recommend a paper and pen or pencil notebook, simply because it’s more convenient. You can put it in your training bag, and have it with you wherever you go. You can jot notes in it, draw lines through things, sketch sequences that gave you problems or that you’d like to revisit, and make plans for your next training session or competition.

You can use a 3-ring binder for your recordkeeping and notekeeping. I’ve included several items on the Challenge Toolkit page on the site that are worth printing out and putting in a 3-ring binder, and I’ll continue to add to the list of printable items as the year progresses. The nice thing about a 3-ring binder is that you can always change the order of the pages! I have pocket dividers in mine as well, so I can stuff loose sheets of paper in there when a hole punch isn’t handy.

It’s not important that you even be GOOD at recordkeeping. You WILL get better at recordkeeping. And, your recordkeeping need not look like anybody else’s recordkeeping. It just needs to work for YOU. It can be written in the most cryptic language, the worst penmanship, the most unique shorthand – as long as it makes sense to YOU, that’s all that matters.

Your notebook will not only help you keep track of your results from today, ideas for tomorrow, and goals for next week! It will also help you get more effective support and feedback from your instructors and coaches. Coming to a class or a private lesson with a list of things that you’re looking for help with will help you make the most of your time in classes, private lessons, and at seminars and workshops. Recordkeeping will also help you streamline what does and DOESN’T make the cut with respect to the information you assimilate in to your personal program. There’s a LOT of information out there. Some of it’s good, and some of it isn’t as good, but that’s not as important as being able to spot whether or not information fits in to YOUR program in a useful way. It may be that you see a top handler make some fancy ‘move’ at a competition – and it may be worth jotting it down in your notebook for  later reflection. What WAS it that that handler did? How could it be useful to you? Or, is it something that isn’t really going to fit in to your program at this time, to be set aside for future consideration?

REMEMBER: A notebook works like a map – it creates clarity!

Since this is also the first week of the new year, I want to make sure that when you take a look at all of January’s Challenges, you know where to start! Different Challenge Team Members are going to start in different places. If you’re new to the sport, or if your dog isn’t ready to run full sequences yet, I suggest that you focus on the GET READY, BUILD A SKILL, and SHARPEN UP challenges. If you’re a little further along, the PIECE IT TOGETHER Challenges, WHICH WAY WINS, and LEAGUE PLAY Challenges may be where your focus is for the month. It may be that you’re going to take a break from agility training and handling due to scheduling, or bad weather, and focus on the human or canine conditioning challenges. Or, it may be that you decide to focus on the mental game challenges, for either you or your dog.

Don’t feel as though you’re falling behind if you can’t do every Challenge every month! Think of the Challenges as more of an a la carte menu for you to pick and choose from. You can take a different direction each month. You can stick with a challenge category every month of the year. Or, you can go back and revisit Challenges you didn’t work on later in the year, when space, time, and weather are more conducive to those Challenges.

You’ve probably also noticed that you can earn achievements throughout the site. You can earn badges, and move up through the ranks, by completing various tasks, and interacting on the site in various ways. Why earn achievements? Well, some are more motivated by badges than others; last year, there were some Challenge Team Members who got the content and did the work, but never marked challenges as complete. Other members worked to get every badge possible! THIS year, those achievements that earn you points are also good for PRIZES…to be announced!

This year, I’ll also be putting on webinars – not every week, at least in the month of January, which is crazy busy, but at least a couple of times a month! The first webinar will be today, January 8, 2020, at 3:30pm PST In the FB Group – but don’t worry if you can’t make it, I’ll post the replay here at the website after it’s over 🙂


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