They say that competition brings out the best and worse in people, causing them to act totally out of character or show an aspect of themselves that they may or may not be proud of.
However for someone who has competed in various activities including martial arts, athletics and dog sports, learning to compete graciously is a skill everyone should develop. It can be an acquired skill…..and one that you need to develop.
The journey to train a dog from puppy hood to top level competition can be emotive to say the least, the ups and downs of training in itself can be challenging, frustrating, upsetting, joyous, overwhelming… the list of superlatives go on and on.
However being gracious in defeat is part of the journey.
At the weekend past, I competed with two dogs, Thriller my older Malinois and Girlee, a young border collie who I bred, but owned and trained by my close friend and student Val Venables. I was fortunate enough to win a Class and come second in another. The second place was her first attempt at a higher level, with added complexity and exercises. So this was a big step up for Girlee. To say I was elated would be an understatement, she showed me how truly talented and capable she is and how bright her future could be, but on this occasion, she was beaten by the better dog.
The dog is owned by a peer, friend and fellow competitor Jane Pottle, and her young blue Merle riot. This is a fantastic team, at the start of a fantastic journey and I was totally ok to take second to Jane. Some may describe this as odd. We are in a competitive sport, why were you happy with second?
Well let me explain.
For my dog, this was a big ask. Two full rounds, in testing conditions and a step up in what she needed to do. I was pleased she completed the test on her first attempt, and did it well enough to be ‘in the mix’. To finish with, she has had a glitch in scent discrimination in training recently which we have hopefully worked through. Well she did it brilliantly, losing a mere quarter on this exercise. Girlee was super! She surpassed my expectations on all accounts. She has competed 5 times, gaining two wins, and 3 seconds. How can i possibly quibble over that! But on the day, she was beaten by the better dog. This was Jane’s first A win, after gaining second the week before. But its more then that.
I have known Jane for years, when she first started competing in Obedience with her rescue collies. She has taken on rehome and rescues with baggage and hang ups, and built their confidence and trained them to championship level, but never quite having that luck needed or their temperament has stopped them truly shining.
When her young girl was born, Jane wasn’t meant to be having her… but fate and good fortune brought them together. And the start of something truly special was born. You can see it. Its that special something that we all hope for.
Dont get me wrong the competitor in me, was partially willing for a stray meteorite to strike Jane down as she walked over to the ring… I wouldn’t want any PERMANENT damage, just a slight startle so she had to have a lie down and decline to do scent. But there was no meteorite, she did a super scent, and won. And rightly so!
I couldn’t be more pleased for Jane, as she starts her journey with Riot. I did say when we went to get our prizes, that I hoped we’d be in the position again, but next times reversed 😉
See, acknowledging someones else’s success doesn’t detract from your own, be it in competition, business or indeed life. Its ok, to say that someone was great, wonderful or brilliant and then strive to better yourself. Thats what good competition should do, it inspires. Tearing others down, doesn’t raise you up.
Being ’beaten’ isn’t a permanent state, it may be a cliche, but it is always possible to pick yourself up and start over. Adjust, adapt and learn from your loses. You aren’t losing, you are learning.
Success in any field isn’t a given and the hardwork and dedication to your craft, takes time, effort and energy. But so do politeness, humility and grace.
Even in defeat, acknowledge your own achievement and that of others. The psychology of competing is a area that has always intrigued me, and understanding it, and going through the journey to train my ‘mental game’ has meant that I can help countless people with their ‘mental game’. My students and pupils across the world, range from first time dog owners who have stumbled into this world of dog sports, to World championship competitors. Being able to help them master their own mind, to over come apprehension and anxiety ultimately fills them with confidence and changes the way in which they perceive themselves. For me, that is a win in itself. But part of that journey is understanding defeat, loss and ‘failure’. Teaching people to cope with an experience they perceive as a ‘failure’ is crucial part of being a ‘coach’. And teaching people to accept loss graciously is also part of my role.
Acknowledging other people’s shine, takes nothing away from yours! Being gracious, changes your perspective, you can either choose to focus on what you lost, or what you gained!