Ariel Bennett, ADCRG, is a teacher and judge who has been Irish dancing for 30 years.
The day of a feis can be extremely stressful, and when you’re stressed it’s harder for you to dance well.
A good way to help you manage your competition-day nerves is to make a plan, like a to-do list, of everything that you’re going to do to get ready for the feis. You should write the plan out, either by writing it on a piece of paper, typing it on the computer, or putting it into your phone. Be as specific and detailed as possible. Writing the list out will help make all the steps concrete in your mind, and it will give you something to look at to keep you focused.
Here are some things that should be on your feis day plan:
What time you’ll be getting up
What you’ll be eating for breakfast—it’s extremely important to eat breakfast the morning of a feis
Will you be doing any of your preparation (hair, makeup, etc) at home?
What time you’ll be leaving home to get to the feis venue
What you’ll be doing when you first get to the venue (picking up your number, finding a place in the audience for your parents to sit, etc)
What kind of warmup you’ll be doing at the venue and when (will you warm up before you put your costume on or after? How long before you dance will you warm up? Will you do multiple warm-ups? Remember to make a plan for keeping yourself warmed up/pumped up if you end up of having to wait a long time before dancing)
What time you’ll be doing your hair, putting on makeup, putting on your costume, putting on your shoes, etc
What you’ll be eating for lunch/dinner/snacks—be sure to plan to eat something, because if you don’t eat, you’ll run out of energy on stage
What you’ll do while you’re waiting to dance. This is an important one, because if you don’t have a plan, you might end up sitting there and stressing out, which will make it hard for you to dance your best. Give yourself some specific things to do: practicing, stretching, visualizing your dances, talking to friends, doing relaxation exercises, positive self-talk etc. Simple activities like listening to music, reading, card games, or coloring can also give you something to do that will keep your mind occupied while you wait.
What you’ll do between dances (will you stretch? Warm up the next dance? Have a snack?)
What you’ll do when you’ve finished dancing
Making the plan ahead of time will help focus your mind on some specific activities you are going to do throughout the day, and it will give you goals to complete for each phase of the competition. Having these specific steps will make you feel more confident in your preparation, and it will help keep you from worrying about the factors that you can’t control.