Congratulations dancers, teachers/coaches and dance parents on another year done and dusted! Competitions, performances and just week to week classes – we are all SO ready for this break!
Heading back into the studio after 6 weeks off can be a little daunting though, especially if you have spent the whole time in holiday mode. Muscles feel squishy, or brains are a little foggy, and many of us take a few weeks before we are back in the swing of things.
So how can we make sure we walk into the studio ready to smash 2018 right from day 1? Check out the tips below which will keep you in shape… without interrupting your holiday and chill out time!
Come on guys. Just do it. You already know what that first week back is like, and you don’t want a week of barely being able to walk! People always seem to think stretching will be time consuming but its truly not! Set aside just 10 min per day just to maintain where you currently are. Even if you don’t increase flexibility over the break, you have worked too hard all year to lose it now! So its just about keeping what you have! If you spent all year planting flowers and getting a garden to grow, you wouldn’t just let it die over the holidays would you? Not when all you need to do is take a few minutes to water it each day. Your body is the same!
A tip? When watching a TV show just stretch in the ad breaks! Stretch when you are on your phone, or when you are relaxing by the pool, or when winding down before bed.
The key? Even if it’s not for long, you do need to do it every day. Other wise there is no point. It’s like only flossing the night before you go to the dentist: Trust me if you leave it til the night before, the professionals can always tell.
This is easier than it sounds. You don’t need to be going to a gym or going crazy, just stay moving wherever you can. Play backyard sports with friends and family, go bushwalking, bike riding, swimming. Why not organise a fun day with your friends and have relay races or team fitness games in your local park? This is not working out instead of having fun. It’s just keeping active while you’re having fun! There are plenty of ways to stay moving without it being a chore. In Australia we have daylight savings now which is awesome for evening walks. Again you don’t need to push yourself or try to become more fit; this is about maintaining all the fitness you have gained over the year in class. After an awesome year of getting stronger and stronger, you don’t want it all to be a waste just because you spent the holidays being a couch potato! In that first lesson back, coaches always know who stayed active during the break. And if it wasn’t you, you will be able to tell the difference too – and not in a good way!
Wherever/whenever you can! Go to holiday clinics/classes/open gym. If your coach offers holiday privates, try to book in. You may even be able to share with a friends to keep the cost down. Some gym’s have dance style group fitness classes like ‘Body Jam’ that are fun for something different. If you aren’t able to take any classes in the holidays? Get your friends together for a dance day! Stretch and practice skills together, you can even choreograph your own routines together! Even if you can’t get together with your friends, get your earphones in and dance around your room – even that counts! If it is keeping your body dancing and keeping you in the dance frame of mind (thinking about technique or at least creating/remembering combos), it will make you that little bit less rusty when you come back, and that’s definitely a good thing!
Goal-setting is SO valuable! The most simple way to do it is to write a list. Keep it short and very clear. Exactly what do you want to achieve? These goals are 100% up to you, no one else needs to know and they don’t need to be the same as anyone else’s. Split your list into short and long term. What do you want to achieve by the end of Term 1? And what do you want to achieve by the end of the year?
Examples of good goals:
- Get my back hand spring (any skills like a tumbling skill or a specific leap or pirouette is a very clear goal)
- Improve my balance in my pirouettes (not just your balance – be as specific as you can. On what skill? Why?)
- Improve my fitness and stamina (pick one area to work on like: fitness, flexibility, strength, balance, turnout etc.)
- Be more outspoken in class (Or maybe yours is to not talk so much in class! Goals don’t all have to be physical, they can be about you as a person. Maybe you want to make an effort to talk to more people in your class, include more people not just your best friends, be a better role model to the younger students, or to be more organised so you don’t always forget your tap shoes this year. All of these things are awesome goals too!)
Put this list in your diary/planner or on the wall of your room, somewhere you can see it often so you will keep the goals in mind and hold yourself accountable. Starting your year with very clear intentions will make a world of difference to your focus. The next step is to make an action plan for each goal. A goal is great but what are you going to do to achieve it?? If you are stuck, chat wih your coach/teacher about your goal and see what their advice is. They can help you with tips for during class and at home.
(Shameless plug: To step your goal-setting game up a notch, you can purchase a custom Athlete Progress Journal, please contact me through Letters from A Dance Coach on facebook to order)
Holiday – in moderation!
Holidays are a time when the rules can relax a little. Bed time is not so strict, healthy eating is definitely not so strict (especially around christmas time!) and we get to enjoy plenty of laziness and treating ourselves without training, homework or school to worry about. ENJOY all the things that come with holidays, you have earnt it! But the magic word: MODERATION!!
OF COURSE on christmas day you can eat lollies and a big feast and gingerbread and ice cream – it’s christmas! But maybe we don’t eat that much every day. Maybe little treats here and there are still fun. Of course you have earned your chill out time to relax! But maybe sitting down on your ipad every day is not the best way to look after your awesome healthy body. No school to wake up early for? Of course you can stay up later and watch movies with your friends, but maybe not every night or you will end up too tired and your body clock will be crazy!
It comes down to looking after yourself, and being kind to yourself. It might seem great to be lazy, stay inside on the couch, stay up late, never drink water, and have lollies for lunch every day BUT if it is making your brain and body tired, lazy and out of shape that is not being kind to the amazing body that you have. You will regret it in February when you are puffed out just from climbing the stairs to the studio, before class has even started!
Remember: EVERYTHING IN MODERATION – this really means everything, even your exercise and stretching! So this holidays, have fun, relax and treat yourself, but make sure give your body some love when you can too – you will be very glad you did!
Happy New Year and THANK YOU for reading my first few blog posts! See you all again when Term 1 begins!
Congratulations! If you are reading this, it might be because you think your coach/instructor/teacher is “picking on you”. Do you feel like you are always being corrected, or like your coach calls your name allllll the time in class, or that they are on your back every lesson? They probably are. And here’s a quick breakdown of why its actually a positive thing.
1. You are capable!
Your coach will simply not waste their time and energy telling you over and over to do something if they know you can’t do it. Trust me. If you are being corrected or told to do a particular thing it’s because your coach knows that you can physically do it! Dance and cheerleading are not sports for dummies. You really do need to be intelligent to do well. Hearing a correction /note and having the ability to make your body do what it is being asked to do is not easy, and it is not a skill everyone has! Complex notes are given to the students who are smart enough to put them into action. If we see something that’s not quite right but we know it is the absolute best you can do, or that you aren’t physically or mentally up to doing better than that, you won’t be called out. It’s as simple as that.
Your teacher can also get annoyed and frustrated (and yes, a little loud) when they see potential in you and know that you are capable of doing better. One of the most frustrating things for a coach in any sport is trying to help an athlete who is not reaching the potential they have! If you are being corrected it’s because we know you can do better! So take the corrections and notes as a positive that your teacher sees potential, intelligence, and capability in you!
2. You are NOT the dancer next to you.
Another reminder of the cheezy saying “Everyone is different” But it is TRUE! You are not the dancer standing next to you. The best coaches of any sport know this, and are able to not only coach a whole team at once, but address and teach each individual in the way that suits their needs. One dancer might get a lot of positivity and ‘coddling’ while her friend gets a stricter, more hard lined approach. Particularly in younger teams this is common as teachers know which approach gets the best out out each student.
So, let’s look at an example. You are leaping from the corner and the first dancer is not perfect but the teacher simply says “good job Sally!” Then you take your turn and give much more technically correct leaps – yet instead of “good job”you hear “Longer back leg Suzie!! Softer hands!!!” HUH!? Why are you corrected and not Sally??
Do not. Worry. About Sally. Because you are not the same as her. She is doing her thing and you are doing yours, it does not matter if you are ‘better’ than another dancer or if you are ‘worse’. Your notes don’t come from comparing you to the others, they are notes for you. Just for you. This lesson will serve you well throughout the rest of your dance career – and life!
3. Your teacher cares.
Mushy ending point, but again, it’s true! You know this. If we didn’t care about you, your future, about you reaching your potential or feeling rewarded and proud of yourself – we would not persist. And when we get frustrated or raise our voices or get emotional, it is because we care! You won’t get much of a reaction from someone who just wants to have a nice night, get paid, and who doesn’t really mind whether you improve or not.
Please remember how much you as an individual person are valued by your coach. We spend a loooot of time working with you, tracking your growth, thinking about the best ways to teach you and how to bring out the best in you, strengthening you flaws and celebrating your improvements with you. We talk about you to your other teachers, we get to know your personality and what makes you tick. We go home after class and wonder what else we could do to help you. Yes, specifically YOU! Please don’t forget how much you mean to your teacher or coach, and try to take that cranky correction or frustrated note as the display of love it really is.
Food for thought:
Are you coming to class to have someone sit and watch you dance? Or are you being coached? A class where your name is not mentioned at all, is not a good class. Whether it is a positive comment or a constructive one (or in a really great class, it will be a mix of both types of comments) your teacher is paying attention to you. They aren’t zoning out wondering what to cook for dinner when they get home. They are actively watching you and are engaged with what you’re doing. When you think of it this way, maybe you do have a pretty great coach after all.
A last note on negativity:
In this blog post use the term “picking on” because it is something young athletes say. “Miss Such-and-such picks on me” refers to the teacher always calling them out or correcting them. Comments from a teacher can get absolutely loud or passionate when we are frustrated, and yes we do yell (either to be heard over to music or just to get a response from you; we keep the energy way up high as much as possible!) and I won’t pretend that we don’t get fired up from time to time. HOWEVER corrections should never be mean-spirited or insulting. All dancers/athletes need a thick skin as they are constantly being corrected. Corrected. Bullying is different. Please make sure you know the difference and know what the intention is behind your coach’s comments. Is the intention to help you improve? Or is it to make you feel bad? If you feel like you are being bullied by anyone, a classmate, friend – or even a teacher – that is never OK and you need to speak to a parent or another teacher about it.
SO! Next time you’re in the studio, listen to the comments being made by your teacher or coach. Appreciate the intention behind the comment. And do you best to put it into action! Your coach already knows you can.
Hi dance family!
It’s been a while! Life has been crazy busy over the last few weeks, between diving into owning my own business, dance judging interstate, working on freelance choreography, and teaching my own students (concert time!!!) it is allll happening! Things got a bit hectic so thank you for sticking with me; I’m happy to say that more dance posts are in the pipeline again now and we are back on track! SO! Without wasting any more time, let’s just jump right in, here is your reminder to what NOT to say to your dance teacher! Of course we are dancers who count in 8’s so it makes sense that there are ‘5,6,7, 8′ points listed below! I hope this post encourages you to think twice next time you are about to say one of these, and remember to try the “instead” option – its all about the little things that make you an awesome student, and keeping your energy in class positive, focused, and respectful!
1. “Can we do *such and such* today?”
While your dance teacher will always be very happy that you are eager to learn/practice, and it is great to show initiative, this one for me is still a no-no (and drives me crazy) for a few reasons. Whether you realise it or not, your lessons are planned by your teacher who spends a lot of time thinking about the lesson and the students in advance and knows exactly what they are doing. Even when it seems like you are “just” stretching or “just”running through a routine, trust that this is for a reason and nothing your coach ever asks you to do is random. It is a little disrespectful if we are in the middle of an exercise and you ask to do something else – it shows that you don’t respect the teacher’s call, or maybe you are just not giving the current exercise your full attention.
Instead: Choose the right time. I always appreciate enthusiasm and do want to know what things you would like to focus on, so please find a time outside of class to come and see me. If you want to focus on specific things or want more practice on something let’s talk that over and see what we can do. I would bet that your coach/dance teacher already knows what it is you’re going to ask and has a method in mind, trust the process!
2. “Can we just mark this one?”
Are you dying?
(Don’t even ask. No coach wants to feel a ‘can’t-be-bothered’ vibe from any dancer while they are trying their best to teach a great class! And no team mate in your class wants your lethergy rubbing off on them! Don’t kill the vibe! If you are getting tired or feeling unfit then that is even more reason to push yourself to dance full out! Don’t give in to he urge to take a rest. It is when you are tired and out of energy and push yourself for just one more leap or just one more kick… that is when you grow. And trust me dancers, whether you realise the benefits quickly or even in a few years time, you will thank your coach later!)
Instead: To your coach if you think you need to: “may I take a drink break please? I’m feeling really tired.” OR to yourself: “You can do this! Push through!”
3. “I need to take it easy today because…”
“Take it easy” just kills me. Two clear options when you are sick/hurt:
A. Do you have an injury or illness that requires time off? Your teacher needs to be told about it before class and will also expect to hear what you are doing about it: when is your physio appointment, have you been treating it, etc.
B. If you can’t walk, you are excused and may sit down. Different teachers will have different views on this, here are mine: Please still come to class if you can (unless you’re contagious): you need to see what the class is doing so you stay up to speed, and your teacher will appreciate you making the effort. But sit down the front and watch/listen. Half heartedly dancing/limping around the dance floor just makes it harder for everyone else. As a choreographer trying to watch the routine I can’t see the overall visual if one person is not dancing properly, you also draw my eye throughout the entire class. The vibe is then also set. One person it marking or taking it easy, before long another person is too, then the energy of the whole team is diminished. Do you reeeeally need to ‘take it easy?’
This is not to say you aren’t allowed to be unwell or injured! Of course let your coach know if something is not right. Just realise if it is something you can dance through, or not, and then which action do you take? Really it should be one or the other.
4. “What time is it?”
I’m sure its common sense as to why this is rude, but I will admit that as a young kid I once got in trouble for asking this! So for the sake of any younger dancers reading the blog I will explain. Just like asking to “mark it”, asking the time implies that you are waiting for the class to end. You aren’t focused, you aren’t enjoying the class, and most of all you don’t want to be there! Maybe when you are older you will have opportunities to teach. Its then, when you are standing there in front of a class of teenagers (or minis who can be just as overwhelming!) that you realise how important the dancers’ attitudes are to the class. There is nothing worse than having a class prepared and be out in front giving it your all, only to see disinterested faces looking back at you.
Keep focused, you can do it! Classes are just not that long, you will be finished when the teacher dismisses you!
Instead: There is nothing else you can ask in this case, but check your thoughts and why you are wondering about the time? Maybe you’re hungry and need to have a better snack before class? Or maybe you are bored because you aren’t paying attention and staying focused. Nothing in dance is boring if you are thinking about it correctly, even a demi plié needs focus.
5. “I know”
This one is for the teenagers. If you were already stretching your feet you would not be being told to stretch your feet! “I know” or the infuriating “Yep” or (god forbid) even the faintest eye roll in response to a correction or instruction is not going to get you anywhere – except maybe out the door! Keep the back chat to yourself and take every correction on board. Your teacher is a teacher for a reason, they can spot your flaws easy and call you out only because and they want you to improve. You may be the best 13 year old dancer on the planet but you don’t know everything. It is not a personal attack. It is not being said to purposely annoy you. Just stretch your feet.
Instead: “Yes Miss Brittany”, “OK”, “I don’t understand what you mean” is also totally fine, OR you can say nothing at all, and by applying the note straight away your teacher knows you are listening and working on it.
6. “I don’t know this part”
If you were away last week, dancing til halfway through the routine and then just standing there in the middle yelling out “I was away I don’t know this bit!!!” while everyone else dances around you trying not to crash into you is one of your teacher’s least favourite things. (Don’t laugh mums, this happens weekly!) Trust me, I can already tell that you don’t know it, I can see that for myself!
Instead: Jump off to the side during the part you don’t know and start copying and learning! No one in the room wants to spend another 20 mins of the class going over what we already did last lesson. If you are old enough to take the initiative, you should find a friend (bonus points if this happens before class, hallelujah!) and ask her to show you what you missed. Time is precious, people!
7. “She’s not doing it right!”
This is mostly for the younger dancers. The teacher can see everyone, and if Suzie isn’t pulling up her knee we don’t need you to tell us, and Suzie certainly doesn’t need you to announce it to the whole class!
Instead: The golden rule for Minis: (and one we can all remember at every age) worry about yourself! Eyes on the mirror please Sally, your knee isn’t perfect either!
8. Folded arms
True this isn’t technically something you say… but it kind of is! We dancers know that the body is capable of speaking a thousand words with one movement. Please think about your body language teenagers! If you were standing in front of a group of 15 yr olds what would you want to see looking back at you?
Instead: Stand up straight on both feet, uncross your arms, un-glaze your eyes, and look like you are paying attention, this will not only fool your teacher but you will end up tricking yourself into being focused too!
BONUS: 5 Things you should always say:
- Hello – to your teacher and all your classmates, acknowledge everyone (not just your best friends) this gets your class off to a positive start and is just good manners.
- Thank you – whether it was the most amazing class you have ever taken or the most boring, thank your teacher. They have given you their time and attention and deserve respect.
- Yes – to everything! Nothing is lost by giving it a try, and by the same token, nothing is gained! Ditch the attitude, or self doubt, or embarrassment, or laziness. Whatever it is, it’s holding you back! Start saying yes!
- Great job – notice when your classmate is being praised by the teacher, or when they improve or try something new. A quick clap or few words of encouragement no only makes them feel great (with almost no effort from you) but it keeps the vibe of the whole class positive. It all adds up.
- In general, just be respectful and remember that your relationship with your coach is a two way street: you will get out of it what you put in, and neither one of us can make you successful on our own. Team work makes the dream work. Communicate when you aren’t sure of something, ask questions, engage and respond, let us know if something is wrong and keep us in the loop with how you feel you are are progressing. Realise the mutual respect and a happy relationship between you are your coach is a foundation for eeeeverything. Work hard for your coach and they will work hard for you, every single time.
Thank you all for taking the time to read this! I hope it impacts your next class – happy dancing!
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