Coaching: Intensity and Front Crosses

16 Sep 2013Steve Schwarz

Susan contacted me with a desire to increase her intensity while running courses with her dog Moon and have me identify any handling issues I saw. They have been competing for a while, have earned their CPE C-ATCH and are working on qualifying for the AKC Nationals.

Here are email excerpts of what Susan was looking for in this coaching session:

  1. I want to learn to run with more intensity, yes you just were talking about this on Facebook recently. Mentally I can prepare myself...but I'm having trouble executing it... I'm laid back and have never been a go for it, put it all out there type of person. This is my number one goal.
  2. I'd just like your advice on what your see as our weaknesses and strengths. If you see some handling issues/foundation skills we should work on.

I really love this final statement from her first email:

We don't always need to qualify but I want to feel that I ran with intensity, handled the course well, I want to take some chances, I don't want to always do the safe thing, I want to trust my dog and myself. At the finish line I want to be laughing and have Moonshadow's tail wagging and eyes shinning!

She certainly has a great goal!

Susan originally sent me a video of an AKC Masters Standard run and a course map. After looking at it I asked for some JWW runs to see how they work together when she could open up and run. Looking at those videos it became clearer to me how I could help Susan and Moon raise the intensity of their game. I took excerpts from those videos and the original video and created this analysis:

So Susan has to get comfortable with the Front Cross mechanics and her positioning, find appropriate places on course and lastly push herself to get to those spots. I believe she is physically capable of getting to those spots, she moves smoothly and quickly in the videos, and all it takes is some trust in Moon so she can leave the preceding turning obstacle once it is queued and move quickly and decisively to her critical (Front Cross in this case) spot.

Susan had some follow up questions and here is some of our discussion that you might find useful.

Susan: "I believe I have gotten to the point that when it comes to doing a nice slower rear cross, versus "going for it"...I'm choosing the rear cross; and that is taking away from working towards the 'intensity' that I want to run with. I see that I am next to never choosing the "go for it" option... This point for me is an "ah ha" moment..."Steve: "Yea! yea! That's key - that is the start of bringing more intensity. For Front Cross placement read these articles on Using the Front Cross Line Using the Handler Line - Front/Rear/Blind Cross LineHandler Line - Front/Rear/Blind Cross Line."Susan: "I think there was an element of forgetting for a second or two where I was going."Steve: "You can work on that too. Please re-read: Handling With Intensity. I will "walk through" my motions on the side lines, both looking and not looking at the course to make sure I know my handling sequence. You look weird but this really works for me. A lot can go on between walking the course and actually running it - going over it physically on the side lines again just before the run helps me!

Once my dog is warmed up I’ll get in line and look at the course and visually trace my path through the course again to make sure I still have the sequence firmly locked in my brain. This is especially useful when the walk through was hours before the run.”

Susan: "I feel like I focus on going up to each obstacle and pointing it out, do you think I need to do that (I really don't think Moon needs that much support) I'm thinking if I didn't focus on doing that so much I might be able to focus a bit more on running faster?"Steve: "You goal has to be - show Moon the obstacle and GET OUT OF THERE get moving - you have a "spot" you NEED to get too! When you start going for it you'll find you will want to find opportunities to get/stay ahead. Otherwise you'll be late for your next front cross!!!!"
Susan's background

After that email Susan came up with this awesome picture of Moon with my message under it. She set it as the background on her iPad so she’ll see it before each run. Great idea! One thing I mentioned about my off the cuff message was: “And just to be really clear, you aren’t going to run around like a crazy person either, you just need to be quick and smart. So no loitering once you’ve cued the jump and you only need that speed to get to a spot - you won’t always be running like crazy.”

Susan has already been practicing her front crosses and promises she’ll use them more in practice courses. Lastly I challenged her to have at least one “go for it” location on every run. She is an eager student with a nice dog, I can’t wait to see how they improve!

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