It’s almost here – SECTIONS! For most teams, it will be the end of the season and the last time they will all be together. For a few teams, the season will continue with the honor to compete at the State Tournament. There’s no way to know for certain which road your team is taking, but as the coach, there are some things you can do to make the most of your time together and give your dancers the BEST chance to be great competitors, while creating amazing memories for your team. Here are some suggestions for the next few weeks…
1. Keep It Real
Your team has spent the last 12-14 weeks together – dancing, competing and working hard. They know what’s been happening on the score sheets from week to week and they know how hard they have been working and what they are capable of. At this point, you are their biggest cheerleader, but you are also the voice of reason. If they haven’t placed well since Winter Break, there is always a chance, but keep the team’s expectations reasonable. Don’t build them up too much for something that may not happen. The best course of action is to prepare for all eventualities – prepare them to qualify and talk about staying home. Find a way to discuss and prepare for both options.
2. Taper and Focus
The last weeks are the time to taper back your practices. You should be doing more marking and mental preparation than you are doing “Full Outs.” Stop making changes. Let the choreography settle into their minds and spend more time on reviewing. Your athletes are at their season peak and resting their bodies and minds will produce a stronger result for Sections. Be certain dancers are hydrated and rested – remind them to eat properly – they cannot be at their best without good fuel for their bodies. Ask them for more sleep time, if possible! Focus their minds on being at their very best for Sections.
3. Make Good Memories
No matter the outcome, your team can have some great memories of these last few weeks. Practices can be intense and focused without being stressful. Take time to look back – show your first performance and marvel at how far they’ve come! Plan some practice time fun with dress up days (rainbow or crayon colors are popular, but you are only limited by imagination!) Treats and snacks are fun, especially if you don’t do those regularly. If you practice close to dinner time, ask your boosters if they want to prepare a potluck or pizza party as a surprise on evening. A yoga session once or twice during these last weeks can be fun and beneficial, too. Use these times to talk, connect and remember the good things that have happened. This is NOT the time for screaming, yelling or temper tantrums…
4. Be Prepared
This is your number one job as a coach – prepare your team for the task ahead. Talk about the last two weeks, Sections day, the evening after Sections and possible plans for post-season. If possible, prepare them for the school or gym they will be competing in. If you’re going to a new school for the first time, look on Youtube for dance, basketball or volleyball games held at that school. It will give you a look at their set up and what the floor markings look like so you can share information with your team. Give dancers a packing list for Sections & on the back side, put a timeline of the day. Go over your Section competitors and talk about your scores. Prepare them for best case and worst case. Talk about Section Awards. Ask your veterans to share their feelings on those moments. Provide your team with some direction on their behavior on the floor. I am a big believer in “no tears on the floor,” but it’s important to discuss celebration behavior, too. Dancer should be excited and proud, but everything should be done within reason. Finally, when you run a Full Out, talk to them about Sections just before you press play. Try to bring a small adrenaline rush to the surface so they can practice keeping a handle on that feeling. Speaking of feelings…
5. All the Feelings
Don’t be surprised to see some unusual behaviors crop up these last few weeks, especially from your upperclassmen. Seniors are coming to the end of their time on your team and juniors can be thinking about next season and captain elections without a thought to finishing this year first! Stress can change people’s behaviors – try to be the calm, strong influencer in their lives. You are the ROCK your team is built on. If you aren’t steady and strong for them, they cannot be their best. It’s normal to be anxious and nervous – let them know that their feelings are valid! But give them a pep talk and explain what to do with those feelings after they’ve been felt. A few tears and some deep breathing can clear their minds, help them re-focus and allow them be more ready for Sections. Remember to recognize the Seniors for all they’ve given to your team, especially if this may be your last week together! Let them know what they mean to you and how much everyone has put into this year. It’s ok to tell them you love them. ♥
Good luck to all coaches and teams!