Lessons We Learn on Comp Day
Hi Dance friends and family! So much for my goal of fortnightly posts, I am already a day late on this one! The last 2 weeks have flown by. I had a post prepared ready to go for this week’s entry, but after a huge 3 day competition this past weekend I decided to write down a few thoughts I was left mulling over instead.
Dance teachers are just that: teachers. We do our job primarily in the studio, but we are also coaching and teaching our students during their competition. Children in particular take something out of every experience and never stop learning. So here are a few of the valuable things (written for both dancers, coaches, and parents) still soaking into our little human sponges during comp time.
Self (and coach) performance evaluation.
Yes, coaches do tell the kids when they did something wrong on stage. No, we don’t just tell them that as long as they had fun that’s all that matters. This is because that attitude of “close enough is good enough” does not do any justice to the dancers themselves. Telling you you’re great when you are, and that you’re not when you’re not, is what the hard working dance student deserves to hear.
When the dancers really do a great job, we of course celebrate and make them feel as good about themselves as possible, which they absolutely deserve – but how will they get to enjoy these moments if we are just always telling them how amazing they are?
A great thing about most All Star comps is that you get to watch an instant video replay of the performance after you come off stage, which is an extremely valuable coaching tool. The kids have just come off the floor so the performance is fresh in their minds. To have a visual tool they can then compare with what they felt they did (as opposed to what it actually looked like) means we can take them through a play-by-play of the routine, so generally the dancers will watch the video with the coach speaking over the top of it giving running commentary. They know to keep an eye on themselves as well as the overall picture, and to make mental notes of what they thought was good and what they would like to improve on next time. Our dancers are usually right on the money and know where they can improve, self correcting is a skill you continue to hone as you develop as a dancer and smart dancers are often able to do it without much prompting. Coach commentary is always a mixture of both negatives and positives, as they happen. Its usually simply “Sally that supporting leg” ( or even just a quiet “Sallyyyy” is enough – Sally knows.) and then we are straight onto “great timing guys!” literally on the next beat.
The dancers who can connect the coaches correction with what they see on the video or in the mirror in class and can apply the note quickly are the ones who progress the fastest.
Yes, we do call out individuals both in class and at competitions. We are never nasty or personal with the correction (I promise, no teacher is ever yelling “point your toes” just because they hate you!) but we will mention the dancer by name. Dancers, when you are on a team accountability is so important, and it is a tough life lesson to learn. It is something that carries over into your adult life though and makes for a strong young adult. In cheer for example, your whole team can drop from first place to fourth simply because one person landed their tumbling badly (among many other things) and she every other member has done their job correctly, the disappointing result is literally because of that one person. No pressure.
The lesson? Own it. Grow from it. Apologise to the team if its really that bad. Move on. And the rest of the team? Accept it graciously. Learn from the mistake as if it was your own (because if it hasn’t already been you, it will be some day!). Forgive. Move on.
At every dance school ever, parents will every now and then raise concern about coaches “singling out” their child or correcting them “in front of everyone”. If this is happening to you/your child (which it is, because it happens to them all!) trust me it is not a negative thing. You grow a thick skin, and even better, you very quickly stop making that mistake. Out there on the dance floor you can’t blame anyone else. We know that you do your best every single time because of this! In your post-dance adult life wherever you find yourself living and working, you will be able to quickly identify your own mistakes, own them without the need to throw anyone else under the bus, and correct yourself swiftly. Accountability is a tough one to get the hang of, but so important.
… but not getting in “Trouble”.
Very rarely in a dance class or at a competition does a dancer actually “get in trouble”. They are spoken to if they did something wrong. They are corrected. Our voices get more forceful the more times you make that same mistake. But as long as you are trying your hardest and giving 100% then no matter what goes wrong, you are not in trouble. Half the time a little pair of eyes will dart straight to the coach when something isn’t executed well, and the facial expression we give back is all the dancer needs! Dancers please remember, if you’re being corrected it is because your coach/teacher cares. If we thought you weren’t worth it we wouldn’t bother!
Supporting your team.
Another one that flows on into other aspects of your life. A good team player is a good member of staff, team leader, business manager. This means everything from congratulating the member who performed well, to psyching everyone up backstage and staying positive, to supporting the person who didn’t give their best performance. Sometimes you come off stage knowing you crushed it, only to realise you have been let down by someone else not performing quite as well. How does a good team member respond to this? With strength and positivity towards all team members. Helping them recover for the next performance. Realising that all ups and downs are shared as a team. Remember, YOU as the dancer create the team you want to be in. The phrase “your vibe attracts your tribe” is true. Set the tone of support, positivity and encouragement and you will be pleasantly rewarded with how the day pans out.
Dealing with disappointment.
Sportsmanship is something all coaches of all sports teach their kids. You clap for everyone and remain professional at awards presentations even when you don’t get the desired result. You never ever carry on like a sore loser. No one wants to see a tantrum because you performed badly, or because you thought you would win and didn’t. HOWEVER. Disappointment is part of the game, and if you are upset with your performance or the result, it is because you care. This is a good thing! When something goes wrong, it doesn’t pay for coaches and parents to say “it doesn’t matter”.
It does matter.
To say “don’t worry about it” or “it doesn’t matter” diminishes the hours of hard work you have put in, the dedication and passion you have, and the effort that went into the performance. It does matter.
Instead we can say “Next time it will be better” “We will keep working on it” or if it was a one off, encourage the dancer to focus on the positives of the performance. The coach can broach the subject again at the next training session. A disappointed dancer is not always a bad thing. A disappointed dancer is usually a goal-setting, hard working, passionate dancer.
The art of moving on.
Important both in class and on a competition day. Take the criticism or correction seriously, and acknowledge the mistake BUT : Do not get worked up (no tears!). Do not dwell.
Dancers, if you are upset with yourself or have made a mistake, acknowledge it and make a mental note to look at it at your next class. Then erase it from your mind. The last thing your team needs is a dancer who is still in a negative frame of mind for the next performances – all that will happen is your performances will steadily get worse and worse!
Just think: “Yep that was disappointing – I know why that happened/didn’t happen – OK let’s nail this next one!”
That attitude will make a world of difference.
Same goes when you are corrected in class. Taking it personally or taking on a negative attitude will create a mental block for the rest of the class. Take the criticism, apply it, and off you go. Chances are the next thing your coach will say to you is “Great job!” and you can both move on and keep working.
The takeaways: take every opportunity to self-improve. Trust your coach. Give 110% ever single time. Acknowledge and correct, then move on.
Thank you for reading another little note from my brain! Please feel free to leave messages and comments, and share this post with your dancer, dance coach or dance parent. Enjoy the rest of your comp season! xx