This weeks hot news in the UK agility world is the announcement of this years international teams who will be representing Agility Team GB at the FCI Agility World Championships in Finland and the European Open in The Netherlands.
Team selection is an exciting time. People say to me “I don’t fancy your job Mark, picking a team from these top dogs”. Actually its one of the highlights of the role. Yes, there are tough decisions to be made each year, but there are also some straightforward ones made simpler because of the hard work, commitment and focused effort handlers go to in order to be selected.
We have a well rehearsed team selection process that helps us. However each year different challenges get thrown into the pot that we need to take into account. Meaning we have to constantly tweak the selection process.
Some of these challenges are country specific e.g. countries where dogs with docked tails cannot compete, or countries who have strict drug testing rules. And some are handler specific e.g. handlers who we would like to select, but for personal reasons are not able to attend the championships we had in mind for them. It’s all part of the decision making process.
The systems and assessment processes we’ve developed mature each year. We learn from previous years, we listen to feedback and we use data and technology increasingly more. We also give the squad a clear brief on what we’re looking for. This all helps the decision making process.
That said, there is also the human psychology side affecting team selection too. In sports there are some factors that cannot be measured objectively (yet). There is that human gut-instinct element that tells me ‘this partnership has potential’. Sometimes my gut gets it right.
One of my gut-instincts last year was a feeling that I needed to do something differently to help integrate juniors coming up from the Young Kennel Club (YKC) international team into the senior squad. So this year under 23 year old graduates have been given extra support, a dedicated volunteer coach and encouraged to develop as a group as they work within the wider senior squad.
The success of the Graduate programme can be measured by their feedback and if any of them are selected for one of this years teams. I’m pleased to say five of the seven graduates have been selected. These handlers are the future of our sport and I look forward to supporting them on their journey of international agility competition.
So the hard work and preparations for this years teams has started. The Team Captains are well underway with arranging team training sessions. Travel plans are being prepared and time tables for official team training days being drawn-up.
I probably write this every year, but this years squad really has been one of the most enjoyable squads to work with. I’m excited to be supporting these teams as they prepare for probably the most thrilling championships of their agility careers.
To find out more about Agility Team GB, visit the Kennel Club international teams web site