Although fall season has just begun, many winter coaches have started planning for the upcoming competition season. As you prepare for another dance season, there are the basics that you traditionally prepare for, but one aspect to capture in your planning this season is how you can best prepare your team of varying age and experience levels for the first competition of the season. The first few weeks of competition season are hectic, stressful, and have full practice schedules. Therefore, if you can incorporate some of these tips into your preliminary practice schedule plans, you might be thanking yourself later during practice when you’ve allotted the necessary time and don’t have to rush through things, or worse, forget to do them all together! We’ve all been there before, oops! And then you tell yourself, we’ll squeeze that in tomorrow if there is time…..but really is there ever extra time? No, not really. So, it will only be to the betterment of yourself, your athletes, and overall team if you make the time right off the bat in your practice plan.
As we all know, each athlete is different in their preparation for a competition. But, you as the coach can help prepare all of your athletes with your team traditions, expectations, and order of events for a competition in advance. Here are just a few helpful ideas to incorporate into your schedules for preparing your athletes of all age/experience levels for competition day:
- Give experienced dancers the opportunity to provide insight to the younger ones and share what helped them when they were first competing. It gives them a sense of leadership and an opportunity to share with their teammates (this could be done during a cool down stretch at the end of practice in order to utilize your practice time to the fullest).
- Review and ensure everyone on the team knows what traditional preparatory processes, cheers, or traditions the team likes to do before competing. Giving your dancers a feel for what will occur before heading to the gym to compete will help to put them at ease as they will know what to expect and the order in which events will occur.
- Review expectations for the awards ceremony, showing good sportsmanship, how you want your team to be viewed, etc.
- Reach out to the competition site to gather an understanding of the gym and logistical layout to know what side of the gym you’ll be walking in from, exiting on, etc.
- Practice walk on/off of gym floor during practice time
- Do a practice run through of your dance in costume so that the first competition is not the first time dancers are performing in their costume. This allows you as the coach an opportunity to make any necessary changes, and dancers the comfort of feeling and knowing how they can move in their costume.
- Pair up an experienced dancer with a new dancer, call it a “buddy system” or “dance duo,” etc… this pair can serve as a support system on the first competition day to watch out for each other, ask questions, and provide guidance as needed.
- Teach and review team cheers at the start of the season leading up to competition day, so all dancers feel a part of the team when it comes time to execute! If the young ones feel like they know what’s going on, they will ultimately feel more a part of the team. After all, being a TEAM is what it’s all about!
You may already incorporate some or all of these suggestions, which is awesome! But, for those of you new to coaching, hopefully these suggestions have been helpful, or at a minimum, perhaps have inspired another new idea that you could try this upcoming season. Here’s wishing each of you GREAT success as you continue planning and head into the competition season ahead; it will be here before we know it! Best of Luck!!!
MADT Board of Directors