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.
When is it time to quit?
When is it time to move on? I’ve spoken to many people who consider ‘fun’ sports to be something that only children take part in, something that is dropped when university work becomes intense or first part time jobs start to require our time.
Of course some of us sadly withdraw from dance/cheer or other sports due to injury or other reasons beyond their control, but what about all those athletes who quit because they believe they have to do so in order to grow up?
This post is for the athlete thinking of moving on. I have a few thoughts to put to you.
Recently I saw one of those motivational videos on facebook, designed to convince you to spend your time doing more of what makes you happy. (I will put the video link at the end if anyone is interested.)
In a nutshell, the guy draws a little timeline of the average life. He circles the part of the line that represents how many years of your life you spend working (spoiler: its most of them) bookended by two much smaller parts of the line. This gives a visual representation of how the 2 fun parts – childhood and retirement – are tiny lengths of time in comparison to ‘the working years’. The point was basically, get a job you love and stop waiting for retirement to enjoy your life. Makes a lot of sense. Great video.
SO as I do with pretty much everything, I couldn’t help but apply it to dance. And I don’t make videos, I write blogs. So here is my dance version of that video, in blog form:
Here is your life (Obviously we don’t all live to be exactly 90, give or take a little, who knows. Its just an example, people.)
If we’re lucky, the majority of us dancers start to learn dance during early childhood, usually before the age of 10. Many lucky dancers do start around 5 or 6 years of age, although if you didn’t start til late primary school or even early teens, this chart would look even worse for you! So for the sake of the exercise, let’s say we start at 5 years old.
We spend many years in the studio, making friends, developing skills such as strength, agility, flexibility, coordination. We develop artistry – learning to understand expression, musicalty and performance quality. We become a team player who is there for our team mates and who has a whole team supporting us. We create bonds with our teachers and with the other students who are there because of the same passion that we have. We overcome self doubt, push our limits, and celebrate our successes. We compete, perform, and enjoy that amazing feeling of having it all come together of stage. We make lifelong memories and have an absolute ball doing what we love.
During those years, dance is our world. It is of huge importance in our young lives.
For many of us, in our late teens when we take on jobs or university (or both) we begin to prioritise our education or careers and we stop dancing.
Here’s the interesting thing. All of that stuff I just spoke about? Yes it’s such a huge and important part of our life, but here it is circled on the chart.
Yep. Even if you hang in there til age 20, that red circle is you dancing.
Now as I said earlier, many high level dancers suffer injuries that make continuing on impossible, but so many of my ex students have spoken of “growing up” “moving on with their life” and “putting their heads down”. All valid reasons to step away from a time consuming passion, right? Someone studying to be a teacher or doctor has no reason to continue to dance. The stress of time management when it comes to juggling study and your part time job, plus family time and good old fashioned rest.
Well, a topic for another blog at another time (and there are already countless in exhistence on this topic) is the tried and true list of skills that make dance worth sticking with, such as time management, goal setting, confidence, teamwork, memory and focus. Its also the perfect way to give a stressed out, hard working brain much needed balance – time away from the desk and moving your body with your friends. The problem with dance is that we enjoy it. If something is ‘fun’ its not considered as important as study or work. It’s “just for fun”, so it can be sacrificed when our schedules start to fill up with grown-up stuff.
After looking at the chart, my advice is to really think about life without dance. Is cold turkey the way to go? There are alternatives, even for the ex-competition star who was in the studio every night training every discipline and is now too overcommitted with work to continue that training schedule. Maybe you don’t have to compete. Maybe you drop to a once-a-week recreational class. Maybe you pick your favourite class and only come on one night to contemporary or hip hop. If you can make it work, please do it. Keep your body and your brain working the way a dancer’s body and brain works (its a thing!). More importantly keep yourself in the community and part of the studio family you have grown up with and achieved so much with. The social aspect of dance is as important as any of the other parts. Because once you do decide your time is up and you hang up the dance shoes, these are the years you spend not dancing:
Hows that for perspective!?
I don’t know about you, but that chart is enough to keep my feet moving for a few more years!