Life Lessons From The Squash Court

Last year I returned to the squash court after a twenty year hiatus. I love the game. A friend and I took weekly lessons from an instructor who was a retired elementary school teacher – which probably explains his patience.

Our instructor broke down the game of squash for us. Here is a summary of what I learned. As you’ll see, learning to play squash well is rather like learning to live well.

The Rules of the Game

1. Find the teachers who care enough to teach you, even when they don’t get paid.

2. The best teachers are far more concerned with making you a better player than making you feel better about your game.

3. After the teacher is gone is often when you finally learn the lessons.

4. Take time to learn the basic skills.

5. The goal is to learn to hit the ball well – not just hit it.

6. Practice the basic skills over and over again until you’ve mastered them.

7. Good skills become good habits.

8. If you have developed good habits, when game time comes these will automatically kick in.

9. There is a difference between being taught skills and actually learning them.

10. The more you put your entire self into hitting the ball, the more impactful your efforts will be.

11. Learn skills first; strategy second.

12. Practice the skills on your own before rallying with a partner.

13. Practice one component of the skill over and over again before moving on to the next component.

14. Know the difference between a rally and a game.

a) A rally is when you hit the ball to your partner so that he or she can return it.
b) A game is when you hit the ball to your opponent so that he or she can’t return it.

15. Slow down your rally: the purpose is to develop your skills not score a point.

16. You will NOT win the game if you haven’t mastered the basic skills.

And what is “the game” but a happy, peaceful, purposeful life?

But, just like in a good game of squash, real life speeds up. So if we don’t have good habits firmly in place, which for me are: proper rest; good nutrition, clear priorities; balance; living within my means; exercise; fun; spending time in nature; ability to say no to unreasonable demands on my time; healthy boundaries in place; time with friends, family and pets; downtime on my own; creative time for writing; time for e-mail and business correspondence; time for household chores; and so on, when life does get busy again, I’ve learned the hard way (more than once) I won’t last very long in the game.

But unlike a game of squash, the stakes of losing in life are significantly higher.

It’s called burnout. And I can tell I’m heading towards burnout when:

I start to feel overwhelmed
I get really sad for no apparent reason
I am absolutely exhausted
I burst into tears easily
I get really stressed out
I get sick
It feels like an elephant is standing on my chest
I get depressed
I lose focus
I want to give up
I question my purpose
I stop smiling
I make poor decisions
I go deeper into debt

And then, if I still refuse to admit I’m losing the game, my cluster migraines start again and I am effectively yanked from the court – sidelined – for a month or more.

The “game” – what we perceive to be a good life – is different for each of us, of course, as are the costs of losing.

However, regardless of our individual situations, if we don’t take time to learn the necessary life skills that will get us from where we are to where we want to go – in as healthy and happy ways as possible – and then practice those skills on our own, then hone them in rallies with the people around us, then we won’t develop the good habits that will become automatic for when game time comes.

And game time always comes; if we’re still breathing, we’re technically still in the game.

But just as the game of squash is broken down into the necessary skills that, when practiced enough in non-game conditions become good habits, so it is with life…for how we spend our days is how we spend our lives.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening and the upcoming Barrier Removed; A Tough Love Guide to Achieving Dreams. She is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions Inc. Please visit for details.

Rallying With Your Rottweiler – Speed and Agility Course

Rottweilers, being a very strong, athletic, and responsive breed, always love a good challenge. Sporting with your Rottweiler is a great hobby because it provides the Rottweiler the exercise he or she so desperately needs and is an incredible bonding experience. Besides that, it’s just plain fun for you and your dog!

Amongst the traditional dog sports of carting, hunting, and agility trials, dog rally competition has recently become very popular. It is a newer sport and almost exclusively practiced in the United States. It is a systematic combination of agility and obedience trials, and the competition factor is based around race car driving, hence the term “rally.”

Training for dog rally competitions is a very intensive process. As with any training regimen, it is best to start as young as possible. The Rottweiler is an intelligent breed, and is thus somewhat hardheaded. Proper obedience training as a puppy will make rally training so much easier when your dog is old enough to compete.

In rally competitions, your dog must race to each of fifteen to twenty course stations at which he will perform the required agility or obedience task. There is a limited amount of time in which to complete this task and the entire course. Each task is judged by a professional.

Rottweilers excel at certain aspects of rally competitions and fall short in others. While they are strong, agile, and fast, competing against a smaller herding dog like a Border Collie could mean you’re in tough competition! This should not be discouraging – the skill of any rally team depends almost entirely on its owner’s training ability and the dog’s willingness to compete. With the right Rottweiler, you could leave any bouncy little Border Collie in your dust!

If you are new to the sport, or even new to the concept of rally, that’s no problem. Rally offers three separate levels of competition. The novice level allows you to compete with your dog on his or her leash, which is more lax than most other competitions. This means you will have the opportunity to start competing in rally quickly, rather than spending months training for your first competition without any active experience at a rally meet. Novice meets will also give you an opportunity to observe dogs that perform at higher levels.

Many Rottweiler clubs offer rally competitions, and there are non breed-specific rally clubs as well. If you’re interested in pursuing a rally career or hobby with your Rottweiler, you should get in touch with one of these clubs and begin training. Rally is a great way to stay fit for you and your dog, and is an incredible bonding experience for an owner and their pet.

German Shepherd Dog Training

The German Shepherd Dog is an old breed originating in Germany and is probably one of the most versatile breeds in existence today. It is a true working breed, although the American Kennel Club classifies it as a herding breed today. It is one of the original breeds used as a seeing-eye guide dog. It continues to be a favorite breed for use in the military, police, and search and rescue. He can easily detect drugs, run down and hold a criminal on the run, and track the scent of a missing child. You will find him at work in Europe patrolling the border with the same vigor he did many, many years ago. The German Shepherd Dog also makes an excellent therapy dog and is a breed that can be counted on in any situation.

German Shepherd Dog training considerations:

o The German Shepherd Dog is highly intelligent and easy to train, given the right circumstances. He will not accept high levels of repetition and can easily become bored. If he finds you boring as trainer, he will create his own entertainment. You can train him in performance events like: obedience, rally, agility, herding, tracking, and Schutzhund. He excels in all areas. You should attend basic obedience classes at a young age and continue to train him from there.

o To train a German Shepherd Dog, focus on positive reinforcement and motivation. Once you know what motivates your dog, this is what will become his reward for learning. There is never any need for physical force in training.

o German Shepherds need strong leaders or they will lead you. The German Shepherd Dog is a not a Labrador and with good reason! He demands respect from his owner, and you should respect the dog. Becoming a strong leader means nothing more than establishing rules and boundaries from day one with your dog. Example of rules could be: increasing impulse control and patience with calmly sitting and waiting for dinner or to go outside; focused eye contact before a toy is thrown; a wait at a boundary line when guests enter the house. There are as many rules available as you can think of, and the dogs will thrive under this situation.

o While establishing rules, it is important to avoid all the ‘myths’ related to being an Alpha. There is no need to dominance roll your dog, and in fact, your dog may view this as threatening and bite you!

o The German Shepherd Dog makes an excellent guardian, but this is instinctual and no training is required. DO NOT ever attempt to ‘train’ in aggression!

o Pure aggression is not desirable in the German Shepherd Dog. Aggression comes from poor genetics, lack of socialization, or lack of training. Some dogs are genetically aggressive, but the more common cases come from lack of training and socialization. German Shepherds are bred to be aloof and suspicious of strangers. Without the proper socialization, they are unable to determine friend from foe. Many cases of dog aggression, territorial aggression, and stranger aggression can and do result from this improper training and socialization.

o German Shepherds can be known to chase anything that moves. Some have more prey drive than others, but know that early training is required to teach your dog to not chase cats, small dogs, or children. He should be taught a ‘leave it’ and an immediate ‘come.’

German Shepherd Dog training should be fun! They are so highly intelligent that training them is a real pleasure. Remember that early and on-going socialization, setting rules, thorough training, and being a respected leader are the most important things when training this breed.

All About the National Audubon Society

One of the best ways for you to begin birding is to find other enthusiasts that can help you along as you start out. Birders are almost always willing to help you out and share their knowledge and tricks of the trade. If you don’t personally know anyone who is into birding there are many resources available to help you find local birders. You can first see if there is a local Audubon society nearby, this can be done by visiting their web site at audubon or calling. It’s very likely that there a local chapter in your area. If you don’t find one through the Audubon Society you can also try local bird clubs or nature centers or visit to see if there are any organizations in your area.

The National Audubon Society

The National Audubon Society is a non-profit organization whose mission is to “conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity.” The Audubon Society is over 100 years old with its origins dating to the 1900’s being one of the oldest organizations of the kind. The Audubon Society has not only helped preserve many habitats, but has also been a guiding influence in legislation throughout the years.

Many acts have been brought to the attention of legislation as well as passed due to the influence of the Audubon Society. In 1918 the Migratory Bird Treaty act was passed by President Wilson which put in place the protection of migratory birds. In 1964 President Lyndon Johnson passed the Wilderness Act that set aside 9 million acres of protected wilderness. This was a major factor to protect wildlife habitats from the increasing population that threatened such areas. In 1973 the Endangered Species Act was passed by President Nixon. The Endangered Species Act allowed for the conservation of species on the brink of extinction. All these acts passed were a telling of the efforts put forth by the Audubon Society. Without their continuous determination throughout the last 100 years, many of the species we enjoy today would have tragically disappeared from the earth.

Preservation of animal habitats is not an easy task to accomplish, especially with the ever growing population and destruction of many natural habitats around the world. The Audubon Society recognized the need to rally their efforts into the protection of all animal species. In 1947 the Everglades National Park was established encompassing thousands of miles in the central Florida area. Protecting the Everglades has been a continuous battle for the Audubon. In 1974 the Lillian Annette Rowe Bird Sanctuary was opened in south central Nebraska becoming a home to many migratory birds such as the beautiful Whooping Crane. This sanctuary is actually owned and operated by the National Audubon Society. These are just a few of the victories of the Audubon in establishing habitats for our wildlife to continue on and prosper in; they continue in their fight for wildlife daily.