Author: Jan Radcliff



How many times have we thought that to give is to receive? Well, true volunteers feel that way. They give out of their own need. The need to feel like they are contributing to a greater whole. Without true volunteers the work might never get done.

Volunteerism isn’t something you get paid to do. There are those who go into volunteerism expecting something in return; a political favor, a job, money, lime light, etc. But for the true volunteer – it’s for the warmth and knowledge of knowing you’ve done a good job, and you may have helped another human being, or special cause.

There are so many things that people can volunteer for. You can coach, work with children, visit the elderly in the hospital, make flyers for a campaign, or do surveys for medical services. The list is endless, the need is great.

True volunteers are often overlooked. They might not even let others know they are working in the background. Some people are just givers. They give of their money, and time. Many don’t like to be noticed for what they do. They don’t feel the need to be recognized. They gain from the experience in other ways. That is their reward – knowing they have helped a cause.

When looking at volunteer work, one needs to be committed to staying the course. Sometimes volunteer work can be very emotional for the giver. Working in shelters, helping animals, dealing with troubled youth. Nothing is ever for sure in anything one will do in life.

But there is a lesson in volunteerism. If you do it, and you do the best you can, you will gain self confidence and a reliance on yourself that you may not have had before.

Leaving the “self” out of the formula for volunteerism is the first step
to being an effective volunteer. You might find yourself handing out clothing or standing in a kitchen soup line dishing out food to the needy. Maybe that isn’t your idea of volunteerism. There are other things that one can do. Volunteering at your local K-12 schools to help teachers with projects and field trips. These are areas that also require a different set of skills and emotional awareness. Working with children from K – 6 grade is very different than working at the middle school and/or high school levels. Needs change. Volunteer needs also change.

As we age in life, the things that we once thought important may be better handled by younger people who have the drive and zeal to handle them. Working at a marathon is a good example! Age brings with it a whole different set of priorities and meaning to each and every one of us. As we age and learn more, we begin to seek out organizations like Rotary, sororities, and non-profit organizations that do community service in many different fields. Helping to raise funds to build a park, or a walkway is another form of volunteering. I know many of you may have done volunteer work when you were younger, working at dinners to raise prop money and gym fees. You were part of something – and had fun at the same time.

When you see those ladies and men sitting at the polls during election time, it should be noted that – that is an all day event. You are there from sun up to sun down, and many times later if you are counting ballots. Why do people do it? Because they want to serve. They want to feel that self appreciation of doing a job well done.

Volunteerism has its ups and downs, like all things in life. Sometimes we go into things full steam and believe we can truly help, only to find out that we don’t have the skills necessary to help by ourselves alone. Learning to work as part of a team when volunteering , helps you to overcome some of this self doubts about our own abilities to help others. A team of people that work together, not as a group of unknowns, but rather a team of individuals with the same goal, the same purpose, and the same drive.

Understanding ones own limitations in volunteering is also important. You can’t be all things to all people. You can only be you. You are one. Learning to pick the right volunteer position that will give you the greatest self  appreciation is an art.  But do try. Try often.

Volunteers are what make us a nation. Our greatest virtue comes from the love and support of volunteers all across this nation reaching out and helping others. Truly we are the greatest country in the world. We are great because of our volunteers. Remember our service people fighting in the war: our community leaders who struggle over political issues to make life better for everyone, the fireman, the coach, and the little old ladies who stitch quilts for the family who has lost everything. Every body has a place. Everyone has a purpose. You just need to find yours.

Some people find volunteering in their writings and drawings. Being able to write articles for non-profit organizations or donating a piece of art for an auction. Its all about caring. Caring for others. There is no greater gift you can give than to give of yourself.

Volunteer – you are needed. Volunteers are what make this country great.

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.



Let your little light shine

Let your light shine

It is better to light a single candle than to cure the darkness…..

Sometimes we attempt to try and make “all things better”, only to learn that it is the simple things that slip past us, or help to keep us balanced. Even in dance you have to have a balance. You can’t make all the problems fade away, that’s a reality of life. But, what you can do, is light a candle and see who is drawn to the light.

Those who have experienced dance at the core of their being will understand what I’m saying. Those who don’t understand, have yet to experience the sensation of accomplishment in the raw, nor have they felt defeat, and used that defeat to rise again. To many It’s just memorized steps or a social game. It’s over very quickly, so take a look at what is lost.

Those moments of victory found in dance – can be the same as defeat if not nourished by something warm and light. It’s all in how you wrap it. Winning can be cold. Winning can be lonely. More friends are bound to come when you are down than when you are up. There are a lot of “fixers” in the world of dance, and nobody likes a bragger.

To draw people into a winning environment you have to first show you have meaning. You have to care about their wins and their loses.

Too many dancers will follow the current flow where ever it goes – even away from the light. They fear they can’t make it alone.

How you express yourself now, will be the fuel for your tomorrow. Dance can be very cold to those who don’t have the right fuel. If you are lead by trends and clic’s, you probably are looking at the bottom of the tank already. However, for those who are lead by the pure enjoyment of the art of dance, and the feeling it leaves them with – their tanks are on high.

You don’t have to have many in your circle to shine bright. Many doesn’t mean success. Success is what tomorrow brings.

Success is usually only accomplished by the few. That is the reality in the dance world. Most will not succeed. How you burn today will be a sure sign of your tomorrow.

Dance is so much more than memorized steps and a popularity clic~. Continue to let your little light shine. See who is drawn to it. See who rises to the flame.

It is better to light a single candle than to cure the darkness…..