Does your agility
year just pass you by?
improvements in your agility performance the result of a happy accident or are you fighting
fires throughout the year. Do you bother to plan ahead? No? Don't worry. You are not alone.
According to Steve Croxford, most people don't plan ahead or tackle problems in a clear and
logical manner. He believes that the agility year can be divided into distinct seasons which
when tackled with your instructor can results in better performance all year round.
Radical changes and
attempts to fix fundamental faults mid-season, which have been developed because of ingrained
training faults, often exacerbate problems rather than help them. The patchwork of corrective
fixes cobbled together during the competition season usually end in failure so, by the time the
end of the season arrives, things have got so bad that many handlers are simply glad of the
break! They look forward to the off-season as a period when they can forget about their agility
for a few months before getting back into things just before the next season starts. However,
this approach misses completely the opportunity to address properly problems encountered during
the previous season. In most cases, the whole cycle and frustrating experiences simply start
again. Sound familiar?
Carefully planning your
agility year is an important way of enhancing performance at whatever level you set you goals.
The season can be
broken down into three phases:-
In athletics these
cycles are called:-
The table below and the
objectives indicate why breaking the season down this way can be so important.
OFF SEASON - TRANSITION PHASE
October – December
Assess past season performance
against outcome goals
Highlight strengths and
weaknesses in performance
Identify key areas for
Set Off-Season training
objectives and goals
Rest and recuperate, initially
Commence priority training /
Develop a fitness programme
leading to pre-season
PRE-SEASON - ADAPTATION PHASE
January – April
Finalise season outcome goals
Re-assess and update
pre-season training plans
Set clear goals and targets
for each training session leading up to the competition season
Measure progress against
targets and adapt training plans to focus on weaknesses as well as strengths
Regularly assess dog / handler
fitness levels against planned development plan
COMPETITION SEASON - APPLICATION PHASE
May – September
Maintenance work e.g.
Technique: Jumping and turning sequences
Contact reinforcement training
Speed and response training
Say, for example, you
have come to the conclusion that your contact training method is in need of a radical overhaul.
This is the point in the year that you need to establish what you are going to do about it.
Leaving important decision such as this to the pre-season period will be too late as it is
unlikely that you will have sufficient time to complete the overhaul and confidence test
everything before the competitive season starts.
The off-season is also
a good time to think about what your outcome goals are for the following year so that these can
be built into your plan. The off-season is a period of active rest and planning & preparation
for the next phase, It is not a period of complete inactivity.
pre-season period is when you should finalise your season outcome goals and set training goals
for the coming months. If you have already started a major overhaul of your agility training,
then this period is where you should be honing these skills and performance testing what you
have achieved so far in your programme and making any necessary adjustments.
Your plan should be
focused on developing the weakest area of performance, whilst at the same time maintaining and
improving stronger areas of performance.
By the time the
competition season proper begins, you should be at or near achieving your performance targets
season is about exactly that, competition. It is not a time for complete changes in direction
in terms of either training or development. This period is about maintaining your performance
and achieving consistency of output i.e. results based on your performance goals.
During this period you
should have a clear training cycle based on maintaining performance across the broad range of
skills needed during the agility season.
The competition season
plan should also take into account the need to maintain fitness levels and periods of ‘active
rest’ where the dog and handler are able to recover properly from intense periods of
If your training plan
for the year has been well defined you should get much closer to achieving your outcome goals.
Addressing the agility
year in this way forms the basic foundations for the most successful handlers.
is a full time agility
trainer and handler coach. He is also a regular competitor on the agility circuit. A former
Olympia finals and Crufts team winner, Steve is currently the Manager of the Kennel Club's
World Championship Agility Team.
His extensive experience
of training and competing at all levels both in the UK and abroad gives him a unique insight
into agility training and coaching.
you wish to find out more about goal setting and developing your season long training plan,
please contact Steve Croxford, or visit the PACE website