[Motivational Intro Music]
Chelsea: When it's time for competition season, there are usually two types of dance teams: the ones who genuinely get along and enjoy working together (the dream teams) and then the ones who don't actually get along all that well or maybe even have some open animosity towards each other. We know that mutual liking for each other (you know, getting along) helps your cohesion and will help your team be successful. But we also know you can't force it. Sometimes it's just not there. So how do you help your dancers succeed when some big personalities and conflicts are happening?
Hi, I'm Dr. Chelsea. This is the Passion for Dance podcast, the show for passionate dance teachers and coaches. My mission is to change the dance industry by creating happier, more successful dancers through positive mental skills training.
Today I'm going to help you bring together the team of dancers who aren't clicking or getting along. When it's competition time, we want them to leave it outside and get the job done, but there is a way to use positive mental skills to help ensure success. Let me show you!
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!
Have you ever had a team of dancers that was incredibly talented and at the beginning of the season, you're thinking, “This is it. This is our year! This group is so much stronger than any group of dancers we've had. I'm so excited.” Then, as the year progresses, there's just this feeling of blah. They don't get along well. Maybe there's even some tension on the team, so when they dance as a unit, it falls flat. They can individually do the skills (the talent is there), but there's no spark onstage, there's no passion pouring out of them.
I had a team one year with a large group of seniors, and they definitely had some tension on and off the floor. They were so talented, but they were always comparing who's in front, who gets to do that section, who got to talk the most in practice. There was this underlying icky feeling and tension that was in our way. Our competitive routines were solid. They were clean, but there was no true power and fight. Dance teachers, you know the difference when a routine is well executed versus when it's powerfully executed. We were stuck in that limbo. It was just there, and I was struggling to motivate them.
We were a few weeks out from our big competition of the season, and it was just so flat. I was getting frustrated. They were frustrated. We were not coming together as a team, right? Just running it over and over again wasn't going to fix the problem. Maybe you've been there before. It is so frustrating and knowing how to motivate is challenging in this time, because they're just not clicking.
Social Cohesion – 3:13
Normally, when this is an issue, I work on social cohesion. It's what we normally think of as team bonding: getting to know the person behind the dancer and building a genuine liking of each other. Again, that's my normal first step. I spend some off time getting to know more about each other, break up some cliques, and focus on the social aspect of being a team.
Side note: there are actually two different kinds of bonding. Social is only one of them. I break it down for you in episode 108 if you're interested in more. They're both really helpful when it comes to this time of the year.
But, the truth is, some groups of dancers will never reach that solid social bond. There are either just too strong of personalities or, in my case of the year I'm talking about here, there's just some history between the dancers going back to elementary school, and it's not going to get solved with some team dinner and affirmations.
So what do you do when your team is falling short of their potential because they are just a group, not a team? How do you help them transform into a true team? Well, you shift their mindset.
Hey coaches and teachers. If you are new to the show, it might be a little overwhelming to know which episodes to listen to. You can always go back to the beginning and binge listen, of course, but I also know we don't have a single spare minute in our days.
So, to help you decide where to start, I have a short, five-question quiz that will tell you which episodes will help you with whatever is going on right now. It's kind of like a personality quiz, and after a few quick questions, you get a curated podcast list of the top five episodes that will help you most where you're at right now.
Maybe you need some motivation or inspiration, maybe your dancers need something to listen to for help, or maybe you're looking for a little boost of confidence. Whatever support you need, take the short quiz and find out.
Go to www.chelseapierotti.com/podcastquiz to get started. Click the link in the episode’s show notes, if that's helpful, and thank you for being here. I'm so happy to have you as a part of this community!
Prosocial Skills – 5:43
There's a term in psychological science called pro-social skills. It basically means doing nice things. Prosocial skills are anything you do to help or benefit someone, like speaking kindly, helping with choreography, comforting each other. And psychological research tells us that prosocial skills are the glue that transforms a group into a team. Instead of being a group of soloists, you can create a unit on the competition floor if you can encourage them to use prosocial skills, meaning we just need them to be nice to each other and encouraging and supportive.
But, now I know, if they aren't getting along, they're not going to use those skills. They attend practice, they do the drills, they run the routines, and they get out. So how do we coach them to use more prosocial skills? Well, shifting their mindset and reminding them of this simple, powerful truth: “You need each other.”
What really helps dancers transition from a group of talented individuals to a unit that can be that powerhouse together on the floor is if they learn that they need one another in order to succeed. Just putting together a talented group of dancers doesn't make them a team. We have to coach them to become a team. That's where your power as a coach to motivate can make a difference.
Yelling for more effort or saying it needs to be bigger will continue to fall flat if it's just a group of dancers and not a team. In fact, it starts to hurt things even more. They will side-eye each other, look at the dancer next to them, and think, “She isn't doing it, so I'm not either,” or “I'm hitting the turns. We only have to keep doing it because they keep falling.” It actually starts to breed more tension and resentment.
What those individual dancers don't see is they need each other. As coaches, we get that, but have you reminded your dancers lately? When we compete in teams, we truly need each other if we're going to be our best. Going out there and doing your best isn't going to cut it. You need the dancer next to you to give their best too. So how do you get the dancer next to you to give their best? Well, you support them, encourage them, help them use those prosocial skills.
For my team of talented dancers that year who didn't click socially, we were in a rut, and it was just getting worse and worse. The routine was well choreographed, the dancers could do the tricks, they could keep up with the athletic demand, but the routine was just there. It didn't sparkle. It didn't have any fire behind it. Dance teachers, I know you get me. It was technically sound, but I knew it wasn't going to score well. There was no wow factor or true passion onstage.
Return to Your Team’s Goals – 8:20
So, we had a talk about the fact that they need each other. We returned to our team goals. I asked everyone to write down their hopes for the season. They said things like: “A championship,” “No-regrets performance,” “The routine I'm proud of,” and after we had a clear sense of what they wanted (and they all wanted the same thing), I challenged them. Is what we have right now going to make that happen? They all kind of dropped their gaze, looked down, they knew it wouldn't, and they finally admitted, “No, what we can do right now isn't going to make that happen.”
So then I asked, “Is everything in your individual control to make it happen? Meaning if you, as an individual dancer, put in maximum effort by yourself, will that guarantee it happens?” They slowly started to realize, “No, it's not in my individual control. I need that dancer to hit her skills too. I need that dancer to perform and that dancer to help me hit the lift.” They all started to share what they needed from each other in order for the routine to be successful.
One dancer said, “I need Elise to tell me I've got this right before the turns. I always feel so much better when she does that.” Another dancer said, “I need Hannah to meet me early and go over yesterday's changes, so I'm more confident.” Another dancer said, “I need Kelly to give it a hundred percent effort on that section because her power is so big, and when it's next to me, it makes me work harder,” and on and on they slowly realized the truth. “We need each other. I may not like them right now, but we need each other, and if I have this big goal, I need to help them help me.”
That's when practices started to change. The dancers recognized that even if there is some outside history that's preventing a truly close social bond, they do actually want the same thing. They need each other to get there. If they go it alone and expect everyone else to do their part, it's not going to happen. There's usually just more tension and stress looking at everybody else about, “What are you going to do? What are you going to do?” And that conversation truly started to shift things, so if you find yourself in the same place, I know it can shift for you too.
Remind Your Dancers They Need Each Other – 10:19
If you're struggling to motivate your dancers during competition season, they might be waiting for everyone else on the team to pick it up before they'll go there too. It's a rare dancer who is okay being the only one working that hard, and I mean, those are a gem, but they're rare. Usually, dancers want to see everyone around them working to that same effort, but that means the whole team starts to settle for the lowest effort in the room.
Instead, remind them that if they want to reach their dreams this year, they need each other. So they better use those prosocial skills and work together for that no-regrets performance. Don't settle for it. Decide how you're going to help each other and support each other and build each other up to create the best possible performance you can have.
If this little mindset shift is helpful and you're looking for more motivational ideas, don't forget to take the podcast quiz at www.chelseapierotti.com/quiz, or use the link in the show notes. You just answer a few quick questions about what's going on for you right now. You'll get some new episodes to help you where you're at. And in the meantime, we all need each other, including me. I need all of you to make this show happen. So, sincerely, thank you for being here, and keep sharing your passion for dance with the world!