Teaching dance team captains accountability - by Passionate Coach

Many coaches today struggle with accountability on their team. They want dancers who do the hard work, stick with it, and follow through with their promises. The hard truth is, teaching accountability starts at the top. You have to be accountable to the team and demonstrate what that means, like owning up to mistakes and doing what you say you’re going to do.

After the coach, your seniors and/or captains are the next tier in the accountability pyramid on your team. One of the best things you can do as a coach is to teach your captains to be an extension of you. To help them learn how to be accountable as a dancer.

Teaching dance team captains accountability - by Passionate Coach

I know teaching this can be hard to do, or rather, it feels hard. What do I say? How do I set aside time for this? The good news is it’s actually pretty simple, just a conversation at the beginning of the season to set the stage, and then leading by example and reminding them from there on out. To make it even easier, I want to share my “script” of sorts. The following is something I wrote for dance team captains, for the future leaders of a team. I wrote it directly to the captains, to help them understand what it means to be an accountable leader. Read it, share it, and even give it to your team leaders.

Dear Captains,

Accountability is a pretty simple concept to understand, yet an incredibly challenging idea to implement as a leader on your team. It’s way easier said than done. Accountability is when you do what you say you’re going to do to the best of your ability.  Accountability doesn’t mean perfect or without mistakes.  The point of accountability is if you promised you’d do something, you do it.  It’s more than being accountable to the coach. The most important thing is that every dancer is accountable to each other.

It’s up to you…

The challenge for leaders of a team is to embody accountability. It is your role to demonstrate what that means to your team. It’s your duty to hold yourself to the highest level of accountability. When you promise that you will complete summer cardio training, you do it, even though no one is checking up on you. When you promise to be on time to a game and make sure everything is ready for the team to have a great performance, you hold up your responsibilities and follow through.  

Being accountable doesn’t stop with doing what you say you will do, it’s also modeling for your team what to do when you fall short. What happens when you make a mistake?

The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own personal example.

In order to develop a team that holds each other accountable, fights for their dreams, and works hard every day, a good leader chooses to be a good example in every situation. That doesn’t mean perfection. No one is perfect and your job as a leader isn’t to be perfect all of the time. Instead, the best thing you can do for your team is to try your best to make the right decision and always follow through on your word. But when you make a mistake, be an example of how to have a positive reaction.

No one is perfect

Accountability means you keep trying even when you make mistakes.  This starts with technical skill training. If you make a mistake while practicing your routine, or you keep falling out of a turn sequence, how you handle yourself in those tough moments will show your team what accountability means to you. It means you keep fighting. It means you don’t get down on yourself and give up. It means you maintain your confidence and push forward.

When a leader models this kind of behavior, the whole team will start to follow. If every dancer is accountable for his or her actions, the expectation is to keep trying even if you make a mistake. And if everyone continues to push through and keep trying, that’s where real growth happens, and success stories begin. 

Don’t be afraid to try a new skill in front of everyone because it’s ok if you fail. Consider what happens on your team when you make a mistake. When you miss a formation change during a football routine, or when you are practicing a new section and you freeze because you forgot the choreography… how does your team react?  Is your team supportive when mistakes happen? Do some people on the team put others down when they see a mistake?

How you treat each other in your lowest moments will make all the difference on your path to the high moments.

dance team commitment and accountability

How to make a mistake when you’re the leader

After a mistake, there are two stages to your reaction: the immediate reaction and the follow-up.  Of course, you want to follow up after a mistake and figure out what happened and how you can prevent it from happing again. However, the more challenging and often more important part is what happens immediately after a mistake.

You are in control of your thoughts

Whenever you have an internal dialogue going on in your head, it’s called self-talk. Anytime you are talking to yourself, you have the power to make things better or worse in that moment. For many people, the self-talk after a mistake is not very nice. You might think things like, “I can’t believe I keep messing this part up. What if everyone is mad at me,” or “Why can’t I turn today, this is so embarrassing, what if the coach takes me out of the routine.”  All too often, we immediately go to a negative place after we make a mistake. The trick is, you are in control of your thoughts. It’s completely up to you to take control of that internal dialogue and make sure your self-talk after a mistake is positive and supportive.

Think about the moment you make a mistake. What is going through your head? If you’ve ever made a big mistake during a key performance, you know it can be hard to let it go and focus on the rest of the routine. Or if you’re having a difficult day in practice it can be hard to let mistakes go and really learn anything because you get so caught up in what you’re doing wrong.  So in the moment, how do you let go of a mistake?

Take control of your internal dialogue

Your job is to practice turning those negative self-talk statements into something different. Rather than “What if…” you have to learn to say, “So what.” So what if I fell, I can try again. So what if I made a fool of myself, my teammates will pick me back up. So what if I can’t do it. I just can’t do it NOW but I will be able to with practice.  With repetition, you can learn to recognize the negative “What if” type statement and start to rephrase it into a “So what” statement.  A statement that helps you throw away the mistake in the moment and know that you can keep trying.

Think about what happens when you keep making a mistake in practice. It’s easy to get bogged down in the negativity and to stop practicing at 100%, and to simply give up.  But if your team is full of accountable dancers, then the goal is to keep working hard every day no matter the obstacle because you all want your dreams to be a reality. So rather than getting caught up in your mistake, you learn to throw away the negative self-talk after a mistake and that allows you to keep fighting and hold up your responsibilities to your team.

You can even take it a step further and make a gesture to remind yourself, “So what if I make a mistake. I’ve got this.”

Have a little fun with this!

You can even create a “brush it off” gesture for your team. How will you signal to your teammate (or yourself!) that you saw that mistake, but you love the effort and want her to brush it off and keep going? For example, you could hold your fist out in front of you and turn it 90° like you would when you flush a toilet. The message is silly but powerful. If you made a mistake, FLUSH IT!

Or you can take your right hand and brush your left shoulder twice. That simple gesture can speak volumes. When we make a mistake, we brush it off, support each other, and keep trying! You want to create a silly, simple move that means “So what, I’ve got this” to you and your team. Then anytime you see a teammate struggling in practice, you can do that and remind your teammate to let it go, keep your eye on the prize.

You can even do it yourself if you’re having a rough practice. Remember, making a mistake isn’t a problem. Failure is how you learn. A simple “brush it off” gesture will remind you to stay accountable to your team and don’t give up.

Failure is part of the process. It’s how you handle it that counts.

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