This article is part one of a two-part series. In part one, I cover the details of a mental checklist that I use prior to running a set of marks. Part two talks about a mental checklist prior to running a blind. It doesn't matter if you're running a National Championship, making sure this checklist is part of your routine. Some of the items I describe happen prior to ever arriving on the grounds. While others happen just before exiting the holding blind.
Here is my “pre-snap” list:
Know the predicted wind direction.
Have access to Google Earth photos of the site.
Orient yourself after arriving on the property. (N, S, E & W)
Check the current wind direction.
Review the order of the throws.
Analyze the factors. Terrain, Wind, Cover, Water & Visibility.
Review test instructions.
Have a plan for exiting the blind and approaching the line.
What is the judges signaling cadence?
Where do I want to be on the mat and what side do I want to heel on?
For watching the marks.
For sending on the marks.
What cues am I going to use?
How am I going to influence?
Push or pull?
Hand or no hand?
To sweat or not?
If training, what are my standards?
Be aware of my dog’s attitude prior to getting to line.
What is plan A and plan B?
Be ready to adapt. “Omaha!”
What did the 2 dogs ahead of me do?
How has the test changed?
Wind, Visibility and Developing Trails.
Visualize success and proper execution.
Focus and don’t allow yourself to be distracted!
Before I leave for the grounds, I study the current and predicted wind direction for the day. You can use an app on your phone to find that information. I like one called Wind Compass because it shows the current wind direction and velocity. You can also see what the predicted wind is for each hour of the day. You can also use the weather.com app. The next thing I like to do is have an overhead satellite perspective of the site. Google Earth or the satellite view on Apple Maps will usually be pretty accurate. Take a screenshot with your phone or tablet, this will help you better understand the factors on a particular setup. You can take some of these photos by just using the address for the property and plug it in to Google Earth or Apple Maps. This is especially helpful if the cell coverage is likely to be poor after reaching the grounds. Once arriving on the grounds, you will need to orient yourself in regard to directions and get a feel for the current wind direction.
The next few bullet points are pretty self-explanatory. When it comes down to influencing, that will be pretty situational and dog-dependent. However, you will obviously treat a disciplined long retired gun differently than a short check-down bird.
Here is where you will put together your initial strategy. Let’s call it plan A. With that being said, “The best laid-plans of mice and men often go awry.” This is where plan B comes into play. One must be flexible and ready to adapt. “Omaha” was the keyword that quarterback Peyton Manning would use when he was changing a play at the line. In the event he didn’t like what he saw just before the snap, he would shout “Omaha”. That meant he was about to call an audible. Sometimes we have to call an audible and change our plans in midstream. Whatever we do, we need to do it with conviction.
Over the course of the day, a test will always change. The wind, lighting, and trails will evolve. Paying close attention to the dogs that run just ahead of you will provide valuable information.
Above all, this is the time to take a deep breath and visualize proper execution and success. This is no time to allow doubt to enter your mind. Stay focused and have fun!
Many of these things I do without even being aware of them. After 36 years of running dogs professionally, there are a lot of habits that have become ingrained. However, many of you will have to work to develop the routine. I often say that good habits are hard to form and easy to live with? A thorough pre-snap ritual is definitely one of those good habits.
Thank you everyone for providing me with feedback. Your requests help prompt me to expand my material for a better teaching platform. Keep it coming!
Featured Upcoming Event!
Seminar | Ray Voigt and Pat Burns: Managing & Advancing Marking
Join Ray & Pat for a 3.5 day seminar as they coach handlers on getting their dogs to be both disciplined and relaxed in their marking. Maintaining this delicate balance is critical to be successful in today's all-age stakes, and Pat and Ray will share the techniques they've used to build numerous Field Champions and Amateur Field Champions.
Handling spots are full, but observer spots are available.