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STAGE FRIGHT!


Guest Kelliwic

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Guest Kelliwic

After almost two years, the Trial Tips section has been revived!

 

I have pretty bad "stage fright," to the point that I am nervous talking to even a relatively small group of people. Predictably, it was really, REALLY bad at the trials I recently entered. All day before my run I'd have severe thirst/dry mouth combined with a seemingly thimble-sized bladder (though no doubt I would have visited the porta-potty just as frequently even without drinking all the extra water). My stomach lurched and churned to the point where I needed to take 1/4 to 1/2 tablet of Dramamine (which fortunately helped some). A couple of times I wasn't sure if I was going to throw up or pass out! (Fortunately I did neither!)

 

I know that I'll probably get a little better with more time and experience (but no doubt I'll always be somewhat nervous). I'm also trying to get out to train at different fields and such, so I'm working in front of different people (if not being "judged"), and so the dogs get more experience on different fields and stock.

 

Our runs at the trials were okay but I know we can do better, and no matter how I try to affect a calm demeanor for the dog, she's VERY sensitive and is probably reacting in part to my tension. I've tried really psyching myself up to visualize a good run, and I know that we can do WELL, but I guess I'm having a hard time beating the nerves.

 

Would love tips on how any of you might have dealt with this level of anxiety...if anyone else has experienced it?

 

Thanks!

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Guest Tankertoad
After almost two years, the Trial Tips section has been revived!

 

I have pretty bad "stage fright," to the point that I am nervous talking to even a relatively small group of people. Predictably, it was really, REALLY bad at the trials I recently entered. All day before my run I'd have severe thirst/dry mouth combined with a seemingly thimble-sized bladder (though no doubt I would have visited the porta-potty just as frequently even without drinking all the extra water). My stomach lurched and churned to the point where I needed to take 1/4 to 1/2 tablet of Dramamine (which fortunately helped some). A couple of times I wasn't sure if I was going to throw up or pass out! (Fortunately I did neither!)

 

I know that I'll probably get a little better with more time and experience (but no doubt I'll always be somewhat nervous). I'm also trying to get out to train at different fields and such, so I'm working in front of different people (if not being "judged"), and so the dogs get more experience on different fields and stock.

 

Our runs at the trials were okay but I know we can do better, and no matter how I try to affect a calm demeanor for the dog, she's VERY sensitive and is probably reacting in part to my tension. I've tried really psyching myself up to visualize a good run, and I know that we can do WELL, but I guess I'm having a hard time beating the nerves.

 

Would love tips on how any of you might have dealt with this level of anxiety...if anyone else has experienced it?

 

Thanks!

 

Two things to remember. Your dogs are probably doing well at home, so you know they are capable of performing at the trial.

 

And, EVERYONE HAS BEEN THERE! I have seen all the "big hats" in my neck of the woods (Texas) have wrecks and/or take that long walk up the field. You aren't the first. Won't be the last.

 

Regards

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Egads! I feel your pain! When I first started competing with a dog it was the same - Stage Fright Freda! :oops:

 

This was years ago and in a different venue, but here's what helped me. I concentrated on my dog. At that time I was competing in obedience and what I did is concentrate on my dog having fun in the ring. It worked and both of us had a ball. I forgot there was anyone watching or that the judge was following (stalking :rolleyes: ) us around the ring. My dog enjoyed her time in the ring and performed better.

 

Of course, sheepdog trials are different since the dog is working rather than "performing", but maybe if you could totally focus on what you and your dog were doing you could start to forget people were out there. And, it's been my experience, not everyone is watching anyway and, as Tankertoad said, we've all been there and those of us watching can sympathize with (or cheer!) what's happening on the field.

 

Take a big breath and remember to breath..... 8)

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I have read the following book and feel that it does help in preparing yourself to walk out on the trial field. It is written in regards to horse showing, but I feel that it can be applied to any performance event.

 

The book is: "That Winning Feeling! Program Your Mind for Peak Performance" by Jane Savoie

 

Kathy

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Guest Kelliwic

Thanks to each of you for posting, I really appreciate it. If anyone else has further suggestions please feel free to continue to add to this thread, I'm definitely interested in all input. I think the next trial for us will be in November. I'll do the best I can to make sure we are prepared as much as possible by the closing date. If we aren't doing so hot by the closing date, then I think I'll skip it. If we can't work consistently at "home" or in familiar fields, then I think our odds of a good run on a new field would be pretty slim. I would just totally fret about the "what ifs."

 

Glad to say we had a very nice lesson last week, which had my instructor teasing me to enter both dogs Novice-Novice in his trial this coming weekend. (We're so not ready, but it was nice of him to say.) :D Unfortunately we have to miss our lesson and practice sessions this week, rats! :rolleyes:

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Guest aussie nick

Hi I know just how you feel when I first started trialing I was worried about the whole trial my trainer said "don't worry you wont do anything that hasn't been done before" and so far he is right I still get a bit nervous with my open dogs but I am worrying about shutting the gate and to make the finals you will have to be up in the 90's but with my young dogs I go out hoping to get a cast so I am a lot more relaxed thinking about it as part of their training if they get the sheep back without to much trouble we start to go around the course when things start to get out of control we walk off and no harm done. So I am trying to say dont worry about the trial being a disaster and will you get the gate shut think of it as a training run for you and the dog plan to leave if things start to go really wrong and remember its not just about winning but improving you and your dog if you only get a cast thats great next time you might get to the first obsticle and before you know it you will be shutting the gate with most of your points in tact good luck Nick

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  • 9 months later...

Additional advice - skip the dramamine - stick with a dram. Millions of Scots and Irish shepherds can't be wrong.

 

If you are of a more ascetic dispostiion, you need a mantra. For me, "it's only a dog trial" repeated over and over seems to do the trick.

 

Pearse

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There's always the "HEY, you're up NOW!" approach - ie, actually play a key role in running the trial and have the rest of the crew conspire to fail to tell you when you are up. It was the only time I ever went to the post with more on my mind than running my dog.

 

That was also the one and only time I ever won a trial.

 

I do think I'm less nervy now though. I should think so - ten years as a novice and coming so stinkin' close to Open then going to the bottom of the class again - I have waaaaaay more to think of than stage fright. I believe I have humiliated myself in every way possible short of wardrobe malfunction. Please God no . . . :rolleyes: I don't think the public deserves that!

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I can't help, but I can commiserate. I think I'm worse, though. Not only do I get so nervous at trials as to just about decide not to enter any this year, I even get nervous just working my dog in front of my Open-handler friends. Could I be any more inhibited? Gawd. I may consider that dram for when I'm out training...

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I've never been nervous at a trial with the exception of one brief moment the first run after Fly and I moved up to Ranch.

 

I can only think of two reasons why I don't get nervous: (1) I've taught so many classes and given so many talks that being in front of an audience doesn't bother me at all, and (2) I don't care if we win anything. I'm there to learn, to see where we need improvement, and to have a good time. Also, I don't worry about looking dumb because honestly, if you've been to a number of novice trials you've seen just about every weird thing a dog and handler can do, so while a mishap may be a big deal to YOU, it's just another day in the grand scheme of things to everyone else.

 

I've never seen anything happen at a trial that I thought the handler needed to be embarrassed about, except for the rare times that I've seen a handler lose his or her temper after a bad run and either make a scene or take it out on the dog.

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I can only think of two reasons why I don't get nervous: (1) I've taught so many classes and given so many talks that being in front of an audience doesn't bother me at all

 

See, that's so weird. I've sung, played piano, performed in the theater, given speeches, and taught classes my whole life (well, haven't taught classes my whole life but you know). I've never had stage fright - not the paralyzing kind. I know what the difference is. I know I'm going to please people. Even if I screw up I can make it all right. It all comes very naturally, those things.

 

It's been really hard to transition from the idea that I'm out there to entertain, to "It's all about the sheep and dog." There's a mantra, Pearse. I've been entertaining and educating since I was three years old - it's hard to break out of it in such a similiar feeling setting, and even harder to feel I'm being a total failure. I even get the same feeling when I'm working in front of friends or an instructor.

 

I had a mentor who was a bit of a diva himself, bless him. OK a HUGE diva. That didn't help for a long time, though we both told each other that attitude was just undermining us. It's better if you have someone steady to lean on at a trial - my last few trials I've discovered that (thanks Karen).

 

"It's all about the sheep and the dog. It's all about the sheep and the dog."

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For me, I remember I am half of the team, and if I let nerves get to me, then I am letting the other half of the team down. If I am trying to help the dog through all the mess of a trial, and watching the sheep, then I fall into a private 'bubble' with only me and the dog, against the sheep. By concentrating on figuring out what those sheep really want to do every step around the course, there is no time to think about anyone watching. Besides, unless you are first on the course, or a BIG big hat, nobody pays too much attention to runs. Mostly, they watch sheep to help themselves with any future runs on the course. Turn your run into a puzzle... pay attention to what the sheep want to do along the route. Do they need push here? do they need backing off there? Do they always swing wide there to try and get to the set out/ exhaust? do you need to give them time to look at the sawdust as they enter the shedding ring? are they afraid of people more than a dog, what does this mean for your pen? By making that your focus, then you will take pressure off of yourself. All the while.... chant Pearse's mantra.... it is just another dog trial.

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I believe I have humiliated myself in every way possible short of wardrobe malfunction. Please God no . . . I don't think the public deserves that!

 

I think that's me. I've made a fool of myself in all ways possible. So it's not that big a deal when I do it again. I can even laugh at myself with my friends. I think it helps to know I've got a good dog so no ones laughing at him. They aren't really even laughing but I know I am! The best advise I've been given is that no one is really watching you in a judging way (cept the judge) they're really thinking about what they're going to do when they're up and what they might do the same or different.

Can anyone really remember someone else's bad run? Not me...only mine!

 

Now that I've started to do a bit better the pressure is on again! Maybe it was easier to stay at the bottom. Not that I'm at the top but maybe in the middle?! I think it's a way to keep learning how to be humble!

 

I usually save the drink for after but I've had more than one nice handler tell me have one first!

 

It also helped to hear some of my mentor’s beginnings, they didn't sound any worse than me and they're still at it!

 

Cheers to humiliation....it's a good thing!

 

Kristen

 

ps....the other day I was coming back from a trip to St. Louis and I got out of the car and my son says "a**hole" I turn and look at him disgustedly that he'd talk to me like that and he smiles and says...."you have a big hole in your pants, right in the middle of your butt." I said thanks for telling me and he spouts "I thought you knew and didn't care!" So there's my wardrobe malfunction, I'd been wearing the pants at the clinic I was attending the same day with a clinician that I'd never met before. niccccce! :rolleyes:

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At my first trial I was so nervous that I reversed all my flanking commands. The judge made a comment about my dog being trained for brace and how few people do that anymore. I didn't correct her because I was so embarrassed. I only got 1rst place because my dog knows I am an idiot and just did her thing. At my second trial she decided my choice to send her to the left was wrong and crossed over. For my second run that day I left the post before the outrun even started to make sure she went the way I told her to. I was prepared for the worst (teasing) when I went to sit down, but instead several people told me they thought I was very smart for sacrificing my chances of placing in order to educate my dog. It's been a bit better since then because I know the other people are not judging me as harshly as I judge myself, but I still tend to fall into the trap of screaming lie down at the top of my lungs when I get nervous. The good thing is my dog is far better at herding than I am, the bad thing is she knows it.

 

I just keep telling myself that I have a dog who gets the job done when it matters and that ribbons are just icing on the cake.

 

EDT: I have been told by many people that herding is not a sport for people who don't want to be humbled on a regular basis.

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For my second run that day I left the post before the outrun even started to make sure she went the way I told her to. I was prepared for the worst (teasing) when I went to sit down, but instead several people told me they thought I was very smart for sacrificing my chances of placing in order to educate my dog.

I wanted to pull this section out for emphasis. It can't be said enough that in novice especially you shouldn't be so caught up in trying to get points that you forget the whole point of the class, which is really about training you and your dog. Dogs can become trialwise and if they learn you won't correct them when you're at a trial, they can learn to take advantage of that. Also, if you want your dog to improve, leaving the post (i.e., sacrificing any chance to place) when things are going wrong is the thing to do. You want to fix things at this level, before they become habits that are next to impossible to undo. So good for you for leaving the post and making sure your dog did it right!

 

J.

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I used to get nervous when I ran in Novice but over the years, when I walk up to the post I let my body relax and we try to do well...mind you , we do want to win but the nerves are much better at the post. I just pretend we are at home on our training field.

 

At our last trial, the handlers on deck got to sit next to the Judges' truck prior to their turn. Tess and I laid down on the ground lengthwise, with her spooning me and licking my face and me tickling her nose with a flower and putting buttercups in her collar....not watching the sheep at all. The scribe looked over and burst out laughing and nudged the judge. The spectaors thought it was amusing!!

 

Come our turn, Tess laid down a smoking run for 2nd place and finally got 4th, barely nudged out by a few points.

 

Funny thing, I was telling everyone that Tess was amost NINE, getting slow and stiff and I was going to retire her. Been giving her a Gyco-Gen drink to help her recover and now she comes out like a freight train on her second day.

Guess Tess heard that I was going to retire her and she had her opinion on the subject. At this trial I ran her son and her granddaughter.

 

I don't get nervous if I do, I lie my dog down, count to 3, then go on....that seems to settle my nerves down.

 

Just relax and think it is just working at home and you will go much better and the dog will feel your tension anymore

 

 

Diane

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I try really hard to go through my thoughts about the course and sheep well before my run if at all possible. Then I try to just forget about it, visit with my friends and watch the running right up until my turn. My older dog, Zac, likes to sit and watch the runs and handles it just fine. So he hangs out with me watching a good portion of the running. My younger dog, Jag, comes out a couple ahead of time to spot sheep but doesn't hang out there too long as he gets a bit wound up.

I know some people that prefer to do it just the opposite of the way I do it. I think the key is finding what works best for your personality.

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Then I try to just forget about it, visit with my friends and watch the running right up until my turn.

A slight twist on this method of coping with stress: One of the best runs I ever had at a trial (at last year's Bluegrass) was after I had been just putzing around shopping at the vendors. Then I looked up and realized the person at the post was Melinda Hanley, who was running right ahead of me! I had to race to the van to get Twist and we barely got there before Melinda's run ended. No time to get nervous or even think about it--and we had a great go! :rolleyes:

 

J.

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Keeping busy is a huge help! One of the worst things I can do is sit and worry so, on the rare occasions that I do run my dog (in Novice), I try to stay busy exercising him, working at the trial, or something else to keep my mind occupied. Once I send the dog I do, thankfully, tend to forget everything but what's happening on the field (which is often embarrassing enough).

 

Also, watching other runs can be helpful in terms of planning your strategy and seeing where the draws and problems are arising. I mentally run multiple perfect and inspiring runs before my dog and I ever step on the field. Once I send him, the perfection and inspiration both vanish on his part and even more so on mine.

 

Best wishes!

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Thanks to all who have added to this! I didn't enter the trial this weekend that had been my goal, but I felt I just wasn't ready (not due to nerves). My dogs work well for handlers who know what they're doing, so I know it's me and not the dogs!

 

(Note to self: Keep busy, have a dram, keep busy, pick buttercups, keep busy, think about the sheep, keep busy, watch a few runs but not too many, keep busy, visualize it going RIGHT, and keep busy!) :rolleyes:

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