Hoping to win - planning to succeed in Irish dance


There are many goals that can be set along the path to placing at a local feis or even for qualifying for a major competition such as the Worlds.  Helping your child outline clear and reasonable objectives will keep the dancer grounded and freed from the “if I don’t win, I lose” chokehold on their confidence.

Setting goals that are simple and attainable is the best place to start.  Use a gradient approach where the more realistic goals are listed first, followed by those of increasing difficulty.  Write them down to make them real.  For example, your dancer might list placing at a feis as her end goal.  Define the timeline to meet the goal, and do your part by making sure that s/he is registered on time for the feisianna you agree to attend.

Start by helping him/her map out a realistic practice schedule, taking all his/her other responsibilities and needs into account.  Encourage your dancer to create a chart showing the steps to be practiced along with the drills that build their technique and endurance.  Add days and times and remember a box for that gratifying checkmark!  Success is plainly seen on paper.  

I sensed my friend Margaret’s frustration with her children’s unrealistic goals and lack of practice outside dance class.  “My dancers have lofty goals about getting firsts to move up another level so they can wear a solo costume but they are lax about practicing at home.  I keep telling them, ‘these are YOUR goals, not mine’.  Don’t complain when you don’t reach them because you haven’t made the effort outside of class!”

A sympathetic teacher reminded me that while my daughter’s dance class lasts two hours, there are sometimes as many as twenty dancers running through the drills one at a time.  Fifteen dedicated minutes a day to start is realistic; perhaps one objective could be to increase practice by five minutes every week or two until a thirty-minute practice session is manageable. Set a timer to help the dancer keep it in perspective.

Having a concrete plan will alleviate parental anxiety and teach the dancer responsibility.
Remember to have a single goal with no more than five objectives to reach it.  If daily practice is the first objective, perhaps the second is a commitment to attend class regularly.  A third objective might include extra practice with a friend once a week or an additional dance class one weekend a month.  A fourth objective could be a morning and evening stretching routine, just a few minutes’ at the beginning and end of each day to focus on the goal and help the body stay limber.

Finally, remember that the dancer’s regimen leading up to a competition is important.  Perhaps the fifth objective focuses on sleep and nutrition, such as no sleepovers or fast food.  Again, write them down and check them off!   Other areas that might be incorporated into goal setting for older children might include cross training and the identification of a mentor who can serve as inspiration.

Using the single goal and specific objectives approach to competition makes Oireachtas and Nationals just another venue and timeline.  Partner with your teacher, encourage your dancer to share his/her goal and checklist and use adjudicator feedback to impress that success is a process.  Remember to help your dancer revise objectives as time elapses, engaging teachers to help measure improvement and make constructive suggestions.

Make ‘meeting a new friend in my competition’ an objective for every feis, and your dancer will always go home a winner!
There is always another feis around the corner.