What Kind of Player are You?
When playing disc with your dog, what is it that you are trying to do? Are you trying to be an athletic team? Putting on a show? Is it all about the catches? Just trying to keep up with your dog?
Of course you are trying to do all of these things, but what is the main focus of your game? What are your strengths? Your weaknesses?
These are the types of questions that all athletes and performance artists have to ask of themselves. They are questions you should ask yourself when thinking about your style of disc dog freestyle.
There are almost as many different styles of play as there are teams out there playing right now. Disc dog freestyle is a rather individualized performance, but there are a few player archetypes out there that might help you better understand and develop your own particular style.
Keep in mind that these archetypes are not “either or” categories. It is possible to be a mix of two or even three of the categories, and you probably should display some of each archetype’s attributes in your play to be well rounded.
The Archetypes and Judging
Each of these archetypes should be able to compete and win a major contest if the team performs well. This is almost always the case, but with any judged event, subjectivity and personal bias can come into play, intentionally or not, and sometimes a judge or a panel is not a good fit for your particular style. Such is life…
A good judge should be able to see the value in each of these archetypes (and all styles of play) and be able to score them accordingly.
When judging a disc dog event, be careful to keep an open mind and honestly evaluate the performance that was thrown down on the field, and not hate on the archetype of the team that is out there.
The Technician is a player archetype defined by perfection. They might not throw the craziest stuff out there, and they might not have all that flash and flourish, but the Technician goes out there and gets it done. Really well, every time. Focusing on doing things right and doing them well is the Technician’s style. Any player archetype who executes... is a player that is focused on execution. Technicians may not be the flashiest, the fastest, the prettiest, or have the most difficulty or creativity, but they more than make up for it with their perfect execution of technical tricks and sequences.
Steady, even performance at an elite level is what the Technician is working towards. Get awesome stuff, get it working, and then perfect it. That’s how the Technician rolls.
You know that dog that jumps head high for everything, or the dog with so much personality that you can’t do anything but grin? That is the Dog.
The Dog is a player archetype defined by The Dog. There are always a few canine athletes that really separate themselves from the pack. Many great disc dog teams have relied a great deal on The Dog, and many people build an entire style around that unique, once in a lifetime athlete. Any player archetype who executes should, in theory,... is a bonafide player archetype. The handler may not be the greatest player or showman, and he or she might not have the technical expertise of a Technician, but jeez louise, that Dog…
The Dog is not an excuse though. Nothing is more painful than watching someone go out there and screw around with a super talented dog. The handler still has a strong supporting role to play on the field and at the drawing board in order to ensure that the Dog gets the opportunity to look good. The Dog might be awesome but he can’t play freestyle on his own.
The Maestro is a player archetype defined by the handler’s poise, skill, and presentation of the game. The Maestro doesn’t play the game, she orchestrates it. Team Movement and Flow are the featured piece of the Maestro’s arrangement. Any player archetype who executes should, in theory, have a chance to win.... is focused on creativity. Like a creative genius, or a prodigy, the Maestro makes the easy stuff look hard and the hard stuff easy.
Maestros do interesting and creative things in interesting and creative ways. They don’t play their game so much as they orchestrate it.
Intricate tricks and intricate patterns with perfect flow, or elegant simplicity with jaw dropping performance, the Maestro is a creative force with a dog and a disc.
Mad Scientists are crazy. Who knows what kind of weird science they are going to put together on that field.
Handlers that throw the kitchen sink at their dogs, teams that are focused on wicked tricks, freaky team movement, and freaky human athlete’s all can be considered Mad Scientists.
Mad Scientists tend to break the conventions of performance and play by their own set of rules and metrics.
The Showman is a player archetype that is defined by this crowd and this performance. The show aspect of disc dog freestyle is the Showman’s focus. Superb choreography, hamming it up with the crowd, hitting tricks in sync with the music, and cute... OMG cute! Regardless of how many fans are on the field, the Showman is putting on a... is an entertainer. They live to perform and their performances on the disc dog field are more like a show or a vibe than an athletic performance.
The Showman makes people smile and feel things. Creating drama with strategic pauses, hitting tricks on specific beats, and interacting with the crowd are some of the hallmarks of great Showman.
Infinite Styles of Play
These are not meant to be official, exclusive, or all encompassing archetypes.
These are just five archetypes that I have seen in the game of disc dog freestyle over the years that cover the four traditional elements of disc dog freestyle judging. Odds are that if you have played disc for a while you can peg a player to each of these archetypes quite easily.
This is an excerpt from the Style section of the Art of K9Disc, The Disc Dog Freestyler’s Companion by Ron Watson of Pawsitive Vybe. Pick up a digital copy at PVybe Press.