Performance Agility Coaching & Evaluation
Excellence in coaching at any pursuit is arguably more of an art than a science. There are rows and rows of excellent scientifically based researched books on the subject in any book store, but as with any theoretical knowledge it is how you put it into practise that really counts.
I have used a number of sources of inspiration for my coaching techniques from the world of football, athletics and many other team games. I have been able to draw on over 25 years management experience working for a large financial institution; managing, motivating and getting the high performance required in today’s business world has taught me a lot about how to get the best out of people. I have spent many years, more than I care to remember, training agility handlers and dogs of all standards. Finally, I have had the privilege of witnessing some of world’s top handlers at work behind the scenes at the world championships.
Why coaching and not
Once the dog has crossed the start line it is down to the handler and dog. However, the coach also has a role in analysing competition performance and feeding the learning back into the coaching programme.
This whole process should start well before the handler gets to a show or a major competition. The coach will work with the handler in training to evaluate their performance over a series of training sequences. These may be sequences that have been practised many times before, but this is about both consistency and squeezing out that extra hundredth / thousandth of a second from an agility round.
There is also the question of ‘knowing your dog’. This is something that probably only the handler will know and therefore the handler must understand how his or her dog is likely to perform under given circumstances.
The coach has a role to play in observing how the dog and handler work together and then work with the handler to analyse these performance attributes. These are then assessed and any deficiencies addressed as part of pre-event preparation or by the handler when planning the agility round on the day of a competition.
There is no magic solution or training video that can provide the answer to your coaching needs. My aim as a coach is to find the best, most efficient and effective handling solution for the handler / dog combination.
So in essence, the coach’s is role is to help the handler identify all of these things and to set out with the handler a programme of training and training drills that ensures both dog and handler team are as well prepared as they can be when they reach the start line.
Once the assessment has been carried out it is used to determine where improvements can be made and to focus on training to improve on weaknesses. Once the initial performance assessment has been carried out it is used to measure progress throughout the training programme.
This method is effective with handlers at all levels from starters to the very experienced.
How well prepared are you?
Steve Croxford has recently announced his intention to do agility training and handler coaching on a full-time basis. He plans to all cater for all levels, from beginner to advanced and all standards and sizes of dog, individuals and groups.
Manager of the Kennel Club British Agility Team for the past three years, Steve led the British Team to World Championship success in this year's event in Lievin, France.
He trains regularly at Hinckley DTC and has many year's experience in training dogs and coaching handlers. He and his wife Yvonne ran their own successful dog training club for a while during the 1990s until the pressure of their full-time careers caused them to close it down.
Steve has judged at the highest level and, as well as judging at Crufts in 2000, regularly judges at home and abroad. A regular competitor on the agility circuit, he is particularly proud to be one of the handful of people to have won the Pedigree Olympia singles final and the Crufts team competition.
Steve offers a wide range of training services including coaching, one to one training, training for small groups, club training days and club trainer training. More details can be found on his website www.pace-agility.org