Contact Sports Trial - Mental Side of Snooker

10 May 2009Steve Schwarz

Meeker and I were at the Contact Sports USDAA agility trial the last weekend in April. After earning his his Advanced Gamblers and Advanced Jumpers titles at the RACE trial, at this trial we were competing with the experienced dogs. Furthermore, since it featured Steeplechase and Grand Prix rounds there were some of the big name handlers and dogs competing too.

From a Q perspective we didn’t do very well (only 3 for 7) and our Starters Snooker Q was one of the elusive ones. We did earn our Advanced Standard title, so next trial we are in another Masters class. But, most importantly, I finally figured out what I was doing wrong! So the error in my Snooker run was just a regular handling error and had nothing to do with Snooker-ing. But more on that in a minute.

Nancy and I saw classic movie The Sting again the other day and she noticed that Ragtime music really fit the way Meeker moves. So she picked up The Complete Piano Music of Scott Joplin by pianist John Arpin. She also came up with the idea to use silent movie “cards” onto which to put the narration. So I played around with my video editing software (for far too long) and figured out how to combine those ideas into a black and white “old fashioned” looking video of our runs:

I think the video came out pretty well for amateurs and it was kind of fun! A big thanks to everyone who videotaped us!

What Did I Learn?

As I mentioned in my RACE trial post, I can’t just stop on course and expect Meeker to not take an off course obstacle, staying in motion is important. But it finally occurred to me that my mental preparation for Snooker (and to a lesser extent Gamblers) was very different than for my other runs. It was that mental preparation that was my problem.

I tend to plan for Snooker with too many contingencies swirling in my head. It might sound something like: “OK if he breaks his start and takes the red and then takes this off course color I do this, but if we stay on our plan to the second red and then if he…“. You get the picture, it is not a plan for success it has reaction written all over it.

So my new strategy is simple: Plan and execute the plan. No “what if?” scenarios. If my execution blows up I’ll free lance. But I won’t go into the ring and run the course any differently than I would a twisty Standard course. It was my being tentative on course that caused me to not drive to where I need to be and show leadership on the course. If I’m driving to where I need to be Meeker is always right there with me.

So at this trial, you can see I got the Snooker opening and then I actually forgot which way I had planned on turning Meeker over the jump before the broad jump. So I guessed and my guess wasn’t what I had planned and it sent Meeker over the broad jump on an angle. Just regular bad handling, nothing Snooker specific.

But that error makes a small refinement to my “Plan and execute the plan” handling approach. The plan has to include all the handling. For a Standard or Jumpers run I try to always walk every cross until it is “locked in” my brain and body. But my tentative handling for Snooker/Gamblers courses sometimes extends to the walk through. I would walk it with turns in either direction (or different handlings on a single turn) on a jump and then when it came time to execute I might hesitate a little longer or turn the wrong direction. So my new Snooker and Gamblers strategy is now:

Plan, walk the plan, then execute the plan.


Now it is time to “Just Do It”.

If you enjoyed this article won't you please: Buy Me a Coffee at Thanks!

Related Articles: