Things I Learned as Highland Games Newb

The Highland Games, like any sport, comes with its own set of rules to learn and quirks to discover. While learning to throw logs and rocks can seem intimidating, it doesn’t have to be.

Here are three things I learned my first year that I wish I’d known sooner.

Ask Questions

I ask a lot of questions – unless I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing, in which case, I shut up. It was months before *”Tines,” “Shag your weights” and how to score a caber toss made any sense to me. Rather than ask someone, i.e., my mentor about all these new rules and terms – I just sat back and observed.

Don’t let the fear of looking stupid stop you from asking those beginner questions. Everyone started where you are now, with similar questions and struggles. Most athletes are more than willing to stop what they’re doing and demonstrate technique, give a word of encouragement, or offer a smile to the beginner. So ask away with a humble spirit and open ears to learn.

Weight for Distance - Light.  Photo Credit: Joel Searcy
Weight for Distance – Light.
Photo Credit: Joel Searcy

Show Up

I don’t just mean physically, I’m talking about mentally showing up for each game and practice. For much of the season, this was just my hobby – a place for me to try something new. My commitment was lukewarm at best.

My mentor and friend said to me once, “If only you took this seriously. You’re built for this sport.” Even at the time she said this, I didn’t really have a desire to improve my game.

Going for a PR on my WOB - Weight Over Bar @ 11' Photo Credit: Joel Searcy
Going for a PR on my WOB – Weight Over Bar @ 11′
Photo Credit: Joel Searcy

We will never know what we’re capable of until we show up and give 100%. This is something I’m still learning in the sport of the Highland Games. Taking risks with our time will pay off. Just like regular practice will improve your throws, mentally giving 100% will improve your drive.

Buy A Kilt

This last piece of advice might sound like a sales pitch, but stay with me. You know the saying “Dress for the job you want”? The sentiment applies to the Highland Games.

As a member of Utah Heavy Athletics, you’re not required to purchase a kilt for their local games since they are geared toward learning the sport. It wasn’t until Scots on the Rocks, my first festival game, that I was required to throw kilted. So I bought a kilt.

And everything changed.

Not only will you look like a serious athlete during the game (even if you aren’t), it might possibly be the most comfortable way to throw. Roomy, soft, and airy. A bonus for us Scots: Our tartan’s are a source of pride and helps to connect to our family history.

Event: Scots on the Rocks '14 Photo Credit: Joel Searcy
Event: Scots on the Rocks ’14
Photo Credit: Joel Searcy

The Scottish Highland Games are a great way to spend some time outside, connecting to your roots and learning something new. Take the opportunity in your first year to connect with other athletes and learn from those around you – it truly is a community sport!


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