Remember when I blogged about becoming a canine sensei and said you have to be willing to “look outside the box” for inspiration and answers? Runner’s World provided just that for me in their Sept 2011 issue. They had a short column on how to perform your best on race day by practicing mental strategies throughout your training. I found them to be equally applicable to any other sport, including dog sports.
1. Practice no excuses. Every time you practice give it your best, even on the bad days. This will give you a mental reserve for competition and remind you that you’ve already done this before and survived. If you’re going to handling classes, treat the entire class as though you were showing in Group at Westminster. This can be hard (no socializing!) but it will help you feel prepared for real ring time.
2. Eliminate negativity. Stop the negative thought stream in your head! My grooming sucks. My dog and I aren’t that good. I’ll never be good at this. Focus instead on one of these options: choose a power word to repeat mentally, such as “calm” or “smooth”. Use visualization to see yourself succeeding, or at least making it through with aplomb. Center yourself with deep breathing.
3. Log your state of mind. Keep track of each show you compete in and log, on a scale of 1-10, how motivated, focused, energized, or confident you felt. If you notice that you wrote a 3 next to confident, think about what you could do to improve your confidence. Do you need handling classes? Are you feeling out of place because of your attire? Maybe you need to pay more attention to ring procedure so you know what to expect. Are you afraid to ask the judge or steward to repeat something?
4. Get creative. Ask your spouse to text you your power word 10min before you go into the ring. Watch video of your most successful trips around the ring to remind yourself of how good you are. Look at your log and notice trends of feeling more confident or more focused.