Category: Leadership


Leadership..tough job

Nothing is more heart breaking than having a kid feel like they have been signaled out or excluded from an event. Too often you see this scenario repeated in schools and extra circular events. Someone is bound to get their feelings hurt.

My concern is, what is left for those kids who have been left behind – for whatever reason. Is there a good enough reason? I don’t think so. Adults who lead often become so absorbed in the actions of an event that they lose sight of those kids who are falling between the cracks.

Compound the fact, with juvenile peer pressure, and you have a real situation on your hands. Some actions, or lack of actions, can have a detrimental effect on a young mind. I’m not talking just hurt feelings, but a total loss of self esteem.

Adults who are in charge need to lead everyone, not just those who are draining their attention. It’s the student who is non-attentive, that is often over looked – the one left behind.

School outings and events aren’t just for the social elite, or those who have money and can buy their children a spot. Events are for everyone. I’m not being rude or ignorant, I’m telling you the truth.

The answers people will give you when they know they are caught in a lie, not towing line, etc., will baffle  you. Here are a few:

It was a paper error.
It was coach error.
It was a volunteer error.
It was the drama mama.
It was the Captains.
It was – “oh it just happened. Well, we will do something with them when WE get back”.

So why didn’t someone fix it? How devastating is that to a child? Not just to the child, but to their entire family sometimes.   You may think you are a leader, a teacher, a parent volunteer – or whatever. You may think your child is a leader. But, if you leave one member of your team behind you failed the test. You failed to lead.

Students tend to bully other students who they perceive as inferior. Where is the teacher during all of this? It is the adults who fail to lead which help to potentially place those very labels on kids.  The most typical answer is “girls will be girls”, or “boys will be boys”.  Not real imaginative.

Is your community failing the test? A child can’t lead but through example. What type of leader are you?  What example are you setting. A child is watching.

Real leaders are leaders who listen, observe, and then make decisions.  Don’t open your mouth too quickly, and thus burn bridges – rebuilding is rough, and can take years.

If you tell the truth to being with –  there is a better sense of trust that is developed.  Hiding or fabricating your experience is not leadership – far from it.   It is what it is – a lie.

Good leaders know that it takes everyone on a team to be successful.  If you leave someone out,  then resentment and turmoil usually follow.   The younger your team, the more chance that a student will mis-communicate your words to family and friends.  Most just do not have the training and experience that they will need to rationalize out a difficult situation.

Sometimes leaders have to step up to the plate and give  bad news to a dancer(s). It is only through maturity that a dancer will learn to handle constructive criticism.

By listening, and actually hearing what your students or team mates are saying, you are giving them the best gift you can give them.  You are recognizing  them as a person.  You are respecting what they have to say.  It is always important to hear both sides of a situation before you make a decision.

There does come a time when you may need to shut down the rhetoric and move on.  That is the hardest time for those in leadership positions.  It is here that friendships can, and will be tested.  The truth hurts sometimes.  Sometimes we have to tell our friends no. Leadership doesn’t involve picking favorites.   Leadership involves  picking the most talented individuals.  If one of the most talented is a friend – good for them – good for the team. Same goes for family members.

Did your ego get hurt when you took on the role of “leader”?  Was it automatic?  Did you expect that to happen?  So quickly?  Welcome to being a leader.  It is now your job to sort out all the problems.  As you learn and grow in your leadership position – it will hopefully get easier.   Everyone has a learning curve.   Some of the best leaders are listeners.  Lead by example.


Leadership – who’s really in control?

Learning how to become an effective leader takes time and patience.  Leadership involves listening to what others have to say (on both sides) and being able to come up with solutions that are best for your team and/or studio.  Leadership shouldn’t be self serving.

Sometimes your decisions will be challenged.    It’s when you are challenged that you shouldn’t allow your emotions to show.  If it is an explosive situation and your first instinct is to verbally respond – STOP.  You have to back away from the situation and allow the matter to cool.  The last thing in the world you would want is a confrontation in front of your students, team, parents, or other professionals.

Being positive – especially when things don’t feel that way, is probably the hardest lesson any leader will ever learn.  You have to be able to maintain control without losing control.  Sometimes the situation may be so intense you may think you will break.  Step around itThere are so many more positive opportunities just around that blob of frustration.


A golden rule I learned years ago as a student instructor was   “as we are meeting deadlines, your students are meeting lifelines.  Lifelines are always greater than deadlines”.   Those lifelines are part of building childhoods.  Those childhoods are more important than someone becoming a leader, a this, or that, etc.  Deadlines vs. lifelines – Lifelines win!

Being a leader means being a strong role model (s).  There can be more than one strong role model.   You don’t lose any credibility by allowing someone else to show the steps.   You lose credibility by not having someone there who can perform movements that you may not be able too.  Kids will give up on you quickly if you are wishy-washy, or a  bossy–know- nothing.

When your verbal attempts to tell students fail, you need someone there to help demonstrate the correct steps along with the correct technical terminology.  Not a bossy-know-nothing.

Sometimes we do run into situations where the assistant or student teacher attempts to over step everything you may say or do.  In these instances, you need to take the person aside and make sure they know that in the future – overstepping boundaries will not be allowed.

That being said, respect is a two way street.   Those in the leadership position should understand that the assistant is just as important as they are.  Assistants help with backup when you can’t be there.  You need each other.  A word of caution – never  confront a staff member  in front of students “EVER”.   All you will earn by doing that is their  resentment instead.


If you find that your students are not getting the steps or a movement, show them how it looks – done wrong.  Sometimes showing them how bad it looks when done wrong will make them want to straighten it out.   Once you have done that, offer to help them break up the steps one by one until they get it right.

You are a mirror of what your students will look like.  If you can’t perform the steps correctly –  you aren’t helping them.   Hire someone who can show them the steps.  they should also be using the correct technical dance terms whenever giving verbal instructions.   Continue to practice skill/steps until your team is polished and can perfect the technique.  Don’t allow your students to practice bad habits.


Enthusiasm goes a long way in a classroom setting. If you are sour and always frowning  – that probably won’t buy you a lot of brownie points with your team.  You should be acknowledging your students accomplishments with words like “job well done”, “excellent”, “keep going”, “give it all you got”, etc.   Walk between, and beside your students, don’t just stand in front and bark out orders.    Be checking your teams formations from all angles and give feedback to help students close up weak areas.

Being a leader is a lot of work, so leaders need to be consistent.   How dedicated to dance are you?  Below is a listing of positive and negative signs for teachers.  Where do you or your instructors (leaders) fall ?

The following is borrowed from: Deciding to teach –  Teaching the Stars way.



Drop outs

Classes are growing and dividing

Arrives late – starts class late

Teacher is early

No motivation ideas

Always new motivation ideas

No enthusiasm

Great enthusiasm

Not excited about program

Helps develop programs

Cancels classes frequently

Arranges extra practices for them

Doesn’t explain why classes are cancelled

Attends competitions, conventions, and clinics (always learning new
styles and techniques)

Always tired or sick

Has a back up plan for unforeseen situations – ask others to help

Doesn’t arrange performances

Finds new performances for them

Watches clock

Does special things for students outside of classes

On the phone all the time

Wishes they had more class time

Leaves quickly after class

Stays after to talk to students and/or parents

Lets students go early a lot

Everyone wants that teacher (word of mouth)

To busy with their own children’s needs

Write or dance for online sources – providing informative views that
help students and teachers

Always remember “don’t hire a tap dancer to teach ballet”.

University Dance

What’s it really like to dance with a professional university team? Exciting! It’s an adventure that is worth taking. I’m glad I did. The friendships I made will last a life time. We were a REAL team. We practically lived together 24/7! Two weeks into the new school year, everyone on campus knew who you were. It’s just the way it was.

I consider myself fortunate to have been a member of the University of Utah Crimsonline Dance Team. My coach was Lori Rupp. Lori was not only the coach of the Crimsonline, but the events coordinator for Utah State Drill. The State Drill Competition was and is still one of our major fundraises that the Crimsonline does each year. Learning how everything came together for an event of this scale was a fascinating experience for me. We started at the crack of dawn and didn’t finish each night until everything was accomplished.

Coming from a little poe-dunk town in the southern end of the state, Moab Utah – I still managed to become a competitive dancer, competing every year since the age of 5.  I  studio trained from age 5 all throughout my high school years, then into college.

It is really important to do studio dance while you are in high school. If you don’t – you may run into problems trying out for a college or university teams. You will work hard!

I’ve seen a lot of dancers who think they can get away with talking and goofing off during a practice – not at this level. You are expected to perform at 100% at every practice – and you WILL perform at 100%. I was in good shape already, having ran track back home. I was also solo training in dance  before coming to Salt Lake City to try out.

Drill can make you lazy. It isn’t hard enough, if at all. You really need studio
training to make it on to a decent college or university  team.   Do it!

The first day of camp, I  thought I had died and ended up in dance boot camp hell. Lori worked us so hard – and LONG…  BUT —- We loved her!  She trained her team “the right way”.  She understood that technique and  synchronization aren’t something you learn in a text book, but rather through years and years of practice.

She taught all of us that we were a team.  We weren’t there just for a social thing – we were a sisterhood. Things mattered.

The Crimsonline did many different types and styles of dance. We danced jazz, lyrical, hip hop, novelty – all the standard stuff. We also held pom pom’s and cheered with the cheer team.

We were part of the spirit squad. The cheer team and the dance team were both Lori’s teams. Everyone was part of that spirit squad. That is how it should be. There is Spirit in Unity. You have to bring it all together to get it to work.

A major part of the Crimsonline is also working with the Pep Band. The U of U Pep Band is one of the best in the nation. They attended the ceremony in Washington DC at the invitation of the 44th President.  Doesn’t matter if you are democrat or republican, for your school to receive an invitation of this magnitude is an honor.

As part of the your Pep Band duties,  you learn many flag and prop routines that accent the marching band theme. You will spend many hours getting your lines straight, kicks on time, flags all turning the same way.  Be prepared to  show up about two week before classes even begin for the camps.  It’s long- so bring lots of water!!!

The members of the pep band are hilarious. They make the pain in all your limbs not hurt so bad with their great humor.  :-0)

As a member of a University Dance team you will probably travel to out of state games with the team. I’ve been to San Diego, Las Vegas, etc. Most recently the dance team traveled with the Utes Football team to Louisiana for the BCS games. The Utes won. (The Utes are now part of the PAC-10)  Go Utes~

There are a host of fundraisers that you will do on a University dance team, visiting hospitals, or doing an alumni fundraiser, etc. You will  be involved in  all the special events and games. Performing is a weekly event! Practice is a daily event. Practices are hard, you will work out and you will be solid.

The girls on the team respected Lori. She was “a real professional coach”. We performed for her. That is the way it should be. You represent your school, you should look and perform as professional as you can.

I did enroll in modern dance classes while I was at the U.  But mostly, I kept up my studio dancing and honed in on my choreography skills.

To be an alumni you have to finish the year out. You can’t drop mid-way or near the end, or you are taken off the roles. I made the team each time I tried out.  I’m an alumni of the University of Utah Crimsonline Dance Team. That is an honor.

I was exicted when Lori called me and asked me to judge at the state level. It is nice to be recognized for ones ability. I am currently a member of the Utah Dance Judge Association (UDJA), and I am looking forward to renewing that again this year – for my third year.  As well I’m looking into  joining a couple other professional dance/judging associations.  There is a lot to learn out there beyond poe-dunk.  The ladies and gentlemen at the state level that I have met – are great mentors.

It is exciting to dance on a team, and be able to tell about it, and all the wonderful experiences that go along with it.