On the surface that might not seem to make sense. After all . . . competition. The word certainly can bring events like the Olympic games to mind. Events where everyone is going for the gold, and the stakes really are "winner take all"!
Doesn't everybody who enters into competition aspire to win?
Well . . . no.
By and large, dog sports in the United States operate on a titling system. Competitors enter their chosen sport at a given level, and must meet certain requirements in order to earn a qualifying score. So many qualifying scores earn a title. Once the title is earned, the team may move up to the next level. Usually there is some sort of championship title offered either at or beyond the highest level offered.
Typically "wins", where the team places above all of the others in the class, are not required in order for the team to progress to the next level of competition in the United States. There are very few titles for which "wins" are required.
Personally, I like this system. I have never been a competitive person in the sense that I ever had any desire to strive to accomplish something in order to be better at it than anyone else. It is my way to strive to accomplish something in order to be the best that I can personally be at it. If someone else does it "better", I really don't care in the least.
When one of my dogs and I go out into the competition ring, whether it be in Agility, Rally, Rally FrEe, Freestyle, or whatever, it is my hope that my dog and I will enjoy ourselves as we whatever we are doing together, and that we will perform at the level of my dog's training.
I never walk into the ring with my dog thinking that I hope that we will outperform anyone. In Agility, most dogs in Tessa's height class are faster than she is, even when she is running at her top speed. What use would there be in trying to outrun a faster dog?
Instead, when Tessa and I step onto an Agility course together, my hope is that we will work well as a team, that we will do the best that we can do on that course, or in that game, and that we will qualify.
Placements really are nothing to me in the grand scheme of things. I really appreciate our titling system where the only competition required is against the standards of the sport itself.
Our titling system attracts participants who bring their dogs into competition for many different reasons.
Some, like myself, enjoy competing against the standards of the sport themselves.
Others are more competitive in the classic sense and are trying to "win".
Some participate in competition solely for the benefit of their dogs. (This is always an important motivation for me, as well).
Some enjoy competition in dog sports for the social aspect and camaraderie that they find in training and attending competitions with others.
Some just enjoy the sport, or discipline, itself and enter competitions because they provide structured access to the activity.
And that brings me back to the topic at hand . . . placements.
While I never deliberately strive for placements, I do find them to be fun.
After a run, or a performance, the first question that I want answered is, "did we qualify"?
Only then do I turn a curious gaze to the results to see if we got any placements. Placements, to me, are like a bit of decoration that adorns the icing on the cake. They don't really add anything essential to the competition experience for me, but they are a cool little "perk".
And I do enjoy the different color placement ribbons and medals and things.
Tessa with her first place medal, which she earned along with her first Q in Beginner at her very first Freestyle competition - makes for a special memory!
Not a placement here - this is a title ribbon. I'll admit, those are the ones we are actually working for!
Q ribbons are always the best!
I want to conclude by making one thing crystal clear: I do not have anything against people who are competitive in the classic sense and do strive for placements.
As long as a competitor displays good sportsmanship, demonstrates respect for his or her dog, and handles "losing" with class, I say "you go" to those who are more inclined to try to "win".
My point is that I am simply not like that. I never have been. I am never going to be.
And it is fine to be different. There are all sorts of very different people competing in dog sports for countless different reasons.
There is a place for all of us.