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Top Competition Secret? It Begins the Night Before

Top Competition Secret? It Begins the Night Before


If you are like me, you are serious about your competitions. We work on our tunes for months or more. We study at Dojo U and with instructors to fine tune our skills. We buy the best equipment to achieve the best tonal quality we can. And we sign up for competitions to learn how much our piping has improved.

Here in the South (Atlanta, GA) one can travel 5 to 8 hours to get to a games, so spending the night before in a hotel is common. Most of us tend to think “VACATION” when we travel, and we act accordingly. Meeting up with bandmates or friends at a pub or restaurant the night before, we'll enjoy a few pints and some fun food. And then there's the Friday “scotch tasting” put on by many games committees. We’ll stay up too late and get a poor night’s sleep in a strange bed. We’ll grab some waffles from the free hotel breakfast, or wolf down some Scotch Eggs at the games. Then we’ll drag ourselves over to the judge and wonder why we don’t sound as good as we did at our last practice session. What are the "secrets" to make sure this doesn't happen?

  • Eat sensibly. The night before the contest, choose complex carbohydrates like whole grains and pasta over greasy fried foods. The morning of the contest, eat some cereal and fruit. Try to eat two hours before you play.
  • Get sleep. Allow extra time for falling asleep. If you are rooming with a snoring bandmate, you may want to use your earplugs. Don’t skimp on the hotel. I find that mattress comfort is closely aligns with the room rate – in other words, pay a few extra bucks for the room, it’s almost always worth it.
  • Be early. Going to bed early allows you to wake up early and take your time getting ready to go to the contest. Arrive early at the games and you’ll get better parking and have time to check out the locations of your events.
  • Watch the alcohol. Too much fun the night before will impact your sleep and leave you achy, drowsy and dehydrated. On contest day, wait until the last note is played. Some may suggest a “wee dram” before playing to calm the nerves, but I’m pretty sure that is simply a placebo effect.

You take your competitions seriously enough to work hard leading up to game day. Don’t let the 24 hours before take you out of the prize list. And once you finish, you’ll have reason to celebrate with some good food and drink, instead of drowning your sorrows.

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Tom Crawford Tom Crawford is Pipe Major for North Atlanta Pipes & Drums and a piping instructor in Marietta GA. He’s been piping since 2000, when he began his studies with Winter Taylor. Tom has played rock, blues, country and Celtic music for nearly 50 years. He’s been a member of Keltic Kudzu since 2006, where he plays mandolin, bouzouki, whistle, and of course pipes. Tom has played and competed up and down the Atlantic coast, as well as in Canada and Ireland.