Learning how to motivate young dancers, and older dancers to remember the choreography and/or timing needed for a dance, can be taxing to an instructor. Not everyone learns at the same pace. Bodies grow at different rates, and mental learning is different for each person.

Muscle memory is also important in dance. You learn and train your muscles to react to movement through practice. You don’t learn muscle memory from a single practice, you learn from many practices. Yes, it takes many practices, over-and-over again. Some never really get it. They just play at it, or hope no one notices.

Ah….they notice!

It’s not uncommon to have a really good practice with your students, and then the next day it seems they have forgotten everything they have learned.

There are a lot of things that can affect a practice; like what was served for school lunch that day. That is the first one I would look at for the younger dancers.

The second thing I would look at is social matters. The older a dancer gets, the more social problems
they can come up with. Older dancers have boyfriends; PMS; a teacher hates them; a big test; or who is running for prom queen. They can have an endless list. You should ask them to leave the list by the door and pick it up on their way out – after class.

It’s not that they want to be bad or misbehave during practices, they just haven’t learned how to organize their time yet. Time management is lost on most teenagers. You have to keep on them, keep hammering in the lesson. You have too. Am I lying dancers? Noooooo…

With your younger dancers, they have about a five minute attention span, and then you better have something else in mind to teach them. They need that constant activity. They need activity that involves jumping or running – that is good for them, and they learn that way.

Motivating a team at any level is work. You have to be on your toes; constantly looking for ideas and ways to make your voice heard and understood. When you finally find that niche, you need to really push all you can before the learning niche is gone.

Motivating requires skill. I really like spirit leaders for a team – not presidents or captains. You want spirit leaders – people who do things for the team; people who look past all the drama and show others what Team Spirit is all about.

Presidents have their own duties that they need to do. They really can’t be the motivators for the team 24/7, as well as the choreographers, teachers, and whatever else. That is a burn out.

Separate the duties, and separate them correctly.The structure that I’ve seen work best, has a President who has tried out and was judged for the position. Same with Vice President.

Only Seniors can hold the title of President. Vice President is generally reserved for juniors. Sophomores have a representative who is either the secretary and/or historian.

Freshman, usually one of them holds the position of spirit leader . This is not set in stone of course. You should also have spirit moms. Only the parents who are interested in helping with spirit matters should be considered. After all it is a volunteer position. The Spirit parents work with other mom’s to do things for the team, as well as plan
special outings.

Our spirit moms used to put together goodie bags filled with “FOOD” for trips. They would put silly stuff like bubbles, and rubber bands (for your hair – not for shooting), oranges and donuts, and all kinds of stuff. They also helped with the fundraisers by taking turns during the day helping out. Our car wash was always a winner.

Having an assistant to help the director is a must. They can help with things like props, covering some practices, helping with paperwork, and running the numerous errands that come up. They are invaluable at competitions.

For the girl who is selected for the position of President, it’s an honor when you get the call from your director that you have been selected by a group of non-partial judges, as the next President or vice, etc. It is a good feeling to know that you have tried out before a team of judges and won. That is part of growing up. Earning honors.

It’s great just to make the team. Being a part of something that matters. Matters to you.

Most directors believe in keeping things in a more diplomatic fashion, and have decisions based on true merit (try outs) , and not preference . However, there are times when you do have to make a choice; like at state for team representatives and as helpers.

There is an old saying “if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it”. If you take charge of an organization mid-stream and you attempt to change the leadership style, don’t expect that others will appreciate it. It is best to learn the ropes a little first before you attempt to change the rules.

If you are going to make changes, make them at the very beginning or end of the year. NEVER after a tryout has already occurred. If your team, president, and officers have already been selected, you should wait until the next year to implement any changes to structure. I know that isn’t always possible, sometimes there isn’t any structure to
being with when you take on the task. Then you have to create a new structure.

People like to be informed way in advance – it gives them a chance to know what is coming. Try to get your letters and notices out as quickly as humanly possible. You have to use common sense.

Make any changes wisely, and let your team know what they will be doing. As an adult, if you don’t inform your team going in, you won’t have their respect coming out. It’s that cut and dry.Same goes for dancers.

If you have students who are disrespectful and refuse to change – bench them. I say that very easily don’t I? I mean it. You WILL sit out.Be tough. Let them know you mean business. But be fair. Dancers will respect you if they know the decisions being made are fair. They might not like the decision – but at least they will know the process and
understand it.

Good instructors are firm believers in merit – and hard work. Dancers who put in the extra effort should be allowed to rise above to take the lead. That isn’t preference, that is merit and hard work. If you are a casual dancer – and just there for the “social” aspect – the back row will probably suit you fine, and the hall if you are disruptive.

Motivation begins at the top. Dancers take notice – you are not an alumni until you FINISH the year. You aren’t a trained leader until you FINISH. If you begin fresh the new year with a balanced plan, open to training and new ides, and you are up front with everyone about any changes – you will have a better year.

New Directors and team officers, it’s hard the first year. Start planning as early as possible. Work with your Directors and Coaches as often as possible. Learn from them.

First thing on your planning list is to “Plan to have a good year”. “Plan to have a spirit leader who has the “spirit of love flowing through their veins honey!”

In my own memories I will always remember one indivdual as the best spirit leader we ever had. She was the joker, the puzzler, the sneak, the secret sister, the girl with the candy bag, and love in her heart for every lost puppy in the world. She loved the team. She hated rules – but she loved the team.

Sometimes the real leaders are the ones you remember as being a caring person. They didn’t need an officer position to lead. Our spirit leader just knew what was needed! Laughter.

Remember it’s all about “team!” There is no “I” in team, but there is in Motivation”. Spirit Leaders can and will be the greatest asset to your organization. People like to smile and laugh. It’s those things they remember. It’s those things they come back for! That bond, that sisterhood.

So spirit it up!

Motivate yourself and your team

Good luck with your new year

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