What made the biggest difference when preparing for your Oireachtas?
**LONG POST COMING but this is a very honest recount of my Oireachtas prep and competition day**
Two words: FOCUS and VISUALIZATION.
It all started in Orlando when I didn’t land the recall I had hoped for - it stung. Despite all my efforts in the gym and studio, it wasn’t enough to make it to the final round. That being said, my sister had a much better outcome in Orlando by landing a recall at her first nationals and her second competition as an Open dancer - an achievement that deserves high praise. I was thrilled for her, despite feeling vexed about my own results.
That’s when everything changed.
The minute I landed on home soil, I began training for the Oireachtas. I’ll be the first to admit that my track record at our Oireachtas has never been great. My placement over the last few years was always near the bottom and I swore to myself that I wouldn’t allow it to happen again this year.
My god, I was going to do whatever it took to get that recall.
I did everything I could think of to better my chances of achieving my goal. My stamina was always my biggest porblem and I decided to take my mom’s advice and start doing wind sprints. I sprinted 2-3 times a week between studio classes and skipped between my laps. I wanted to puke my guts out at the end of each training session, but I knew it would be worth it. I followed these sprints with a gym workout to build up my strength despite my exhaustion from cardio.
I worked my butt of in the studio - leaving drenched in sweat. I reworked the weaker parts of my TJ and set dance to make sure they were perfect.
I fought through the bruised toes, blisters and aching feet. I fought through the shinsplints that made a vicious comeback after years of no pain. I fought through the exhaustion my muscles felt and remembered that it would all be worth it.
I grimaced and gritted my teeth through the deep tissue leg massages at my sister’s physio clinic. I doused my legs in Lakota Extra Strength or Voltaren, and wrapped my shins in tensors each practice.
“All of this will be worth it the minute you hear your number recalled. It’ll be worth it if you have a shot at Worlds,” I would tell myself.
What was once months before the Oireachtas became weeks, and soon we were only a week away from competing.
The wind sprints had increased my lung capacity, stamina and short-term muscle recovery. My gym training had strengthened and toned my body into peak physical condition. My final deep tissue leg massage worked out the knots and exhaustion in my muscles, as well as temporarily relieved the pain from my shinsplints. I knew my dances like the back of my hand after months of preparation. I had perfected my visuals - I knew when to make eye contact with the judges and when to smile. I knew which foods I had to eat to supply my body with the energy it needed - gluten free and all.
As we drove down to Calgary, I visualized myself onstage for each round and where I needed to move for each step. I thought of when I had to focus on a judge - smiling, eye contact and all. Then I visualized myself being recalled and qualifying for Worlds.
There was a possibility I could make it happen, but I needed to be 100% focused. I had to believe I could do it.
By Saturday afternoon, I had walked off the stage with two strong rounds. When they began announcing my group’s recalls, my sister held my hand anxiously after hearing her own number. Another dancer from our school, who is like a psuedo-sister, anxiously waited with us. When they called out my number, we joyfully cried out and hugged. After years of never recalling and placing in the bottom, my sister and I had recalled together in the Senior Ladies category.
That being said, I also knew that some of my own friends and fellow competitors didn’t get the recall they were hoping for. After strapping on my hardhoes, I went to each of them to congratulate them on a job well done. After seeing each of them, I quickly warmed up and ran through my set for its debut on stage. I said a quick “this is for you” to my grandfather, who was an avid supporter of our competitive career, and stepped onstage to do the Piper - a set chosen to honour his time in highland dancing.
My third round is a bit of a blur. I remember looking at my sister, mom and teacher for visual cues of what to do. They would tell me if I needed to lift higher, move more or smile. After that, it was like a curtain had fallen around me. I can only recall the blur of my surroundings as I danced and the sound of the music.
I finished my third round, thanked the musicians and made my way offstage. Once I passed out of the judges’ view, I relaxed and felt the full brunt of my bruised toes. It hurt to walk back to where my family and friends stood, but it was worth every bit of pain to have a strong final performance. No matter what happened, I was happy with what I put on that stage.
Fast forward to that evening, and we eagerly waited for our group’s results. While my teacher watched the awards from the side stage, I waited with my sister and my good friend Shannon. We filed on stage with our group, hand in hand, and waited as they began our group’s awards - the final group of the evening.
As my sister and I held our breath, we listened as they called 12th and then 11th place. My sister and I, after always being in the bottom three, had placed in the top 10! Shortly after, my sister was announced as 10th place and she accepted her medal and NANs qualification certificate. Then 9th place was called.
That was when the announcer paused and waited for what we hoped was the big announcement. Seconds later, the remaining dancers and I were announced as the world qualifiers. Shannon was already bent over in tears and I remember sobbing into my hands when I realized I had done what I never thought I’d do - I was going to the Worlds. My sister had rushed back to hug me before they called my number out as 8th place. With tears streaming down my face, I accepted my medal, certificate and rose before taking my place.
If you can dream it and believe it, you can achieve it!
I achieved not one, but two childhood dreams that night. I qualified for the Worlds and I will get to compete in Ireland before I retire in 2019. So if I can do it, so can you!
Set out your goals. Make a plan on how you will achieve those goals and set your plan into motion. I can promise you one thing, it’ll be worth it.
Behold: a list of all schools from 2008-2016 that have won a solo world title. I’m assuming this hasn’t been done before? How it works is each champion will be counted once, regardless of how many times they have been champion. If any schools have merged together, their champions will be counted together regardless of if the title was won before the merge. If any schools have changed names, it will be under the most recent/current name. Please message me with any corrections (I’m sure there will be quite a few), and I’d be happy to send anyone the full list with names and all, if you want it. Enjoy!!!
Richens-Timms, Morgan, McLaughlin, Kiely-Walsh, Mulvenna, Aaron Crosbie, Curley, Scoil Rince Ui She, Comerford, Fegan, Inishfree, Turley-Duggan, Scoil Rince McDonagh-Timoney-Fahy, Lynn-O’Grady-Quinlan-Connick, Fiona-Gaye Moore, Anthony Costello, Rince na Tiarna, Croghan-Greene, Scoil Ui Nuallain, Flynn O’Kane, Scoil Rince Ui Bhriain, Teelin, Dennehy, Lambe, McGahan-Lees, Sheila Hayes, Smith-Houlihan, Broesler, Simpson, Ni Chearra-O’Baolain, Lavin-Cassidy, Kelly Hendry, Conway-Lally, Armstrong, McCutcheon, Coleman, McNelis Cunningham Boyle, Carol Leavy, Doherty, Caroline Greene, O’Connor, McTeggart, Higgins, Anthony Savage
So I might’ve gotten slightly annoyed and went and made a petition to CLRG to add an additional senior age group to the worlds syllabus. So you should go sign that thing. And tell me if I should add anything.
(I tried to indent and paragraph it out so it wouldn’t read like a friggin book but it wouldn’t save any of my spacing, so…)
Learn to lilt the difference between a reel and a slip jig. It needs to be obvious to the examiners that you know the difference between the two and can lilt/count it for the dancers you are teaching! I recommend picking your favorite reel tune and favorite slip jig tune and practice teaching a step while lilting the tune to your student. Once they have learned the entire step, lilt them through it, do not play the tune as it will be more helpful! Students can learn really quickly this way and it has been proven time and time again with my own students as a beneficial way to teach! This is why we are required to know how to do this as TCs!