Notes from another Week 8
This session I've been assisting the beginner agility class the hour prior to Diesel and my intermediate class. My assisting evolved out of the idea that I can't really afford to have both pups involved in agility classes on an ongoing basis. As an assistant I receive a 50% discount on our agility classes which is wonderful, but, even more so, it feeds my addiction. Seems I can't quite get enough and it doesn't matter if I'm running my dogs or not. I just like to be around dogs, especially in an agility setting. And new situations are always an opportunity to learn.
I will admit, as an assistant, I stand on the floor feeling a bit like an impostor at times, mainly when I'm playing more of a teaching role as opposed to merely setting bars or helping set up/take down the course. But here's a cardinal rule to comfort the new assistant: I will know more than someone just starting out in agility so I will always be able to help in some way. Besides, I'm assisting an instructor, therefore part of a team hopefully providing well-rounded instruction. And it's not like anyone is going to get hurt following my advice. I have a friend, Jen, who teaches novice motorcycle racing classes. We compared notes on how sometimes we feel like impostors – enthusiasts posing as people who know what they're doing. Obviously, since we are doing what we're doing (Jen teaching/me assisting) we've been considered qualified by someone who is qualified. It's tempting to be hard on ourselves though – to feel we need to know everything. Of course Jen does have the added pressure of someone potentially getting hurt. Agility, while it is an adrenaline rush, just doesn't have that kind of risk thankfully.
After just eight one-hour sessions I've seen dogs in my beginner class go from being terrified of a tunnel to running through it with gusto. I've seen new handlers allow themselves to trust their dog's abilities off-leash and beam when they complete 12 obstacles together as a team. It's that stuff that got me addicted to doing agility in the first place and it's heartwarming to watch that come alive in the students, both human and canine.
Another eight week session starts this upcoming Monday. This time I will be assisting both beginner and intermediate (while Marvin and I take our first advanced session on Wednesdays – Diesel is taking a session off). The thing I'm most looking forward to, besides seeing a new round of beginner dogs, is watching how "my" first set of beginners moves into the next level and watching their enthusiasm and confidence grow.
I owe a big thank you to Dave, my instructor who's now retiring, at least for now, from teaching. If it weren't for his knowledge, enthusiasm, and gentle, confidence-building style, I may not have become as hooked as I am. If I can bring even a little of his gift to my assisting, I know my students will be okay and I will always credit him for that.
As for Diesel and my Week 8 intermediate class – what a blast! The boy was on fire! We ended the session on our highest note as a team. Diesel was motivated and stayed with me, enjoying what the course had to offer. He took the A-frame in a style he created a couple weeks ago ... ran up the up, jumped the peak, and ran down the down. I was satisfied with my handling after a couple runs (and the addition of a crucial front cross, thanks to the advice of instructor Melissa) and the course felt smooth and efficient. Our last of four runs we ran at breakneck speed :) leaving both Diesel and I panting and smiling and wanting more.
Again, here I sit, glowing at the thought of it. Agility class just has that effect on me.
("And guess what?", the new assistant whispers, hoping no one will hear, "Thoughts of entering a trial keep popping back into my head ...")