In every organisation there are multiple major championships a year. These can act as chances to meet up with friends from across the globe, see new places and also serve as a chance to reach new goals. For some, dancing at major championships is a goal achieved in itself, for others it is coming home with a recall medal, a secondary qualifying place, a podium place, or becoming the champion.
In October, a large amount of CLRG dancers will compete in both the All Scotland Championships in Glasgow, Scotland and the Great Britain Championships in Torquay, England. Not only are the two championships at opposite ends of the UK, but they are also only three weeks apart.
No matter where ‘home’ is for the dancer, the mental effects of travel, physical exertion and emotion will be difficult to handle. This is where a mental strength plan will help set you apart from the competition and allow you to feel ready and eager to compete at two major events with only a short amount of time between them.
Travelling can be tough on the body, I travel almost two hours each way to my dance classes and so understand how tiring it can sometimes be. One of the best ways to combat the physical drain from travelling is to drink a lot of water. Peter O'Grady from Irish Dance Physical Fitness recommends daily intake should be 35 mls of water for every kg you are in body weight. When traveling to a competition it is important that you remember to maintain that figure to be ready for competition day.
Make travel work for you by using that time to your advantage. If you need to go back to school or university after the competition, try and get your homework or coursework complete; maybe you need to catch up on some sleep, why not use this time to help your body recover from the dance classes you’ve been having? I love my time spent traveling to competitions in the car with my mum listening to our favourite upbeat songs and singing along - it's a great stress reliever and takes me out of ‘competition’ mode.
Competing at a major championship takes a lot of physical exertion. The stages are bigger, often the stakes are higher and the pressure is on, which can result in what I call ‘Post Feis fatigue’, that feeling of tiredness after a competition. Your body feels sluggish and heavy and your legs just won’t do what you are telling them and you feel like your stamina has taken three steps backwards. This can be hard to deal with, but I always recommend to make sure you stretch, use a foam roller, sleep as much as you can, drink LOTS of water and eat plenty of healthy food to help your body recover quickly.
Don't forget to be kind to yourself mentally. If your first class back isn’t as good as your performance on the stage the week before, don't worry, just ‘make peace with it’! I am a big advocate of ‘making peace’ when some classes are not as strong as others. We can’t be on top form all the time. We all have off days and it is perfectly normal for your first class back after a major championship not to be as strong.
Finally, we all know how mentally exhausting major championships can be. Dance days are a rollercoaster of emotions from nerves, to excitement and perhaps also some disappointment. By the end of a 12 or 13 hour day dancers, teachers and parents are all tired and emotional from the intense energy in competition halls. This is to be expected, but what happens when we come home?
If we are happy with our result do we keep up the hard work for the next competition? Or do we become overly confident and feel like there's no more practice to be done? If we placed as expected but perhaps think we could have pushed harder, do we end up overworking for three weeks and risking injury? If we were disappointed with our result, do we beat ourselves up about the result and lose our self confidence? These are all very real reactions that all dancers have.
The best way to deal with the aftermath of a major result is to accept that maybe there were things we could have done better, things that were out of our control and that the next major is a new day and a new panel and things are never the same from one Feis to another.
As I used to hear as a young dancer ‘don’t let failure go to your head or success go to your heart’.
Best of luck to everyone competing at major championships in the near future. I shall see CLRG dancers at the All Scotland’s and Great Britain’s - come over and say hi! If you have any topics you need help with or want me to discuss then feel free to message the Irish Dance Pro social pages.
Annabelle Nunnery is a featured Blogger for Irish Dance Pro. She is a 23yr old, Open dancer, from the Marie Connell school in the UK. She is currently ranked 23rd in the World and is still actively competing on the international circuit.