Coddling kids from competition

By JB Radcliff

July 2, 2010

n726108421_1805622_7478655Coddling kids from competition is the opposite of stage parenting. Coddling is appropriate for your toddlers and infants, but as students age and are dancing before live audiences, parents and directors tend to lean one way or the other with their protectionism. It’s a wide scale between coddling and being a stage parent, and somewhere in the middle is the preferred zone:

Coddling<—————————–>Stage Parent

This article is not about the issues of safety as much as it is the issue of over protectiveness to the point where the student is afraid to perform at their peak level. I’ve seen both sides, stage and coddlers.  With coddlers I’ve noticed some very unique characterizations.

Understand that most are NOT this way, but you have a few that just smoother their child and/or an entire studio. Here is a list of some of the more extreme things you might encounter:

1. Withholding their child from team photos or videos
2. Demanding other parents remove images or videos from reputable dance websites, bulletin boards, or news paper submissions (parades, recitals, championships, trophy award ceremonies, etc)
3. Demanding costume changes
4. Demanding music changes
5. Denying a child the ability to compete in solo’s because it isn’t beneficial for the child to have to be challenged in that way.
6. Pulling child from a performance when they feel other children are at an advantage in positioning
7. Pulling child from team competition when they feel other children (team) will win, and they don’t want their child to suffer loss.
8. Unwillingness to work with other team parents – complains constantly and then wants to remain anonymous.
9. Scheduling a family vacation during recitals or competition as a means of avoidance
10. Alienation or attack attempts toward well known professionals in the dance community

I understand that these are extreme, and you could probably come up with a host of reasons why some of them  might be warranted in certain situations. However, when you have adults who are constantly dictating the morality of a child or a team, let alone an organization – pretty soon people will lose faith in the direction you may be going. You have to show that leadership is real.

Parents who are new to competition are on average coddlers. New directors too! I understand the apprehension, and the need to withhold. Everything is new, and you just do not have the experience necessary to deal with the spotlight yet. Doesn’t mean it can’t be gained.

I’ve seen it year-after-year; the first year mom and pop studios who come to competition with the idea that they have it all under control, only to find that they really don’t. They probably have an untrained staff as well, who have very little, if any competition experience. They stick out like a sore thumb.  In these instances, there is a lot of wavering in the stands amongst parents and students. It’s almost instantaneous in everyone’s mind –  you failed to train them properly and you led them there. The burden is on your shoulders. If you think you know it all, and you refuse to listen to professional advice, then all anyone can say is  “welcome to competition”.

It’s rare to see first year studios on top unless incoming leadership already has a competition background, and they know what to expect, and how to train their students. The real winners have their photos in the news paper, on the web, and posted on bulletin boards – with the winning  trophies beside them.

Mom and pop’s have a lot to learn. The first lesson is, hire people who actually know competition, have studied the genre of dance you will be performing, and have a background in the “winning circle”. Learn from them instead of waving them off with a swish of your hand.

Let me use an example: When football teams search for new recruits, they are looking at the quarterback’s not the waterboy.

STOP coddling your team! Grow up your studio or school team,  by making better choices. Allow those people who know how to teach – to teach. Get out of their way, and respect what they have gone through to get there.

Here is an ideology to  live with “I don’t need your permission to be successful”. Coddlers do.

 

 

Solo Instructors

 

By the time my daughter was in 7th grade she began teaching small teams and soloists. High school brought a lot of travel her way, with clinics, camps, and out of area events. With a closet, totes, and trophy case now overflowing with trophies, crowns, plaques, ribbons, bling and whistles – I have to admit it was worth it.

When my daughter was growing up I spent upward to $30 an hour for a coach to teach her a routine that she would use at both regional’s and nationals. I also paid lump sums of $200 – $300 for so many practices and choreography. It really depended on the caliber of the instructor. If the instructor was well titled, I paid more.

I picked the best of the best. That made all the difference in the world. I picked from those that knew and understood dance technique, stage performance, etc. Those are the ones I hired. Anyone can teach, but it takes someone with experience to teach well. For that matter, anyone can open a dance studio – doesn’t take a whole hill of beans to do that either. To be successful however, you have to have business savvy. Ethics helps too.

“No experience necessary”. I told that to someone who I knew was not a very technical dancer with very limited experience a while back. This individual wanted to study dance as their major. There desire to study dance however, did not filter down to “I know what I’m doing”.  Having taken on the role of instructor, I am hoping that now they understand that a two year degree in dance means very little in the competition world.  Word to the wise “Don’t quit your day job”.

My own kid donates a lot of time each year. I found it rather humorous when one of the little dancers from the studio where she taught told another mother that “they pay all the other teachers $5.00 an hour – but Cricket gets hundreds”. Well, humorous as it sounds, it “isn’t”  true. I wish it were hundreds all the time. Hundred’s huh? Hum…… Kids are cute…

When a solo coach hires out they can request whatever they want to charge. The parent or dancer can accept or refuse. That is different from what a studio may charge – it’s a set fee there. We have trained (cricket and I) nearly 30 soloists over a span of 7 or 8 years. At some point in time, girls have touched foot on the floor in my living room, the MARC gallery, the Stars studio, or fellowship hall. The money was used to travel to competitions, buy solo outfits for her own dances, and give her a little pocket change during trips. The rest of the competition money came from things like yard sales and baby sitting.

Now as an adult, she can free lance, and actually do what she wants! The number of students we helped out for free was also large. Truthfully, there are just families that don’t have the cash. We took some of them with us to competitions. Competitions used to be our vacation times – but we took other people’s children with us. It is hard to say no to them. You bond with them.

In Vegas we would often find that we became the built in team baby sitters. One year I had 13 girls in the room. What was I thinking? I wasn’t. I was just giving them a safe place to be, late at night, while their parents were out on the town. I wonder who really needed the sitter at this point.

Soloists tend to be the better dancers on average, after a year or so competing. Just for the sure fact that they practice more and hopefully learn technique from someone who understands technique. I hope they can spell it too. Teaching a soloist new choreography is always a challenge. You never know what they might be capable of until you put them to task. A lot of time and energy is spent just fine tuning technique before you even get started teaching new movements, let alone an entire dance.

Parents seem to be in a hurry to see the dance for their child made up ASAP. Well…part of the dance is technique, you choreograph the dance around the dancers technique and their abilities. I’ve watched parents become frustrated because they come to a practice and their student is still learning technique and not the so called “rock star” dance. My answer to those parents: The technique will be in the dance – it’s part of it. If it were my child, I’d want them to look good first.

That is what the judges will focus on in the end. Parents tend to get things backwards.  Some dancers just aren’t ready to learn a whole dance in one setting. That often times is  a recipe for disaster on the floor. Those are pro’s sitting up there in the stands judging you. These people don’t have time to waste teaching you technique. You are supposed to come ready to rock and roll. Show them your stuff.

ON THE FLIP SIDE: There are parents, who don’t want their children to do solos, and you know what? – that is just fine. But, in any classroom anywhere you will have competition. Doesn’t matter if you have soloists in the ranks or not. There really isn’t anything anyone can do about it. It is what it is. Girls will be girls, and boys will be boys. A little competition is good to keep a group motivated to learn more. Friendly competition that is.

When you shop around for a solo coach, know that you get what you pay for. If you take your child away from an experienced coach before they have actually had time to train and learn proper technique – you still get what you pay for. You can’t say it is the coach’s fault if you pull your child out or attempt to teach them yourself.  Having your child train with different instructors who aren’t on the same technique level is a recipe for disaster.     Your Child’s scores will reflect 100% what YOU the parent did right, and what you did wrong. But like I said before “no experience necessary”.

I can tell you that any money my own daughter made with soloists growing up went to pay for regional’s and nationals, clinic, and camps. But then again, she worked at four jobs, and attended college full time. She is motivated, and she passes that along to the students she works with. She keeps training to improve and learn. That is what real coaches do. They train and learn, so they can pass that on to their students.

When you look for a solo coach, $10 an hour once a week for a high school senior is about all you can ask for. Pay them out in lump sum and make them commit to a certain amount of time would be even better. They still don’t have that thing called “responsibility” down just yet. Time management isn’t really a factor either. Generally most (not all) make the dance up over night, and call it good. No technique required.

Steer clear of dancers who have a history of getting into trouble, gossiping, or won’t cover up vital parts. Dance clothes are slinky enough, but they shouldn’t be obscene. Little girls need to remain little as long as they can!

Setting your student up with a solo coach is a personal thing. There is a understanding that happens between the teacher and student. Some parents can’t deal with that. Some parents tend to want to jump in and sometimes think they could do a better job, and when they discover they can’t – they seek to discredit young instructors because they are jealous of the situation. I’ve seen it. I’m sure some of you have seen it too.

I have learned “the hard way” parents and daughters tend to bicker too much when they work together … that kicks off a  blame game … “Why isn’t my dancer doing well?” Who you going to blame for that? The coach of course. To make the blame game work, you have to paint that coach out to be the most evil demon in the world. But, remember you dropped them out of your program months ago right? You dropped them out because you could not deal with the bond that an experienced instructor had with your student. Or maybe your student just missed too many practices because the parents were always gone out of town. Folks….some parents are this way.

I don’t think I’m being to harsh here. I’m talking about the reality of what happens to parents when they get too caught up in the clic or the background noise of their children’s lives. Competition or stage parents, do you know one? Two? Three?

Parent’s DO NOT push your child toward solo’s if that is how you are. If you are a stage parent – please don’t. Instructors will and should have a professional understanding with their students. To some parents that is a threat to their nurturing abilities. In their eyes their child is a reflection of them, or to use another term “living your life out through your child”.

Summary: Pick your solo teacher well.
*If they aren’t strong technical dancers, keep shopping.
*If they can’t show you anything new, keep shopping.
*If they really don’t know what they are going to be doing or where they are going to be in the next couple months, keep shopping.
*If they hang on their boy friends in front of you, to busy with their own kids or friends, keep shopping.
*If the teacher is too occupied during the training, keep shopping.
*Got a resume?

Instructors – Welcome to the trenches.

There is an old saying “You can pay to keep your children in dance/sports, or you can pay to keep them out of jail. Either way – you will pay”. Might as well be something productive. If you raised your child with respect for others, decency, and a good work ethic, then let their little lights shine.

So now they have a mentor, someone to look up too. Years down the road you will thank yourself, and that mentor.

Solo’s are not for everyone. Some mom’s just can’t handle the competition.

I’m not a bury my head in the sand type of person. I’m not into the rumor mill. What I am into is the safety and education of our kids. That comes first. Dance is second. Any questions ?

When picking a solo coach, don’t pick one that is also training someone the same age and in the same dance category. You can end up with some really bad vibes. Have them do a duet instead. Dance should be enjoyed.

Dancers should only have to compete against themselves – to better themselves.

Dance on

 

 

 

Where do you draw the line with choreography?

Everyone uses the internet now days to capture movements and styles.  Everyone goes to conventions and trainings to learn new and creative forms of dance too. They want to capture it from the pro’s.

Using eight to sixteen counts of a combination that is bold, new and exciting is pretty much the norm.  That is the trend.  Keeping a new dance style moving through all levels. But, if you think about it, how many hours did that choreographer spend creating those moves?

You should always use professional  ethics when using another persons material.

Many schools and  dance programs go to dance or drill camp, and are taught a team dance.  It is common place to return to your home turf and perform that routine for your home crowd.  It is understood that you won’t be attempting to sell it as your own.    Teams routinely buy choreography from companies who specialize in the business.

It is almost impossible to create a dance now days and put it on line at places like Youtube, and not get notified of  usage right claims for music, and a advertisement placed over your work.  But, at least many artists allow the videos to stay.    KUDO’s for that.  It’s hard to be creative without music.

You should be careful when buying choreography.   Don’t let anyone sell you a bill of goods belonging to someone else.  There motives are clear; money and deceit.

You should also draw the line with any instructor that isn’t first teaching your child the technique they will need to perform adequately before a judge.   Listen to those who have been in the competition world, some of them all their lives.

DRAWING THE LINE

___________________________________________

A while back I was asked to do a choreography piece for a young dancer.   I had a number of ideas I was working on that would fit this particular dancer.  But, there were a number of technical issues that they would have to overcome first , but I still felt  they could probably learn the routine.

The young  dancer  wanted to show me a  piece they had learned from another instructor, and I watched as they performed it.  To my dismay it was nearly step-for-step a routine I had seen someone else perform online.   It was all there, down to the push/pulls,  and turns.   I told them  it was cute, and then we continued to work on technique for the dance we would create and learn together.

Another person, who had accompanied me to this practice,  later asked me how open the parent would be to knowing the truth – win or lose.  Good question.

I did learn that the dancer was taught the routine in about a day and a half.

Honestly, I was  concerned about the technical flaws I was seeing in this young student.  The student also missed a number of practices, and with each missed practice they were regressing.  It was like having to start over each time.  The other instructor wasn’t dealing with the technical issues, and it was problematic.   Having been a judge, I was afraid those little flaws could be costly for the young dancer.

The other instructor also placed the dancer in a category not suited for the routine, and ended up with penalty marks, because she had failed to  check the rule sheets before teaching the dance.  Someone else’s dance!

This instructor had no idea what “was” and “was not” acceptable at  competition.  They ended up having to change the dance, and category.  It was unfortunate for this young dancer to have to suffer this type of neglect.

Here is the facts.

ALL technical training should be a  part of the dance.   But how do you  explain that to a parent  who has just been ripped off by another instructor?

You have to draw the line somewhere.  You have to decide if instant gratification, or life long technical learning is best for your dancer.

I do hope the parent will also notice the level of regression, and seek something better for their  dancer.

Don’t let pride get in the way.