I have a love-hate relationship with dance team tryouts. The one day a year that you have to make a final decision on a new team. It always brings excitement, stress, inspiration, and complete dread. I can see the stress on the dancer’s faces, and I can feel their hearts on the floor.
I know what they’re going through
It’s easy for me to think about all the times I was in their place. Giving everything I had for the hope of being a part of something bigger than me. Going for a goal that meant the world to me. Pushing myself to the limit with the hopes that I would be chosen. Even years later, those memories are still fresh for me. Like the time I called my mom while jumping up and down in the parking lot with sheer joy. And the time I sat under a nearby tree and cried before I drove home. Maybe it’s because I know what these dancers are going through, but I can’t help but be incredibly emotional about tryouts.
Dance team tryouts are about what’s best for the team
As a coach, I know my job is to make the best decisions for the team. Sometimes the best thing for the team is not the best for every individual dancer and that includes tryouts. While it may be best for one hardworking junior who has done so well on JV to have a chance on varsity, taking her when she lacks a team required skill is not the best for the team. It may be best for a new freshman to be given a chance even if her incoming grades aren’t up to par, but what’s best for the whole team is to have a group of people who remain eligible all year. Tryouts are the time of year when balancing individual needs with team goals is unbelievably challenging.
This battle between what’s best for each dancer and what’s best for the team leaves me with numerous sleepless nights. Nights where I run through different scenarios in my head. Nights where I have intense debates with myself over how to make the right call. Nights where my heart and my head hurt so bad I can’t drift off to sleep no matter how tired I am. Nights where I actually go home and cry because I’m not sure I did the right thing.
I know the power of my decisions
The choices I make during tryouts will change someone’s life. That is a heavy burden for me, and one that I wrestle with every season. I don’t mean every dancer is right for my team or that my team is the best thing for every dancer. I don’t believe my decision to not take them is going to negatively impact their lives forever. I mean that for some, taking them or not taking them on the team is changing their path in life; for better or for worse. One of my good friends gave me this great advice the other day: “I truly believe that everyone has a purpose and a path in life. This team is not her path, and by taking her when she isn’t ready, you’re keeping her from that path.” I have to remember that my choice is just one small piece of their path.
To all of the dancers out there that didn’t make my team…
I want you to know that it wasn’t easy for me. I thought about it for days or even weeks both before and after tryouts. Sometimes I thought about going back and changing my mind. Sometimes I lost sleep over it. Sometimes I cried and in some cases I never really let it go. Being a coach is the most rewarding, stressful, inspirational, time-consuming, mentally exhausting job there is, and in my opinion, tryouts are the worst of it. So when you gave it your all that day to try and make my team, know that I gave my all too. I didn’t take it lightly. I didn’t just ignore you across the floor or disregard your efforts that day. I cared, I worried, and I tried my best.
To all the other coaches out there who lose sleep over tryouts…
you’re not alone. I’ll be the first to admit I’m an overly emotional person. There are times when that makes me a better coach, and times when I have to push past it in order to improve. When it comes to tryouts, I embrace my emotionality. It’s part of the experience.
It’s ok if cutting that returner brings you to tears. It’s ok if you obsess over your decision for hours and days, never really sure if you made the right call. Ultimately, all you can do is your best every day and tryouts are no different. Do your best to analyze your goals and plans for the season, and see how each dancer fits into that plan. Sometimes your team’s path is not in line with his or her individual path and that’s ok.
Focus on what’s best for the whole team.
Do your best, and then expect the same from the new team.
Listen to your head and your heart; it’s a balancing act.
Before tryouts this year, take some time to reflect on last season. When you have a better grasp of your goals and direction, you’ll have a foundation to stand on during tryouts when you’re faced with those hard decisions.
Good luck, I’m pulling for you.