Ep 165 Transcript - Dr. Chelsea Pierotti

Ep 165 Transcript

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Dr. Chelsea: Training new dance team leaders can be a challenging and time-consuming process, but it's important. What if you could get your captains to own their role right from the start? That's why I created Journey to Elite Captain. Whether they have an official title or are just the leaders of your team, it's the only course that will turn your dancers into leaders without the drama while teaching them how to navigate confrontation, how to communicate effectively, and I guarantee you'll feel the weight coming off your shoulders right away. If you're ready to get started, visit www.chelseapierotti.com/leaders to learn more.

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Welcome to Passion for Dance. I'm your host, Dr. Chelsea, and today I'm going to continue the conversation about team leadership. Last week's episode was all about identifying a truly committed team leader and how to help the whole team be more committed.

There is an entire spectrum of commitment, and it's important that any leader is one of the top two tiers. So if you missed that and are considering a formal team leadership this year, go back to episode 164 and check that out. Today, however, I want to talk about three reasons not to have dance team captains or formal leadership, especially in high school and college programs.

Now, usually I am pro team leadership. There are so many good things that can come of it, but that's only true if it's the right people. There are team dynamics and situations where formal leadership doesn't make sense. So here are my top three reasons not to have dance team captains and what you could do instead.


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Hi, I'm Dr. Chelsea, a former professional dancer and mental performance coach. I know what it feels like to be a passionate dance teacher who cares about your dancers, but you want to challenge them and help them be their best, and I also recognize that some traditions and teaching practices in the dance world are harmful. So I'm on a mission to change our dance industry by creating happier, more successful dancers using positive mental skills.

When you understand how to help your dancers with their confidence, how to find their own motivation, work together as a team and more, your dancers will unlock new levels of competitive success and happiness. And it's not just about them; you deserve the same. So we'll talk about how dance teachers can use positive mental skills to be more confident, resilient, and motivated as well.

Be sure to hit “subscribe” wherever you listen to podcasts. There are new episodes every Thursday, and each week you'll hear from me and my guests with advice and actionable tips for building mental toughness, covering topics about mindset, motivation, resilience, and building a community. Passion for Dance is a show designed to help dance educators like you have a positive impact on every dancer you teach.

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Team Captains – 2:46

Most school dance teams appoint two-to-four upperclassmen dancers to function as captains on their team. They are there to help with choreography, run sidelines, generally set the standard of commitment and hard work for the team. However, many coaches fall into a trap of appointing a few seniors as captains just because it's what's always been done, or coaches believe you're supposed to have captains, or the dancers are expecting it and feel entitled to that leadership.

So someone is appointed no matter who it is or how prepared they truly are, and when the wrong type of people are designated captains, it's a recipe for disaster, especially regarding your team culture. So if you don't feel like you have strong leadership this year, you get that just feeling in your gut that you know, it may not work well, consider what would happen if you didn't have captains. But even that should be done with intention.

So while there are some huge advantages to having captains, and in general I advocate for it, they certainly aren't essential. And in fact, appointing a captain just because he or she is a senior or just because they are technically strong could hurt your team if they're not ready. Some teams function much better without captains, and some teams might change it up year to year depending on the dynamics of that specific group. So here are the main reasons I would advocate against having a formal captain.

First Reason to Not Have Captains: Returning Dancers Show No Leadership Potential – 4:06

Reason one is if you believe you are entering a season where there isn't strong leadership potential. There will be years you have a group of returning or veteran dancers where you just don't think they have the skills it takes to be a good leader. You know it in your gut that they're not ready.

I would ask you to pause, though, and see if it's possible to train them. If you could train them up to be the best leader they could be, then you still would want to think about having them as leaders because it's actually true for a lot of dancers that they may not be ready right now, but they could be amazing.

If your upcoming leaders need a bit of training, that's okay. Don't be afraid of the work or skip having captains, because usually the benefits of well-trained captains outweigh the time it takes to teach them. But the reason to actually skip captains for a year is if you're returning dancers really show no potential for leadership or they're actively hurting your current culture in any way.

Maybe they struggle with commitment, or no one is particularly adept at choreography or motivating teammates or doing the jobs you would hope they would do. If truly no one is returning to your team who shows any propensity for being a leader, don't appoint a formal leader just because you're supposed to or just because they expect it. Just because it's the way it's always been doesn't make it the right decision.

Second Reason to Not Have Captains: A Division of Power Would Cause Conflict – 5:26

Reason two is if you have too many strong-willed or qualified dancers on your team where a division of power would actually cause conflict, trust your gut and don't appoint leadership. One year, I had five excellent candidates for captain, but we usually only have three, and I was a young coach, so I thought I had to keep leadership structure the same every year, so I picked three, among other ways that we had decided who it was going to be, but we ended up with three.

Looking back, one of the two who was not named a captain would have been excellent, and she has actually gone on to be a wonderful coach, and I think the team lost out on what she would have added for us that season. I got caught up in my “only three captains” rule, which was silly, rather than considering what this particular group dynamic deserved.

Now, the good news is because that dancer was such a good leader, she was a wonderful role model without the title, which is why she should have been captain in the first place, because it's the person who would do it without the title. But she would have been stronger and more influential if she had the title or if there weren't captains and we did something different with all five who were truly ready to be leaders.

That said, in my particular example, the three who were selected were also great, but there was no reason to not have any of them be captain. So maybe it would have been smarter to let go of tradition and have a leadership committee, which I'll share more on that later.

Third Reason to Not Have Captains: Brand-New Team or You’re New to the Program – 6:51

And the third reason to consider not having captains is if you have a brand-new team or you are new to the program. So if you are creating a new team at your school, you are a new coach to that particular program, or maybe you're creating a new JV team, those are all great times to not have captains and divide and conquer instead, kind of let things naturally develop first.

One team I was consulting with had a varsity only for about five years and then were finally able to establish a JV and hire another coach. And in that first year of that JV team, pretty much everyone was at the same level of experience and motivation, and it didn't make sense to have a captain. They wanted one. They were already starting to fight for it, and it was causing problems. So instead the coach decided to have a leadership committee, which in the case of that year was actually the entire JV squad because they were all returning sophomores who all wanted to contribute, so everyone contributed in a different way.

Every group has a different dynamic. And on that team, the newly established JV had a group who everyone embraced the idea that they wanted to contribute to creating the new team. So there was no reason to elevate some dancers to formal leadership and leave others behind. So no captain for that new program really helped establish what they wanted as a group and everyone had a positive contribution instead.

Create a Leadership Committee – 8:12

So whether you just don't see any strong leadership coming up, or you feel like you have too many and picking is going to cause a problem, or you have a new program, what do you do instead of formal leaders? Because even if you don't name captains or have formal leaders, leadership will emerge naturally.

So if any of those apply to you, then you can certainly consider no formal captains and allow leadership to naturally emerge or consider a leadership committee. Instead of traditional captains, you can take all of your seniors, your upperclassmen, whoever you want to be included based on your specific team dynamic and create a committee. Just as you would with any group of captains, you outline roles and duties you want your leadership committee to be responsible for. Then you can take that list of roles as you determine it to be important and divide them among the committee or even the whole team sometimes.

I've seen this work really well if you lack leadership potential and you're just hoping to spread it out so that everybody contributes a little bit, or maybe, again, those teams where too many people are qualified and ready to step up, and there's no reason to pick among them. And I've definitely seen it work well, especially in college teams, where there's a lot of leadership talent. A leadership committee allows more people to be involved. It can reduce burnout by spreading the workload and can reduce the drama and fighting in a strong-willed class of dancers.

But if you do this, it's still really important to outline roles and expectations or else you end up with a bunch of dancers who’re like, “Well, I'm not really a leader, so I'm not going to worry about it,” and then no one steps up. So it's important to lay out roles, expectations, and duties. Even if there's no title, everyone should still be committed and ready to do their part.

Assign Leadership Roles Based on School Majors or Passions Outside of Dance – 10:00

One special approach you can use as a college coach that I've helped some programs establish is to assign a leadership role based on their majors in school or their actual, you know, passions outside of dance. For example, if you have a few dancers who are Primary Education majors, maybe they're in charge of the Junior Prom Clinic during basketball season where younger dancers in the community come to a clinic and perform. Or if you have Marketing or Communication majors, they can be in charge of social media or promotional items. Health Science majors could be in charge of creating conditioning or proper warm up at practice. The stronger technical dancers could be in charge of choreography or planning halftime and sideline appearances.

A similar idea works for high school or college to create committees based on individual strengths, whether that's your actual major or just something you are good at. You could have the practice committee who leads warmup and conditioning, a game day committee who leads the team on the field, and calls sidelines. The organizational committee would decide what spirit wear is appropriate, communicate the details to the team, send out a packing list if you need one for big events and travel. The social committee can organize team bonding events, charitable work, you get the idea.

Ultimately, the sky's the limit for how you organize your committee. But the point is that you divide all the roles and responsibilities based on individual strengths. Then you get the best out of each of your dancers, you still get help as the coach, and everyone contributes. So again, it's outlining roles and responsibilities. Give your dancers some autonomy, some choice, some investment in how they want to contribute.

So whether you choose to have formal leadership or not, what matters most is you do what you believe works for your current team. And I encourage you to consider all of your options, from traditional captains to a leadership committee, and pick and choose what you think will benefit you and your team. I also firmly believe in training your leadership, whether they have a formal title or not, investing in their training matters. So spending the time to educate them on leadership tools is so valuable for your whole season.

And again, if you'd like some help with that, you can check out my online course Journey to Elite Captain. Dozens of teams have used it and have found great success. So if you'd like some help with that leadership training and have it totally taken care of for you, you can learn more about that at www.chelseapierotti.com/leaders. Find the link in the show notes here as well.

And ultimately, again, the decision is yours. As long as you have thought about what you want your leadership team to contribute and how you will select the right people for the job, you'll be off to a great start this season. If you have any questions about leadership, please send a message to the podcast at www.chelseapierotti.com/message. I'm here to help. Thanks for listening, and keep sharing your passion for dance with the world!


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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.

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