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Mental Preparation
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Four ways to get your head in the game on feis day

While competing in Irish dancing competitions is a wonderful experience, it can also be incredibly stressful. Unfortunately, stress can often get the better of you on competition day – you’re focusing on the negative instead of the positive, or you’re easily distracted, and don’t perform your best. Thankfully, our experts have you covered. Keep these four simple things in mind to stay cool on the big day and dance your best.

Find your routine

According to Frances Dunne, personal trainer and Irish dance fitness coach at Fitness Formula Irish Dance, “If you struggle to be on top form at competitions, or fluctuate between dancing well and just bombing it, you need to develop a routine that results in feeling ready. For example, if you know that you dance better when you’ve really warmed up, then make sure you allow yourself time to really warm up; if you danced really well at that feis where you had a big breakfast, then be sure to have a big breakfast every time!”

It’s all about finding a mindset that works for you. As Dunne points out, “It sounds awfully simple, but recognising patterns like these are the key to performing well under pressure. Everyone is different, so find what works for you. Of course there are things that work generally across the board, but the specifics are entirely individual.”

Focus on your strengths

If you want to psych yourself up on competition day and get in the right frame of mind, focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses. Bill Cole, MS, MA and internationally recognised peak performance mind coach, says, “Primarily focus on practicing your strengths. Leave practicing your weaknesses to your long-term training. You want to build up your confidence just before a performance, and reminding yourself of your best points will enhance that.” Good at clicks? Do some click drills.

Dr Ira Martin, a specialist Sports Psychologist with a doctoral and masters degree and who regularly works with Irish dancers, frames this another way, “You’re too busy thinking about the one mistake that you worry you’re going to make rather than thinking about the 10 things you are good at.” Focus on what you’re good at!

Block out the noise

Being at a dancing competition, particularly a major like a National or World Championships, can be overwhelming. Dr Martin points out that if there was ever a day to be selfish, this is it. “If you start watching your competition, you start psyching yourself out. It’s about you, it’s okay to be selfish – if you’re thinking about your strengths and what you’re good at, chances are you are probably not thinking about what’s going and could go wrong.” If you know you get distracted, create a focus playlist and pop your headphones in to drown out what else is going on.

When it comes time to go backstage, don’t lose that momentum. Conor Ayres, ADCRG, knows how important it is to tell her dancers to keep calm. “I tell them not to get caught up in the excitement/drama/tension of backstage. Just breathe, keep calm, and keep thinking about your own steps.”

Keep it positive

You did it! You’re here! You’re dancing at a competition. Take time out of your day to reflect on what it means to be there, and how far you have come. “Remind yourself of how hard you have worked and what you have done to prepare for this event. Feel good about all that. Feel good that you have done all that is in your power to prepare. You can then enjoy the event more, knowing that you did not cheat yourself.” says Cole. “Realize that you deserve to be at that event, that you belong. Even if you are not the top competitor, you would not be there unless you could compete.” If positive thoughts create positive actions, then you’re on the way to a great day.

What do you do to get in the zone on competition day? Share your advice below, or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

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