Ep 167 Transcript - Dr. Chelsea Pierotti

Ep 167 Transcript

Episode 167: High-Performance Environment

Dr. Chelsea: Hey, dance coaches! Did you know there's a formula for creating a high-performance environment? We know exactly what to do to create the rehearsal space that allows our dancers to achieve their best. Today, I'm going to break it down for you.

Welcome to Passion for Dance! I'm your host, Dr. Chelsea, and I'm on a mission to create happier, more successful dancers through positive mental skills. And successful dancers know how to perform at their best, but that happens when you practice at your best. Being a successful dancer starts in rehearsal. It's about creating that high-performance environment in every class, every cleaning rehearsal your dancers attend. Then, of course, it's up to them to do the work. But if you've created that environment that allows for dancers to find their internal drive and put in more effort each and every class, by the end of this episode you'll understand the three key ingredients to a high-performance environment.

Before I dive into the details, though, I want to check in. If you are new to the show, it could 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 know we don't have a single minute to spare in our days. We're so busy. 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, but after a few quick questions, you'll get a curated podcast list with the top five episodes that will help you most 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 help with confidence. Whatever support you need, take the short quiz to find out. It's at www.chelseapierotti.com/podcastquiz to get started. That's www.chelseapierotti.com/podcastquiz, or click the link in the show notes below wherever you're listening.

And thanks for being here! I'm so happy to have you as a part of this community. So let's dig in and talk about the three ingredients in a high-performance environment.


[Motivational Music]

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.

[Motivational Music]


Okay, before I really get started, this episode is packed with a lot of information. It's much more of a kind of teaching-heavy episode. It's the kind of thing I hope you'll reference later. So I created a simple handout to go with it. It's gonna summarize 15 ways you can create a high-performance environment. You can grab it at www.chelseapierotti.com/highperformance or the link for that is in the show notes as well. But listen in, gather all these ideas and motivation, and if you feel like it's gonna help you, grab that free resource so you have it at your fingertips when you're ready for practice next time. Okay, let's do this!

Three Key Ingredients to a High-Performance Environment – 3:47

A high-performance environment is one that motivates athletes to work hard, stay focused, and be resilient. It's what we all want, right? Creating that environment isn't some top-secret thing that only a few coaches and teachers understand. Research in sport found this formula decades ago. So it's time to make sure everyone knows exactly what to do.

As I mentioned, there are three key ingredients to a high-performance environment, and those three keys are a sense of control, a sense of progress, and a sense of purpose. So let's talk about each of these.

#1: Fostering A Sense of Control – 4:20

First, a sense of control. Sports psychologists call this autonomy. It simply means that an athlete has a sense of control over their journey. Now, many of us were trained in an environment where we had absolutely no choice, no options. You stay quiet and do as you're told. I get that. It's how I was trained, and I had a great career at my studio and my ballet companies under that environment. But I argue this is one of those situations where we know better now, so let's do better.

Having a sense of control means you have some choices and understand why decisions are made. So I'm not saying dancers are in charge of everything and they get to decide what's going on. There are still high expectations and rules and boundaries, but having a sense of control where you can is crucial for motivation and productivity. If you feel a sense of control in your environment, you're more likely to feel motivated and give full effort.

Consider yourself. Maybe you're a choreographer, and choreographers tend to be more motivated to create something special when they get to choose the music and have full creative control versus when they're told what to create with a lot of restrictions. If you are an academic teacher, we tend to be a lot more motivated in the classroom when you get to choose how to approach a topic or how you want to present a lesson versus being told exactly what to do and how to do it. It's not as fun, right? Our dancers are the same. When they're in an environment where they are told exactly what to do without choice or explanation, it's hard to find the motivation sometimes. So there are two easy things you can do that I'll share right now to create that sense of control and contribute to your high-performance environment.

First is to offer choices. Allow them to vote on the style they want for the combo next week. If you have multiple routines that you're working on for competition, ask them which one they want to clean first. Again, it's not that you're giving them a choice between a hard thing and an easy thing. You're giving them a choice between two things where you're okay with either option. I don't really care which routine we clean today and which we clean tomorrow, but maybe they care based on their mood or how sore they feel. It's an easy way to give them some control.

I honestly approach choice with toddlers the same way as I approach it with my college students. It doesn't matter. Wherever I can, I have two or three options where I'm okay with any of the outcome, and I know either choice will contribute to our larger goal, so I let them choose which one we do.

The second thing you can do to foster a sense of control is being aware of the language you use and avoid “should,” and instead explain why you're doing things. Especially if you have teenagers rather than just saying, “You should do a dynamic warmup. Here it is. Go do it,” you explain why a dynamic warmup is better for their bodies and their training. It's not that you're the dictator telling them what to do, but instead explaining why it's important, and, especially, highlighting how it will help them reach their goals if they choose to put in the work. You're putting it back on them, but you've explained why so they can have that internal drive and decide it's worth it.

#2: Cultivating A Sense of Progress – 7:26

Okay, the second ingredient in a high-performance environment is a sense of progress. It's about creating an environment that highlights the importance of effort over outcome. If you've been listening to the show for a while, you've definitely heard me talk about it. It's the foundation of creating a growth mindset. It's all about concentrating on process over perfection. Focus on the progress that's being made and how hard they're working rather than only highlighting an end result.

We often know as teachers and longtime dancers that the end result or the skill you really want to achieve could be months or even years away. We get that. We need to help our dancers get that. So offer encouragement that highlights the process or the progress they're making rather than just end results.

If we want dancers to work hard every single class and not just go through the motions, we want to help them feel like they're making progress every class if they're putting the work in, but that likely won't happen naturally. It's hard to see those small amounts of progress every day. We have to point it out and encourage them to focus on a small win and growth. Otherwise, they're likely to think, “Ugh, I can't do it,” and give up more quickly, when we know if they just kept with it they'd get it.

We know that dance teaches you resilience, that it can teach you to work hard for something that takes a long time to achieve. But, as teachers, we can create the environment that makes that happen for more of our dancers. Here are a few tangible ways to encourage a sense of progress.

Set goals that are optimally challenging. I think of these as like Goldilocks goals. They're not too hard, not too easy. They're just right. Optimally challenging means it's going to push you a little. It's going to push you past what you thought was possible, but it is actually in the realm of possibility, so you can feel that sense of accomplishment.

Another easy thing to do to encourage that sense of progress is to encourage your dancers to try new things. Try a new style. Try a new approach to warm up. Try a new cleaning method. Get out of the box and try new things, and then notice the progress and how you feel different.

And another teaching method that I'm sure you do every day, but it can contribute to the sense of progress, is simply in how you give feedback. I have shared whole episodes on this, but the idea is to keep offering feedback that is focused on how to improve. It's not just that something isn't good enough with maybe some positive feedback sprinkled in. It's about sharing what actually needs to be better and how to do it.

And then, finally, an environment that cultivates a sense of progress will make sure dancers know it's okay to make a mistake when you're learning. As a real-life example, I worked with a coach who wanted to completely rebuild her program. We essentially created a plan to create a high-performance environment from the ground up. This coach wanted to help her dancers feel more progress every day and be more motivated in practice because they were being very kind of lackluster, going through the motions. Everybody was getting frustrated.

So we talked about what skills she wanted to focus on, like which dance skills were important to them at this time. We created a specific training plan and discussed how she would explain it all to her dancers. Introducing something new, like a completely overhauled training plan, especially in a place with a lot of tradition, can be scary. But in this case, the culture needed an overhaul, so it was time.

So coach introduced the new training plan for her dancers and included the why behind it all and the how it was going to help contribute to their bigger goals. And then as she implemented it, she consistently helped them see progress by highlighting the small wins, so her dancers saw the growth and saw that this new training method worked. So within a month, her dancers were all a lot more motivated in every practice, and they ended up going on to achieve a lot more competitive success all season.

#3: Establishing A Sense of Connection and Purpose – 11:18

And finally, the third ingredient to a high-performance environment is establishing a sense of connection and purpose. The idea here is to help every dancer understand their role and that they are contributing to something bigger than themselves. If we want an environment where dancers work hard every day and reach their personal best potential, they need to feel a sense of connection and belonging.

Simple strategies can be things like spending time on social connection and team building, or spending time on those deeper connections that truly build trust, care, and respect. It's about using inclusive language, being honest, explaining and modeling active listening. I have a lot more about building connection in episodes 108 and 109 if you want to scroll back and look at those, but I hope you get the idea. It's creating an environment where dancers understand they'll be challenged, and there are high expectations, but they are safe from bullying and humiliation.

And while team bonding is a great place to start, it's often not enough. I was working with a coach recently who was doing a lot of team bonding with her school team, but the dancers didn't feel connected because they would just hang out in cliques during the social time, so they didn't truly get to know each other. So instead we developed a plan for more genuine connections and focused on what's called task-oriented team bonding. Again, you can hear all about the two kinds of bonding — the task-oriented and, what you may be more familiar with, the social bonding. It's all in episode 108. But the point is helping dancers know that they belong as they are. They're valued as they are, but they also have to actively contribute to a positive and inclusive environment.

All Three Principles Are Interconnected- 12:56

Okay, that's a lot, I know. Those are the three key ingredients to a high-performance environment: a sense of control, a sense of progress, and a sense of connection. And the magic is that all three of these principles work together, and I bet you're actually already doing a lot of things that do work on these topics. It just might be time to drill out on one area that's weakest for your dancers right now or where they need the most help.

Creating a high-performance environment is not about adding extra time to work on these mental skills. It's about intentionally integrating them into the rehearsal time you already have. My advice is to take it one at a time if that feels more doable. Again, they're all interconnected, but you can pick a small chunk to start with. Just like any goal, you break it into pieces. Pick what you want to start with, focus on that for a few weeks and see how it goes, and then add in.

Again, you can download a summary of 15 ways to work on these three principles of a high-performance environment at www.chelseapierotti.com/highperformance. Take a look at those 15 ideas, pick one or two to focus on first, and just implement that for a while. I promise you'll see a difference, and then you can keep growing from there.

Creating a high-performance environment might take some adjusting, but once it's established, it's so much easier to maintain and you'll see the positive impact everywhere. You'll see it in more motivated dancers. You'll see it in more effective practices. You'll see it in your own motivation and love for teaching.

And if you found this helpful, please share it with a dance teacher in your circle. Those who are at the top, doing good work, share with everyone around them. So share, spread the word. Let's all work together to create happier, more successful dancers. Thank you for listening, and 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]

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