Tuesday, March 16, 2010

How Passing is Like Target Shooting

My boyfriend is a Marine, so he taught me how to shoot a gun last year. The only time I'd ever shot a gun was when I was 12 years old at my uncle's farm. My dad and uncle lined up cans and let us kids shoot them, and I have no recollection of how I did at it. (However, I was pretty good at Quake a few years later. ;))

Anyway, my boyfriend and I went to the gun range and rented a 9mm Sig Sauer, and he taught me the way the Marines had taught him. We had a lot of fun. So we each bought our own gun (mine is a Ruger Mark III, all black nothing fancy but sooo pretty) and started going shooting together regularly.

Every time I'm at the range, I think about flyball passing.

It's a very similar concept. You're pumped up, a little nervous, sitting there holding the gun just-so and looking down range at the target. You regulate your breathing (I usually hold my breath right when I pull the trigger so that I don't move the gun at all), line up the sights on the gun with the target (I try to make the red dot of the target look like a lollipop on top of the sights), and pull the trigger.

We buy those cool stickers that you can put on targets that show you exactly how you shot each time -- they're black and when the bullet goes through it makes a yellow hole. So I can look at that and adjust what I need to for the next shot. I have 10 bullets in my magazine so I shoot 10 times, then reload.

When I pass a dog in flyball, it's really similar. I line my dog up just-so every time. With Punk, for instance, I make sure his front feet are on the 54' line and hold him by his hips so he can't lunge or buck around too much. I am not one of those people who can start a dog off their body. My knees suck so it hurts too much to spring up off the floor all weekend long. Plus my dogs always gouge my legs when I do that. Ouch! So I just crouch over them.

I have this passing window that I'm looking for. It's like a little photograph in my mind of what I want to see when I let my dog go. For me, it's usually when the dog in front of us is on the box -- the dog has just gotten the ball and has rotated on the box and is centered over the lane. That way I can be sure he has the ball in his mouth so I don't cause a collision (if he hesitates, or chases after a bobbled ball or whatever).

For dogs with a crappy wide turn (like whoever has to pass Punk), I wait a tiny bit until the dog has centered itself back into the lane before I let go.

For dogs who are just so inconsistent that I don't trust the pass off the box, I wait until the dog in front of us has started back over the jumps (1st jump after the box or 5th jump, whatever you want to call it).

My mental picture is always the same for the dog in front of me, it never changes. The only thing that changes is where I line Punk up in the lane. 54'? 53'? 50'? It just all depends on how my pass was.

When the pass caller tells me I had a 3 foot pass, I do not move up 3 feet. For some reason (somebody with a better grasp of the mechanics of this stuff may want to comment here), a 3 foot pass DOES NOT equal moving up 3 feet the next time. You will bad pass! I usually move up about 1 foot for every 3 feet.

You also have to be aware of how your dog is running and how the dog in front of you is running. If it's the first race of the day and they are on fire, they are going to be faster, so you're going to have to give it a little room. Later in the day if one of them is lollygagging a little bit, you're going to have to scoot up a foot or two to make up for the difference in time.

If you see the dog in front of you stumble in the lane at all, or bobble on the box at all, hold up your pass a bit.

Once you get the basic idea, it's pretty easy to adjust when you run other dogs or pass other dogs. With pretty much every team I've ever been on, I haven't known who I was going to pass until the weekend of the tournament, and half the time I've never passed that dog with my dog before. Sometimes I run 4 or 5 of my dogs in a weekend, so I may have a bunch of new passes to learn. The first few heats are usually a cluster as I try to figure out what I'm doing, then it starts to fall into place. I write down where I need to stand with each dog on my BlackBerry so I don't forget (that way I can refer back to it months later too, if necessary). Or on my arm.

It is essential that you have a good pass caller. Otherwise it's just guesswork. To some extent, you can figure out your own pass based on the digitial display if you know what your dog usually runs line to line (for example, if Punk's time was a 4.2 and his turn looked okay, I know my pass was big), but if your dog is faster or slower than average that day, you won't know that and be able to compensate.

The newest trend in pass calling, which I love, is using a digital camera with a video slow-motion playback. If your pass caller isn't that good at eyeballing a pass but they're good at seeing the pass in slow motion on the camera screen (and they can operate the camera fast), they will be able to tell you EXACTLY what your pass was in between heats. If you don't have an extra person, you can videotape the start line, then watch your passes after the race. At least that way you can adjust in time for the next race.

It also helps if you can actually see the box from the runback area. Flyball is not a time to take off your glasses, people.

The other thing that seems to help me, in both passing and shooting, is paying attention to my mindset. If I catch myself getting really stressed out I take a deep breath (or two or three), then smile and think about how much fun I'm having doing what I love. If I'm playing flyball, I focus on my dog and get them revved up by saying things like "Are you ready? Are you gonna get that ball?" Focusing on them takes the pressure off a bit.

A couple of weeks ago, my boyfriend and I took a shooting test to qualify for the new high tech 25-yard pistol range at the place we love to go to, because their other pistol range is usually really crowded with long waits. In order to qualify, we had to shoot 20 rounds at a target and hit every one of them on the paper. 25 yards = 75 feet, so it was similar to passing a dog from 23' when the dog in front of him hits the box.

The range was freezing cold, and we had to wait a long time in there while the range instructor went in and out a few times trying to fix a piece of equipment. It was nerve-wracking, because I knew I was going first, and the instructor was going to watch me shoot. I was jumping around trying to keep warm so I wouldn't start shaking. Then finally, it was time, and I stood there while the instructor ran the target 25 yards away and gave me the okay to shoot. My gun misfired 3 times out of 20 (funny, because it hadn't misfired at all the last time we shot), so I had to reload 3 more bullets at the end of the 2 magazines and shoot them, too. And the whole time, there was this guy in the next lane shooting some Dirty Harry sized gun (the range is loud, just like flyball!). With the distractions and mishaps, it felt like the range was trying to freeze me out.

The whole time I was shooting, I was thinking about how I did stuff like this all the time in flyball. Psyching myself up, saying "No biggie, you've been here before, it's fine," making myself smile and relax. I hit all 20 (not just on the paper, but on the silhouette!).

I wish my flyball passing was that accurate, but it's not. Too many moving parts, literally.

But you can be a good passer if you master the basics: pick your passing window (mental picture) and stick with it, then just move up a little or back a little depending on your pass. Get a good pass caller. Wear your glasses. Relax and have fun.

(The cool thing about flyball is that there are so many different ways to train/do things and get good results -- anybody have a different technique they'd like to share?)


Anonymous said...

Nice. I like the idea of playback video pass calling, but it doesn't help you in the moment. If you can get the fingers of the pass caller in the video you can check accuracy that way. I have often thought of holding a pass calling competition using that method. "Pass caller idol" None of that is any good if you can't get your mental picture and mindset right. I try and "pic" a spot that has the least chance for variation. First jump on the way back. The returning dog is centered and moving with a ball. I'm usually running a height dog though. This coming weekend is going to be Wii the whippet's first time in the pack. Faster dog means less time to waste. We'll see how we do.

Todd P

Kate said...

My border staffy is also miserable to pass because of his turn, but his times are pretty consistent. So when I have to pass him (my husband runs our dog), I typically pick to release when he takes off for the first jump. IMO, not as consistent as using the box as your picture, but I think that's because I'm just more used to using the box. My golden is pretty easy to pass - you know exactly what she'll do, and almost exactly how fast she'll run.
Strangely, my favorite dog to pass on our B team is the height dog. He is a border jack and is super consistent. I do release my dog when the BJ takes off for the 1st/5th jump.
I think the most important thing people need to remember is exactly what you said - adjust WHERE you release your dog from, not WHEN you release your dog. If you get your picture consistent, the rest falls into place.
We use a camera for pass calling, and wouldn't change it for the world. There was a learning curve, but now, the camera person can get our passes called out to us as we line up for the next heat. I think the key to efficient camera pass calling is when you start and stop filming. Start filming after the start dog crosses the line - no need to see any earlier. Stop filming the second the 4th dog crosses the line. You are already starting to review the first pass as you walk back to the team....
Anyway, just my opinions!

Anonymous said...

i've been our teams designated pass caller for 3 years now adn i've developed my own method. When i was taught how to call passes the method was watch the dog coming out and then try to see where the dog coming in is when the out dog crosses the line. it involved a lot of head movement and it was hard to focus.

now i focus on the whole "passing range." i have the start/finish line on one side and (depending on the team i'm calling for) the other side is about 7 feet. i only watch that space. (it should be empty!) as soon as i see the dog coming out hit the edge of my sight (at the line) i blink. not a long blink, but a blink, and at the moment the blink tricks my brain into seeing the placement of the second dog.

i've found that you have to pass call semi-subconciously. the "Blink method" has been quite sucessful! just this past weekend i was asked to call for a different club, and got a 12 pack of beer for my work! not bad!

i hope that all makes sense. as for passing i use the same technique as you Lisa. plus i also try to just let it go. early passes happen, and passing early soemtimes is the only way to find the perfect pass!

Oakland CA

Laura said...

I learned to shoot when I was 8. Never thought about it, but I like the analogy. I run two dogs of my own and a number of the team's dogs as well, since I get better performance out of their dogs than they do. I use your approach and generally get within a foot consistently with each dog after those first few heats of the lineup. Sadly, most of the teammates can't seem to grasp this concept and instead chose to ignore my directions and then gripe about how hard it is to pass... I'm going to forward them this and hopefully they'll listen to you!

Dave Collett said...

Pass calling is really an art. Some people can do it and others can't. We video passes in practice and in tournaments and verify what was called.

When moving up or back to adjust your pass you have to remember that the dogs are running toward each other so the distance covered is double. Moving up 1 foot from a 3 foot pass should make the next one less than a foot.

There are some dogs that are always consistent to pass and others that never seem to do the same thing twice. We have 2 on our team that always do the same thing on the box, if you can't get a good pass on them you shouldn't be passing.

The most important thing to me when passing is getting consistency, particularly when passing a new dog. If you can get the same pass 4 times in a row then you can move forward or back to adjust. It is very similar to the shooting analogy, getting the shots in a cluster is usually more important than getting them in the center of the target, you can adjust the sights to move them to the center.

Anonymous said...

I use the same control principles you talk about whether starting or passing.
For example, starting: once everyone is ready, take a deep, focusing breath. Let it out evenly. Nod "Ready" to the judge. Inhale fully, and slowly let it out to the "half-way" mark as the 2sec light comes on.
I'm not a double-aught starter, but seldom go over point Oh.
And, yes, this technique is a carry-over from learning to fire a weapon.
I have a theory I'm working on regarding "moving up a foot to close up a 3 foot pass." The average human reaction time is .21 to .27. I'm thinking the dog is much faster, and this together must be part of the starting point equation.
Holding the dog off the floor by the hips adds a longer "reaction chain" into the mix. It is weird that it works at all.


Anonymous said...

Starting has simalar set-up and mind set as passing but with WAY less variables. I haven't started using the new light timing but I have a routine with starting that has some pretty consistant results. like Eli said develop a routine, that should include 1. is there a ball in the box and 2. is the second dog ready?, and follow the routine ALWAYS. I hit 0.0?? 90% of the time.

Todd P

St. Quisby said...

I'm just starting to learn passing with my green dog Clarabelle - have only done 3 or 4 passes when rerunning, since she's been the start dog. This is a very helpful explanation of what I'm going to have to learn over the next few tournaments.

cookiecody said...

Our team (Sure Shots) uses a digital camera for pass calling. My husband is our designated pass caller, but I have learned to do it too, as well as another few teammates. He's gotten so quick about it that we usually have our passes less than a minute after the races finishes. We also have our scribe record the passes so we can use them for our tournament stats.

As for timing your videoing for this, you don't have to start the recording until the start dog hits the box. That way if there's a false start, you don't even record, since the whistle is usually blown by then. At the end of the race, stop recording after the fourth dog passes by. No need to record that dog's finish, he's not passing anyone, unless there's a rerun, and we don't worry about rerun passes.

Our camera is an Olympus FE-340. My husband spent an hour in Best Buy one afternoon testing different cameras and figuring out which one was easiest and quickest to playback the video in slo-mo.

raybanoutlet001 said...

cheap oakley sunglasses
nike roshe
pandora jewelry
coach outlet
nike tn pas cher
canada goose sale
kate spade handbags
coach outlet online
polo ralph lauren
jacksonville jaguars jersey

Read past posts in the Blog Archive >>