Winning bagpipers come from all different ages, stages, genders, styles, geographic regions, etc. However, bagpipers that win competitions (regardless of their grade level) all have one thing in common.
Do you have the answer?
Yep, that's it. It seems totally obvious, almost to the point where it may come across as insultingly obvious. But, let's think about this for a moment.
Why do bagpipers win contests? Let's look at what seem to be the top three reasons, and identify the painfully obvious theme:
Reason 1: "They've Got a Great Teacher"
This is probably the most common reason pipers seem to be able to consistently win competitions. They are simply really well taught. If a player's teacher has won all the great contests, they will be able to teach their pupils to do the same. Right? Perhaps.
My argument, however, is this: What is the underlying essence of great teaching? A great perspective, molded into a specific learning "regime," and then consistently reinforced over a long period of time...
That's the exact definition of a plan.
It's true, this might be one of the best overall plans for becoming a winning piper, but it's a plan nonetheless.
Reason 2: Money, and/or Time, and/or Resources
I hear this reasoning a lot: "Oh, that piper simply has all the money and time in the world to buy all the great gadgets and resources, and to travel around to every single contest on the circuit!"
It's true. This does happen. As a matter of fact, I butted heads against quite a few of these types of players on my way through the grade levels. However, is this something to criticize, or is it simply another version of a plan?
It's actually a pretty good plan, if you think about it, if you do indeed have the time and the money. What better way to be successful than to literally surround yourself with every imaginable tool and experience that could make you better?
Reason 3: "Talent"
This is one I heard all the time growing up, as I was known as the kid with incredible talent. Also, I didn't seem to practice that hard, or to need to try overly hard to win competitions. Lucky me, right?
Well, I honestly don't think so. I think "talent" is a word for those pipers that naturally (and even without realizing it at times) immerse themselves in bagpipe music, to the point where the winning characteristics are ever-present in their playing.
But, whether this immersion is on purpose or not, it's still a pretty solid plan for success. If you eat, sleep, and breathe bagpipes - what better plan would there be to winning a bagpipe competition?
Ok, So What's the Point of All This?
The point I'm trying to emphasize here is this: Pipers that win contests have a very specific game plan that they've implemented in order to win (whether they realize they executed a plan or not). Day-in-day-out work, monetary investments, time-investments, eat-sleep-breathe-bagpipes lifestyle... these are all elements of the winning game plans.
Meanwhile, if you've recently gotten a bad result at a competition -- can you honestly say you fully implemented a specific game plan and still did not come up with a good result? In my experience, there's a high likelihood (i.e.... it's never the case) that the answer is no.
So, what if you don't have unlimited time and resources to put into a bagpiping game plan? Am I saying all hope is lost?
Of course not!
But... you will need a plan. And, this plan does have to put you on a successful trajectory, and include all of the key "ingredients" that you'll need to be successful.
Enter the 6 Month "Blue Print"
So, as myself and my staff here at the Dojo met with these realities as we taught more and more students of all ages and stages with real life conflicts to deal with (like school, work, family, etc), it became increasingly apparent that a plan was the common denominator that would determine success.
The students that took our advice and implemented it systematically in their practicing did well, and the ones who didn't..... well, they didn't do well!
So, we started to draw out a game plan for our students, that they could use as a literal step-by-step guide to prepare for a competition. The plan worked backwards from the goal date, and focused on key performance elements in a systematic and simple way.
And, guess what started happening -
You guessed it - an overwhelmingly higher percentage of our students started to do well in competitions. As a matter of fact, in 2015, pipers who committed to our 6 month plan took a prize at their contests 87% of the time. (Yes, we actually did keep track, just for kicks). And actually, pipers who were only able to do the last few months of the plan did very well also.
Do you have an actual plan you're prepared to execute for your coming solo competitions? If not, you owe it to yourself to get on a plan and execute! It really is the common denominator that winning pipers share!