Being a dance coach takes a rare breed of an individual. With an eight-month long season, November and January being the most chaotic months of the year, and typically working with more than 10 pre-teen or teenage girls at a time, it is a unique job in itself.
I have been coaching since January 2010, and I have to say that I have learned a lot of things, mostly life lessons that I attempt to put into action in other aspects of my life. One lesson that comes to mind is communication. I like to think that communicating effectively is important with any job, but after coaching, I have found that it is vital to even survive in this profession.
Some things I struggled with, and am still working on as a coach, are remembering who I am speaking to, thinking about how I am speaking to them, and realizing I need to say what I mean in a way that they can relate to. I also wonder how much communication is too much communication? And, do I really know what I am talking about after all?
I had to learn that these girls depend on my direction and need to know what I want and expect from them.
WHO AM I SPEAKING TO AND HOW DO I SAY WHAT I MEAN IN A WAY THAT THEY CAN RELATE TO?
It is important to alter the word usage or form of communication when talking to different groups of people. In my case, this is the first year that I am coaching two completely different age groups, a middle school and a high school team. I would not say something to motivate my middle school team the way I would my high school team. My middle school team has to constantly be motivated and reminded of what to do, what not to do and how to do it, which is normal for any kids in that age group. On the contrary, I try to not only guide my high school team in what they should be doing, but I also try to communicate the advantages of working hard – such as landing a scholarship for a college dance team. Another thing I have to constantly do is try to take out manage the frustration that I often feel during a practice and take the time to explain why I am frustrated and show them how to fix whatever we are working on. The key to communication is being thorough and having a goal behind your message.
HOW MUCH COMMUNICATION IS TOO MUCH COMMUNICATION?
In order to stay on task throughout the dance season and continue to have effective practices, I have to make sure that what is being said in practice is not just chatter but that it is relevant to the particular practice. I realized early on in coaching, as in any authoritative position, that you have control the conversation’s direction and overall intention. Even though it humors me to listen to my middle school ladies chat about who is going out with out who or who loves or hates Justin Bieber, we would not get anywhere with that being our only conversation at practice. I also try to say things in a direct, non-biased way, which allows the dancer to fix her personal mistake rather than worrying about other dancers around her.
DO I REALLY KNOW WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT?
In any job setting, the team under the authoritative figure should trust and believe in what they are being taught as true and valid. This is crucial in a dance practice to maintain safety, progression of the dancer and the overall success of the program. This communication skill is highly imperative in order for them achieve their goals. If a dancer doubts my credibility or knowledge as a coach, then they are more likely to doubt my coaching methods. Overall, that would end in the team hitting a brick wall, consequently getting nowhere.
While these three communication skills have been something I’ve learned specifically in my experience as a dance teacher, I believe they should be applied to all different types of jobs so the professional environment runs smoothly.