Review By Betsey Lynch “Regardless of whether you are headed for the Agility World Championships or for a clean run in a Novice Agility class this book can help you enter your winning Zone.” Agility Success: Training and Competing With Your Dog in the Winning Zone, by Angelica Steinker M.Ed., delivers on the above promise to provide insight into maximizing the potential to get into “The Zone” for both seasoned and novice competitors. This book instantly mesmerized me as each page of an early draft printed, one by one. Anyone who has read, enjoyed, and trained by the tenets in Jane Savoie’s fantastic book, That Winning Feeling! but wished it were written about dog agility instead of equine dressage, will find a new bible in Agility Success. This book does not cover obstacle performance, sequencing, handling skills, or any of the other fundamentals of agility. This book, instead, is about the mental side of the game—the part that makes or breaks that perfect run with our dogs once we’ve reached a level of proficiency on the more physical aspects of the sport. Angelica’s insights and guidance are supplemented by advice and hints from such top competitors as Ken Boyd, Elicia Calhoun, Marq Cheek, Julie Daniels, Susan Garrett, Katie Greer, Nancy Gyes, Pati Hatfield Mah, Bud Houston, Mindy Lytle, Stuart Mah, Linda Mecklenburg, Monica Percival, Jane Simmons-Moake, and Diane Tosh. The book is liberally sprinkled with quotes and pictures of this caliber of handler, giving valuable perspective into their thought processes and pre-run rituals. What is the Zone and how do we get there? The book’s introduction defines the Zone, as quoted by Csikszentmihalyi, as “a state of concentration so focused that it amounts to absolute absorption in an activity.” The goal of Agility Success is to “help you train the mental skills needed to consistently recreate peak performances, and therefore, be Zoning.” Throughout the book, the author provides questions to help the readers determine their own success factors and how they can more consistently apply them, as well as pinpoint the teams’ weaknesses and how to overcome them. Each chapter has spaces for the reader to fill in the answers as the questions pertain to them to aid in this objective. Beginning with the 11 Natural Laws of Zoning, the book leads into a discussion about the level of excitement that works for an individual handler and how to control it to be able to get into the Zone. Do you perform better when more is on the line or when you are more relaxed? It’s different for everyone, and the book walks you through identifying your own optimal level of excitement or arousal. There is also a section on helping your dog get into the Zone by monitoring its state of arousal. The book then moves on to the role of goal setting and how it can both positively and negatively influence your training and competition success. It makes a critical differentiation between dreams and goals and cautions against having dreams as goals. Goals should be process oriented rather than based on results—you cannot always control results, but you can control the process. Goals should be set in the context of situations where you have control. The book next switches over to motivation, discusses the different types of motivation, and gives tips for using motivation to work through training issues. Confidence, with steps for developing self-assurance in both handler and dog, is the next subject covered and includes an interesting section on the power of habits. No book on the mental side of sports would be complete without a section on the power of positive thinking or thought power, focus, and visualization. These three topics are discussed in Agility Success in a logical, productive manner. From giving your dog a positive, dynamic name to purging negative thoughts from your mind, the author leads the reader through exercises to develop a proper frame of mind toward both training and competing. A detailed list of questions aids the handler in developing good, positive mental habits. Focus and concentration are cited as important parts of a Zone run for both handler and dog. The author deals with both sides of the equation with helpful hints from Bud Houston, Pati Hatfield Mah and Katie Greer. Visualization guidelines are explored with steps toward developing an ability to visualize a clear, mental picture of what you are looking for in a performance. “Relax” and “No Pressure” are the titles and focus of two chapters, with concentration on being able to step to the line and relax. Pressure and the accompanying stress/panic are discussed in some detail with a brief discussion of energizing yourself before a run for those that are too relaxed! The final chapters of the book present the concepts of pre-competition rituals and course memorization. The importance of a good pre-competition ritual is presented as a way to get focused and relaxed. The rituals of Pati Hatfield Mah, Ken Boyd, Nancy Gyes, Marq Cheek, Linda Mecklenburg, and Susan Garrett are highlighted to give insight into the pre-competition preparation of top competitors. There are useful strategies given for remembering courses using certain basic techniques of good memorization. Finally, a competition worksheet is provided to assist the handler in maintaining the strategies learned in the book and to keep track of the team’s progress toward consistently performing in the Zone—when everything comes together all at once and everything clicks. Angelica Steinker will be familiar to the readers of Clean Run. She writes in a straightforward manner that is easy to follow and a pleasure to read. Agility Success will be of interest to all agility competitors, but it will be especially valuable to the vast legion of teams that are beyond the Novice level, but not quite ready to be competitive at a national level. The ability to concentrate, focus, and get into the Zone is what sets the top competitors apart, and Agility Success will help us all get a step closer to attaining our true potential. Angelica’s insights and guidance, combined with the advice and comments of top agility competitors, make the book well worth reading more than once. NOTE: This review first appeared in the May 2000 issue of Clean Run magazine.