10 Etiquette Tips for the Highland Games

10 Etiquette Tips for the Highland Games

Going to your first Highland Games can be an overwhelming experience. Proper attire, acceptable gear, travel, and let’s not forget you’ve got eight or nine events to compete in! In the whirlwind of the day, it’s good to have a basis of etiquette so you can enjoy the experience and mind your manners! Yet, I see too many seasoned veterans forgetting the very basics of etiquette in this sport; so, let me break down a few things you should know about “Games Day.”

  1. “Shag” or pick up your own implements – At most competitions, you’ll need to retrieve your own implements to throw. Now, if you’ve got a willing group, you’ll “shag” for two throwers in front of you, giving you time to rest and prepare for your throw while the person in front of you throws. In very few competitions will volunteers be scheduled to retrieve implements for you; even in those instances, help them by meeting them halfway and making sure you thank them for their help each time.
  2. Replace your weight – This next common courtesy goes hand-in-hand with the first one. In the weight over bar event, pick up your weight after you throw it and place it back under the bar. If it lands handle first or is covered in sloppy mud chunks, clean it up for your competitor. Now, when you put it back under the bar, set it down, don’t drop or throw it down. One of the worst things you can do is drop it and put a huge crater in the ground right where you and your competitors will be throwing from.
  3. Walk up the caber – After you throw the caber, you’ll need to retrieve it and walk it back for the next competitor. Keep in mind, you'll need two of you to do this (always carry the caber with two people and not alone, as a self-carry diminishes the caber in the eye of the crowd). So, each round, you’ll have to serve two turns carrying the caber back and standing it up for your competitors. If you are the last person with your hands on the caber, do not let go of it until the competitor is ready. Many people will say, “Your Caber,” or something else to signify they are letting go. Again, don’t let go until your have confirmation from the thrower that they have it balanced and are in control of it.
  4. No tacky on the handle – in the weights for distance, there’s a good divide of throwers who like to use tacky and those who don’t (if you’re like me, you like to use chalk on your hands). With that said, if you use tacky, don’t apply it to the handle directly. When it’s your time to throw, clean the handle with your towel and apply the tacky or spray to your hand or glove. Remember, these are “community” weights that we all must throw, so keep the tacky-crusted handle reserved for your practices at home.
  5. Bring it, don’t borrow it – There will be times when you forget your tape, run out of tacky or get your sunscreen spray confiscated by TSA. That’s understandable. What’s not understandable is when you show up to every competition without any gear.
  6. Sheaf Forks –Once you decide you want to throw consistently in this great sport, buy a sheaf fork. Don’t be the guy/gal who borrows a fork and breaks it; I’ve seen this happen a few times and it’s not pretty. And when it comes to fork borrowing, return it to the owner after your throw, and certainly don’t put the tines in the ground or throw it in anger after a bad throw. Show respect for that fork, and for the lender, because you may get denied use of it again (I’ve also seen this happen, and it’s not pretty).
  7. Hammer Handles – Again, you’re throwing a community implement with the light and heavy hammer. When you retrieve a hammer for yourself or another competitor, don’t drop the handle in the grass or drag it in the dirt. I’d even go to the extreme of not wiping it down with your towel, as that can leave little fuzzies all over the handle. Remember that you don’t need a ton of tacky during the competition, because every one of your competitors is putting tacky on the handle. 
  8. Crowd – Now, the “crowd” watching you may be as big as a few thousand down to just your wife and a random homeless guy who lives at the park. Regardless of the number, show them appreciation and answer their questions. When you waddle out in your hammer boots and blades, they will ask you about them. Remember, they paid to come watch you and are a big reason you have an avenue to do this sport. At many competitions, I’ll pick some time to just sit in the crowd in between throws; people seem to love this, and many times I've just absorbed a whole fan base for the rest of that event! Wave, clap for them and be sure to thank them for coming to watch. You may also be asked to take pictures with families and especially children; soak it up! What a joy that is!
  9. Clean up – One of my greatest pet peeves is the litter we competitors leave on the field, especially tape. I get it, we use a ton of tape in a weekend of competition, but we shouldn’t be taking it off our fingers or our wrists and throwing it on the ground in small bits. Make sure you police your area and clean up all your Gatorade bottles, tape, Little Debbie wrappers or whatever else you have. Again, these volunteers and directors have sacrificed a lot of time to let you compete – have some decency and clean up after yourself.
  10. Say Thanks – Highland Games don’t just happen; it takes months of planning and organizing by people and committees of throwers and … wait for it … even bagpipers! Be sure you thank the athletic director for his/her work on the event, and don’t forget all the volunteers that make it happen. From “shaggers” to score keepers, runners, and even security, it takes a whole bunch of people to pull this thing off! And, of course, don’t forget the sponsors. If you get the pleasure of meeting a sponsor, drop what you’re doing, shake their hand and thank them for making the event possible. If you’re a pro, realize they are the ones giving money so you can win some; for any thrower at any level, a simple “Thanks” can go a long way.

14 comments

  • Stephanie

    Also, “don’t annoy the score keeper after every throw” or harass us while we are doing the final tally. Your shiny medal could get taken away if you’ve cause me to make math error. That’s not pretty either.

  • George

    Well said. I especially like #8 as without a crowd there would be fewer games. I also have to agree with Len. Athletes should not be drinking alcohol during games for two reasons: there are a lot of people and especially kids who look up to the athletes and secondly, if heaven forbid an accident should occur the legal ramifications could come back to hurt us.

  • Len

    You forgot “If you are drunk and want to compete, don’t get on my damn field”. Also, “If the crowd is too close, make sure they know it isn’t an audience participation event and keep an eye on them.” Too many people want to get close to where they can take just the perfect picture. If you are a lefty and are about to do a warm up spin with the hammer, warn everyone. And finally, if the judges tell you to let go of the caber, we mean it, because we aren’t just worried about you, we’re worried about everyone around you.

  • Jen Gempler

    Thank you Dan!!! Your messages and word of encouragement are always spot on and a pleasure to read. Keep sharing your testimony and awesome tips and to God be the glory through you.
    God Bless you and yours!!!

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