Flyball: surviving as a team
When I got involved in flyball, I thought that when my border collie X, Whiskie, was consistently doing a complete run down to the box and bringing the ball back over all the jumps that we had made it. I then discovered the next stage to flyball was for handler and dog to get used to working with the other dogs and handlers, to time the starts and to tighten up on crossovers. When we got our act together as a team I had thought again that we had finally made it.
Over the past year, however, I have discovered another critical aspect to flyball is to survive the various personalities and opinions of a team. Listening to the experiences of other clubs I see the same challenge: how do we hang in there together when frustration, conflict, and strong opinions clash in the midst of team selection, racing order, and resolving problems?
I am proud to be part of the Croydon Rockets and the fact that we have worked hard to deal with the broad opinions and personalities that make up our teams. Some of the lessons that we have learned that might be helpful to others are as follows:
Always remember that we are there to have fun with our dogs!
Think beyond your team of four … to grow competitively think overall about the best fit for a number of teams … be prepared to have your dogs move between your 1st, 2nd and 3rd teams. Practice at training so that dogs can do crossovers with dogs from other teams (sometimes you will only be able to field one team, other times three … train so your teams can be flexible).
and communicate your specific criteria for team selection so that people
know up front what is required, e.g. regular attendance at training wherever
possible, best 3 times at training in the weeks prior to team selection for
a comp, etc.
Agree your teams’ goals, e.g. decide up front if your aim for a
competition is to give each dog a fair share of the heats for equal point
share or to have the most competitive team for each race … the slower and
less reliable dogs will potentially have less runs and less points and the
handlers need to understand this prior to racing.
Regularly review these goals so that everyone is on board with them.
realistic about when your dog is performing slower than the rest of the dogs
in the team. There will always be a time for your dog to drop back from the
top team to another, and a faster dog to move up – aim instead to build up
a solid team at all levels.
remember that flyball is about having fun with our dogs!
for ways of supporting all of your teams competing, rather just the
team your dog is running in – help with changing jump heights, offering
encouragement, give a hand getting the box set up, cheer them on!
that other people have different ways of resolving conflict – some need to
air their feelings of anger or disappointment up front while others will
step back and deal privately with the emotion but then need to resolve the
issue later. Think about how the other person deals with conflict and find
a way to meet them half-way.
make rash decisions – always give at least 48 hours before resigning from
the committee or quitting your team!
talk behind other people’s backs … if there is point of conflict, go and
resolve it with the person direct. If
you do need to talk to someone to clarify your thoughts and feelings, only
talk to the one person about the problem then go direct to sort it out.
issues/problems older than one week drop – don’t hold onto grudges or
dwell on the past – deal with the conflict or forget it.
forget we are in flyball to have fun with our dogs!
that with so many people involved we will never get all our own way –
rather than being pig-headed with the potential of dividing the team, ask
yourself “Although it is not the outcome I would choose, can I live with
sure that your advice to team-mates is constructive and positively presented
– don’t speak in a critical way. Remember
you may need to earn your right to offer advice, e.g. if you regularly
attend training and have a positive, willing-to-help attitude your
suggestions are more likely to be well received.
to stay cool in the ring – don’t argue with team-mates (or others).
Your team captain has the difficult role of making quick decisions on
changes to running orders etc and will need your support.
Even if you are unhappy with their decisions sort it out later and
find a better way for next time.
just grumble – come up with solutions and ideas for improvement.
Raise the problem and then suggest some resolutions for others to
note the climate – e.g. when everyone is tired from travelling is not a
good time to try to resolve problems. Pick
the best time to work things out as a team.
Don’t take it all so seriously – the number 1 thing is to have fun with our dogs!
GOOD LUCK AND HANG IN THERE TOGETHER – IT’S WORTH IT!!!!!!