[Motivational Intro Music]
Chelsea: Hey, dance, coaches and teachers. I have a question. Real talk: are you too hard on yourself? When you leave a competition, do you start thinking about the next event as soon as this one is over? Are you a little too self-critical and don't allow yourself any moment to just enjoy the present? It's that quick sense of, “Okay, time to move on, get better. I must keep climbing.”
If everything isn't perfect during a competition, do you beat yourself up over it? We talk about perfectionism to our dancers a lot but are you a perfectionist? Do you know how to handle your own deep-rooted perfectionism so that it doesn't cause you to burn out?
Well, if that's you, welcome! You're listening to Passion for Dance, the show for passionate dance teachers and coaches. I'm Dr. Chelsea. My mission is to change the dance industry by creating happier, more successful dancers through positive mental skills training, and today, I want to focus on your positive mental skills. Yes, you, the coach, you, the teacher, the mentor. I want to make sure your own perfectionism isn't getting in the way of the joy of teaching. So let's talk about perfectionism and coaches, and maybe give yourself a little pep talk like you can do so well for your dancers.
To all of my recovering perfectionist dance coaches out there, this episode is brought to you by the dance coach membership, Relevé, a community for dance coaches on the rise. My community is always open for new members, and it's designed to help you create a team of committed, hard-working dancers while supporting you first. I've learned a lot by coaching other coaches over the years, and one thing I know is we need clear action plans. When we're in the midst of a challenge, we need somebody to help us figure out what to do, and we're not meant to do this alone.
So I created a membership to help all of those dance coaches out there who want to elevate their own coaching within a supportive community. You can head over to www.chelseapierotti.com/membership to learn more about how to join us inside this membership where you will get the support and guidance to find a new level of joy and success in coaching. It's www.chelseapierotti.com/membership. You'll also find the link in the show notes.
Okay, if you're a perfectionist coach and you're still with me, let's get into today's episode!
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!
Awareness of Your Own Self-Talk – 2:46
I'm recording this in the middle of nationals season. Some teams just finished. Some are heading in this week. Others have a month or so to go. But nationals is on our mind for many of us or maybe it's your big state competition or it's just that peak competition season. I know there are so many emotions during all of those little moments throughout a championship.
You get on the plane, and there's that excitement. This is actually happening. Checking in at the big tents, helping everyone get their hair and makeup done, walking to the warm-up floor, and that most dreaded coaching moment and competition, pushing play. Why is that so terrifying? I don't know why. I personally hate it. I can't breathe. I can't think. But, needless to say, nationals or any big event causes a lot of emotions for us, the coaches.
During all those moments, big and small, do you feel 100% confident the whole time you're there? If you're human, your confidence probably wavers, no matter how experienced you are, and I'm here to tell you that's okay and normal. We all have a lot of stressful moments as coaches, but we are usually so wrapped up in our dancers and making sure everything is perfect for them, we don't always take care of ourselves and our own mental state.
The national finals are multiple days, emotional ups and downs, little sleep, physical exhaustion, team laughing fits, moments of terror and absolute joy. When you're going through all of those moments, it's important to be aware of what you were thinking and what you were telling yourself. Your own self-talk is vitally important.
Self-talk is exactly what it sounds like. Anytime you have a thought, you are talking to yourself. Just like with dancers, self-talk can be a major asset as a coach or an awful hurdle to overcome. It's vital that you are self-aware during these big competitions. So take a minute and notice your thoughts. “Is what I'm thinking right now really the best thing for me? Is it going to help me be the best coach I can be?”
If you're walking back to the warmup floor and think, “Oh, wow, this is scary. It's happening,” you're probably an excellent coach, have a wonderful, positive smile on your face, and everything is outwardly great. But if you allow yourself (yes, allow yourself) to have these negative thoughts take over, you deserve better and you can do better.
Negative Thoughts Steal Your Energy – 5:06
There's significant scientific evidence to support the horrible, devastating effects of negative self-talk. We know how bad it can be. Your own mental toughness during these challenging days can change everything for your dancers. Having negative thoughts can quickly distract you. That's the big challenge. It's not so much that they are directly harmful. It's that these negative thoughts and second guessing and stressing are taking your energy away from where it should really be.
Maybe after a mistake, you might start to label yourself as a bad coach, rather than taking this honest evaluation of what happened, and then allowing that unhelpful thought to float on by and not take over, because when it takes over all of the space in your brain, there's nothing left for the encouraging, positive, and disciplined coach that you are to shine for your dancers. I personally struggled with negative self-talk for years, and if I'm being honest, I still do sometimes. I'm just better at recognizing it now and allowing it to pass.
For example, when it was time for awards and the team was holding hands (you know, heads bowed), I was usually pretty awful to myself. I actually never went out on the floor with my dancers. You know, it depends on the context whether that's normal or not. I was always off in the corner because my thoughts were terrible. I would be thinking, “Oh, I didn't do enough. This isn't going to happen,” or “I should have done that differently. I'm so sorry, girls.” All while we sat and waited for just those few minutes to hear what actually happened, I would let my thoughts run away.
Mindfulness When Coaching – 6:40
But don't let yourself go down a rabbit hole of negative self-talk. This may be surprising to hear, but I'm not actually telling you to never have a negative thought. That's not realistic, and some psychological theories suggest don't even try. Our brains are wired to protect us and keep us safe, so we will have thoughts to kind of get out of danger and make these things go away all the time. You can't stop it.
But, as a perfectionist coach, you will be hard on yourself. You're a competitive, passionate person. But you can recognize the negative thoughts and then release them before they go on too long or cut too deep. Again, it's not about stopping them. It's about noticing them and letting them float right on by so you can focus on what matters.
I finally learned to notice when I started to have those scary, negative thoughts and purposely let them go and think about something else that was going to help. The basics of how it works is that it's rooted in mindfulness, and you may have talked to your dancers about being more present before they compete. You know, “Don't worry about that warm-up floor or the turn section that's one minute into the dance.” We tell our dancers to be present count by count.
Are you staying mindful and present when you coach? That's the idea here. When you're letting these negative thoughts run away with you, you're not present anymore. You're focused on something that already happened, or you're worried about something too far in the future. And mindful coaching is about being more present in the moment, so you can notice when those unhelpful thoughts are there (like you made a mistake or you should've done something different) and just let it go, release it, and coming back to the present moment.
There's a lot more on this. It's rooted in what's called ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy or training) that is being brought into sports psychology. And if this is something that is interesting and you want to learn more about being a mindful coach, let me know. I'd love to dig into this topic even more. Let me know how you're feeling, if this is helpful to you. I think it's a new area within sport that is a very different way of dealing with negative emotions. It's not about stopping them and thinking positive because, be real, thinking positive isn't always possible. So instead, let's be more mindful. Notice when it's unhelpful, intentionally release it, and come back to the present, so you can be that impactful coach that you need to be in those high-pressure moments.
Remind Yourself How Capable You Are – 9:06
My point today is this: remind yourself how capable you are during your next competition. Stay focused. As much as you would tell your dancers to be present moment to moment, try to take that same advice to yourself.
There are a lot of things out of your control at a large competition (the order, the judges, the weather, everyone else's mood), but you are in charge of your own focus. So keep your focus in the present. Be kind to yourself, and if you take care of yourself with some simple, positive, self-talk, some simple focus to be present in the moment, you will be that much stronger and the coach you want to be for your dancers. I believe in you. If you believe in yourself, your passion and talent as a coach will shine through.
Thank you for being a part of this community, and I encourage you to consider the idea of being more mindful and present when you compete at your next big event. And while you're there, keep sharing your passion for dance with the world!
[Motivational Outro Music]
Thank you for listening to Passion for Dance! You can find all episode resources at www.chelseapierotti.com/podcast, and be sure to follow me on Instagram for more high-performance tips at @dr.chelsea.pierotti. This podcast is for passionate dance teachers and coaches who are ready to change the dance industry by creating happier, more successful dancers. I'm Dr. Chelsea and keep sharing your passion for dance with the world.
[Motivational Outro Music]