Ep. 147 Transcript - Dr. Chelsea Pierotti

Ep. 147 Transcript

[Motivational Intro Music]

Chelsea: Have you ever showered your dancers with praise and encouragement in an effort to boost their confidence and it feels like they just don't hear you? Or maybe you're trying your best to celebrate all of the success, that it actually starts to feel fake? Sure, you want to praise your dancers when they are doing things well, but is too much praise a bad thing?

You're listening to Passion for Dance, the show for passionate dance teachers and coaches. Hi, I'm Dr. Chelsea. My mission is to change the dance industry by creating happier, more successful dancers through positive mental skills training. And when you're trying to motivate your dancers using positive coaching, you might focus on celebrating the small wins, cheering them on, praising every step of growth along the way. That all sounds good, and I have talked about the positive impact of celebrating small wins a lot. But let's talk about the flipside. Do you really want to celebrate everything? I'm going to tell you all about what psychologists call the Good Job Coach, and as it turns out, the Good Job Coach might not be as motivational as you would think.

And before we dive into the episode, I have a quick resource I wanted to tell you about. Some teams, especially school teams, are starting to plan and organize your end-of-the-season banquet. So, while we're talking about praise and celebration, I'm here to help you come up with some new awards and things you can celebrate at your end-of-the-year celebrations, if you have one.

You go to www.chelseapierotti.com/banquet to download a list of 40 award ideas that you can use to help celebrate all your dancers this season. Grab your free copy at www.chelseapierotti.com/banquet, or click that link below in the show notes to help you get started. All right, let's talk about too much praise and what that can do to your dancers. 

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[Motivational 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 Music]

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If you are a coach or a teacher that believes in praising and encouraging your athletes, I'm sure you've resonated with a lot of this podcast. You're a part of this community for a reason. I certainly advocate for coaches who focus on the positive approach, which is all about highlighting the good and celebrating wins rather than punishing bad behavior and shaming mistakes. When you're cleaning dance routines or teaching a turns and leaps class, we spend a lot of time correcting our dancers' form and offering feedback about how to improve their skills. Along with that is a lot of, “Good job! Nice work!” thrown in to help encourage our dancers to keep working hard.

How Often Do You Praise Your Dancers? – 3:00

When you're motivating your dancers, focusing on growth and progress and celebrating success can be a much better motivator than punishing a mistake. But how much do you praise? Stop and think about that for a minute. If you were to record yourself teaching for just 20/30 minutes, how often do you think you praise or encourage a dancer?

Let's take just a simple across the floor progression in a jazz class, just a small snippet of a class. If you say ten things (that might include teaching a combination, correcting form, emphasizing musicality, fixing counts), how many times are you also saying something encouraging and inspiring to them or praising them, or is everything just teaching? When I first thought about this and learned about the research around a Good Job Coach, I decided to go ahead and audio record myself for a section of class. It was one when I was actively teaching and cleaning, and so, I had a lot to say.

So I went home and old-school transcribed the whole thing. Now AI would help so much, so you have no excuse not to give this a try, but I old-school sat down and transcribed it myself. And after that, I looked at the transcript, at each sentence and categorized it as either teaching, praise and motivation, or punishment/redirection, which could be something simple, like getting them to come back after a water break or asking them to focus if side conversations were getting in the way. So everything I said on the recording fell into one of three categories: teaching, encouragement, or redirection.

Honestly, going into this, I thought I would be the coach who praised a lot, and that's why I was worried about being a Good Job Coach. I'm generally pretty positive and upbeat. It turns out, I was almost all teaching and instruction, a little redirecting, and maybe one positive thing. And initially, I was shocked but when I sat with it, I realized I think positive comments a lot, but turns out I don't say them out loud all that often. I would think, “Ooh, that looked better,” or “Ooh, nice correction. She heard me.” But then I didn't often say that out loud. So I made an effort to make sure I was saying those things out loud in the moment. And I got better. I could tell my dancers felt lighter and happier.

But after a while, it started to feel like I was saying too much praise, like I wasn't offering corrections anymore; I was just worried about praising them. And, ultimately, isn't my job to coach, to actually teach them something and offer feedback about their skills and performance so they can get better? That's when I really dove into the research and learned about the Good Job Coach, because it turns out there is such a thing as too much praise – being overly positive at the expense of helpful feedback.

A Good Job Coach is someone who praises and celebrates pretty much everything. No matter what is actually happening, they say, “Good job. That was great,” even if that run-through was terrible or the halftime performance was completely flat. And you know what? Dancers know when you're placating them. They know when a run-through wasn't actually any better or when their skills are not hitting today. So just being happy and praising and showering compliments is disingenuous and can really hurt their motivation.

Because what happens when you get a fake compliment? Well, you don't believe it, and then you start to not believe the real compliments either. You lose trust in that person. That's the downside and, really, the scary part of being a Good Job Coach. You might mean well, but you're actually just undermining yourself. The dancers will stop believing you.

Finding Balance Between Praise, Instruction, and Redirection – 6:34

So, if you don't want to spend all your time praising and being a Good Job Coach (but we're talking about a positive coaching approach – I don't want to just teach and never say anything good), what's the right balance between praise, instruction, and redirection? Well, guess what? Science has told us.

So it varies a little bit based on age and the level of the dancer, but a basic rule of thumb is around 70% of the things you say are instructional, 20% are motivational, and if you have to redirect everyone once in a while, you can do it, but use that sparingly (maybe 1 in 10).

So if you're cleaning or correcting a routine, you shoot for a balance of about seven times of instruction, two or three pieces of praise or inspiration, and that includes being hyped up and loud when the music is playing. That's motivation. That's encouragement. So those two to three pieces of praise or inspiration can be the motivating, inspiring, loud coach, as well as actual spoken compliments. So seven pieces of instruction to two or three things of praise and inspiration, and then only one thing of the ten would be redirecting focus if you need it (you may not even need it), and no punishment.

Now, these percentages aren't a hard line, but it's a good guideline to think about. And if you're up for it, go ahead and record yourself for a little while when you're teaching. Sometimes what you think you say and what you actually say might be different.

Be Specific With Your Feedback – 8:02

And before you go, here's another important part of giving a lot of instruction and praise: the most effective feedback is contingent on what you're actually seeing. So rather than just saying, “Good job! That time looked great,” it's about being specific about what was great and what you saw. Good judges understand this so think about it like a judge.

If you get a generic compliment from a judge, it feels like, “Oh, they say that to everyone.” But if you get something really specific to the routine they just saw, that feels so much better, and you're more likely to take it to heart. Praise and instruction from any coach or teacher that is specific and tied to that dancer and that routine will not only mean more to the dancer, but they're more likely to take that corrective feedback and make a change. So, when you are giving a lot of great actual coaching and instruction, make sure it's contingent on what you're really seeing. Then throw in some motivation and praise.

Always End on a High Note – 9:00

And, finally, there is one time during a rehearsal when you should always praise your dancers (and you don't have to worry about being a Good Job Coach). That one time is to end on a high note no matter what, as much as possible. Leave rehearsals with praise and compliments that are really specific to what just happened. Do you want to praise a certain run of the routine or improvement in focus today? Maybe you want to celebrate someone's effort or simply the positive energy in the room. Whatever it is, end on a high note with contingent praise for your dancers today. The last thing you will say will stick with them, and what you say over and over again will become their inner voice. So help them leave thinking positive thoughts about their own abilities and growth.

So there you have it, the Good Job Coach, or someone who praises all the time, isn't actually going to motivate her dancers or be seen as a positive influence. It starts to feel fake. So, instead, focus on actual teaching and instruction (you know, why you're there). Focus on the teaching part (we're good at that), and then sprinkle in the positives at a roughly four to one ratio, and then redirect only when you have to. End on a positive note, and you will have a group of dancers who can not only hear your feedback and try to implement it, but also feel good about their own growth and effort. That's how you become a coach with true impact.

Thank you for listening, and, again, if you're starting to plan for an end-of-season banquet to celebrate your dancers, grab that list of 40 different award ideas to spark some new creativity. It's at www.chelseapierotti.com/banquet or link in the show notes below as well. Thank you for being that positive coach with impact and being a part of this wonderful community. Keep sharing your passion for dance with the world!

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[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]

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