Ep. 122 Transcript - Dr. Chelsea Pierotti

Ep. 122 Transcript

[Motivational Intro Music]

Chelsea: Hi, it’s Dr. Chelsea! Welcome to the Passion for Dance podcast! Today, we’re gonna talk about the mental skill of grit. Even if you're not familiar with the term, you've probably seen it. Grit is in the dancer who works so much harder than the naturally-talented dancer who slides by. Grit is in the dancer who doesn't quit on a new skill and in the dancer who gets back up every time she falls. I’m sure you've seen it as a coach and a teacher. The hard-working dancer always goes further in life and in dance.

But do some dancers just have grit and others don't? Well, I don't think it’s that simple. I believe we can teach our dancers to have more grit. No matter how much talent they start with, we have to help them take it as far as they can go. So I’m here to share how we can teach our dancers to have grit.


[Motivational Intro Music]

Welcome to the Passion for Dance podcast. I’m Dr. Chelsea, a former professional dancer and dance team coach turned sport psychologist. This podcast focuses on four main pillars: motivation, resilience, mindset, and community. Each week, you’ll learn actionable strategies, mindsets, and tips to teach your dancers more than good technique. This is a podcast where we can all make a lasting impact and share our passion for dance. Let’s do this!

[Motivational Intro Music]


Before I even get into the what and the how, I want to ask, as a coach, can you imagine a team full of gritty dancers? I mean, how incredible would that feel? When you have dancers with grit, everything about coaching becomes easier. It’s not easy to create a team of gritty dancers, but we can try to encourage it as much as possible. So what is grit and how do we get it? 

Two Key Areas of Grit – 1:51

Well, there are two key areas to focus on when it comes to grit. By definition, grit is the combination of passion and persistence. That means that in order to increase grit in your dancers, you want to encourage a healthy passion for dance and then teach skills that lead to persistence. Let’s start with passion.

Passion – 2:12

Passion is a strong inclination towards an activity that you like or find important and invest time and energy in. I know it’s kind of funny sometimes to come up with a definition for something that you just feel, but that’s what it truly is. Passion is something you care about that you put a lot of time and effort into. Psychologists who study passion have also found that, on average, passionate people spend eight-and-a-half hours a week for at least six years working on the thing they're passionate about. So I bet by that definition, you are a passionate dancer and probably a passionate teacher and coach as well.

The challenge is not all passion is created equal. There are two kinds. There’s harmonious passion and obsessive passion. It’s important to really help our dancers find that harmonious passion. I actually have a whole breakdown of the different kinds of passion in episode 39 if you want to learn more about that. But the short of it is that harmonious passion means you dance for the joy of dance, you feel that being a dancer is a part of your identity, you may believe, “I’m a dancer,” but it’s not such a big part of your identity that it takes over all of who you are. You freely choose to work at it and experience joy and happiness when you do.

The flipside is obsessive passion, which is when you feel like dance controls your life and is the only thing you're good at or the only thing that makes you feel best, takes over all aspects of your life, and passion for dance comes at the expense of everything else. Of course, we want to encourage more of that harmonious passion.

So I encourage you to notice what passion looks like in your life, and then try to notice it in your dancers so you can see if someone else has experienced harmonious passion as well and maybe is feeling controlled by dance or has lost their passion altogether.

One of the ways to teach grit is to encourage that harmonious passion. Of course, we can't force our dancers to be passionate, but you can encourage it. Harmonious passion means you find the joy and you’re working consistently so you avoid intense, hard physical and mental work followed by big breaks. Instead, you foster harmonious passion: slow, consistent effort that includes healthy breaks and time for fun. You can't let dance overpower other areas of your life or your athlete’s lives.

You will naturally see ups and downs in the effort of your dancers, but the  most productive pace for improvement is a constant pace that’s sustainable. You focus on stable, hard work, not peaks and valleys. Training consistently throughout the year gives you the space to keep it fun and encourages your dancers to find their own harmonious passion for dance. So passion’s the first half of grit.

Persistence – 4:58

The second half is persistence. If we want to improve grit for our dancers, we can focus on that harmonious passion, but the main thing we can really have an impact on is teaching them skills for persistence. We want our dancers to achieve more, to strive for bigger and to push themselves. We want them to persist.

So teach your dancers to give consistent effort towards a long-term goal, and that doesn't mean you only set the long-term goal. You want to set lots of little ones that break it down and kind of work through the small pieces of it, but you want to help them see that you want long-term, consistent effort towards something bigger.

You’ve probably seen this effort in the dancer that won't give up on a hard skill or a middle-school or junior-varsity dancer that doesn't give up on the goal of making that senior team, or maybe you've seen the coach who’s consistently driven to excellence no matter what accolades or trophies he’s received. It’s the hard work and persistent effort that leads to actual skill improvement and better performance.

Achievement, Talent, and Skill – 6:03

So if better performance is the goal and we want to show our talent, where does that talent come from? Psychologist Angela Duckworth explains talent with this deceptively-simple math equation, and I know this can be kind of hard when you're just listening but stick with me. She says, “Achievement equals skill times effort.” If you want to be competitively successful or professional, it comes from a combination of skill and effort, but she breaks it down even further, and this is where it gets interesting.

Where does skill come from? How do those incredibly talented dancers gain their skill? Well, skill is a combination of talent and effort. Sure, there is something to be said for natural talent, but it is a smaller piece of the puzzle. There are lots of dancers who struggle at first, it’s a little awkward, but as you work on it, you give every ounce of effort you have day in and day out, those dancers gain skill at a faster rate. So skill comes from whatever talent is there times a lot of effort.

So if you put the definition together, think about what happens. Achievement is talent and effort times effort. Effort shows up twice in this equation for achievement, and again, I know you don't have a visual, but just the idea is talent and effort create skill; skill and effort create achievement. So what I’m getting at is that someone twice as talented who doesn't put forth the effort will never be as successful as someone half as talented who puts in the consistent effort.

Teaching your dancers to enjoy the effort, feel pride and work hard, and rewarding effort over talent all encourage grit. Grit is that difference maker. Passionate people tend to be successful because they put in the effort. It’s no accident. Remember grit is that combination of passion and consistent effort. It’s a lot easier to give consistent effort if you're working towards a goal you're passionate about.

How to Encourage Grit in Your Dancers – 8:11

Okay, bottom line: put all those together. How do you encourage grit in your dancers? You challenge them. Don't let them quit. Challenge them regularly. Let them fail. Teach them how to recover from failure. Show them you're proud of their effort. Teach them to find gratification in small improvements and be proud of effort and growth even if the outside trophies and rankings don't come out the way you want.

Consistent effort leads to a better performance, and that’s usually what our dancers really want. So help them understand that achievement comes from consistent effort, and we can control our own effort.

So if you want to be successful as a coach, consider this. Science has shown us that those who persist in a goal they are passionate about end up on top. You can't force your dancers to be passionate, but you can teach them the value of persistence and consider your own goals as a teacher too. If you want to be successful in your own career, you already have the passion, or you wouldn't be here. So focus on your persistence. Every challenge in front of you is an opportunity for growth. Failure is a part of growth. Find gratitude and happiness in your small wins and remember to celebrate your own effort. That way you will continue to make a positive impact on our dance community, and, as always, it will allow you to keep sharing your own passion for dance with the world!

[Motivational Outro Music]

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