NDCA November Newsletter


  • Early Bird Registration
  • Congratulations Newly Credentialed Judges
  • Friday Night Lights to Competition Heights
  • NDCA Featured Member: Joni May
  • How to Video: Spider

Vegas Lights Are Calling You!

Come join us for the 2nd Annual NDCA National Coaches Conference in Vegas May 16 - 18. We know that it is only November, but opening registration now gives you the opportunity to get a GREAT PRICE and submit paperwork to your school/studio early. Do something for yourself today by registering for a weekend of education, connection, and rejuvenation. By the end of the season, you will need it!
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Congratulations to Newly Credentialed Judges!

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The NDCA is proud to announce the following people have completed the 3 required courses to be NDCA Proficient Credentialed Judges.

Kari Jensen

Kali Lighty

Nicole Vanek

Taylor Pacovsky

Reyna Crothers

Laurie Copeland

Megan Quiring

Melanie Stise

Alesha Dugger

Carlee Green

Cassidy Howell

Ashley Thomas

Jessica Vaughn

Sara Little

Elizabeth Hathaway

Bob Berheide

Are you interested in becoming a judge? Join us at the NDCA Conference in May. Can't make it? Online credentialing information coming soon!

Friday Night Lights to Competition Heights

We want to feature you and your dancers! Send us your favorite action shot photos from Game Day, Practice, and Competitions to:


We can't wait to see your photos!

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Featured Member - Joni May

The NDCA is excited to introduce Joni May, our next Featured Member. Joni stepped on to the NDCA stage as a Co-Director of the Judging Credential Program. When hearing her speak, it is obvious that she is bright, knowledgeable, and passionate about all things dance team. You can check out her bio (below). Here are some questions we asked Joni about coaching and judging.

What trends are you seeing in coaching?

I recently heard a statistic that 10 years ago, the average coach lasted about 6 years. Now, it’s 1.5. There are great coaches out there, but in recent years there has been less peer support/sense of community and greater demands being placed on coaches. Some coaches also look at the position as that of a temporary outside vendor vs. being the leader of a program. I do believe that coaches who have a place like NDCA to share, learn, and support each other, coach longer and are happier in their positions.

As a consultant, you go in and work with many different teams. What coaching characteristics do you find consistent when working with successful programs?

1. Healthy Mental Health Practices – I think this is the most important thing that separates successful programs from unsuccessful ones. In successful programs, I see coaches and team leaders fostering collaboration, providing support, and creating a psychologically safe place for everyone in the program. All members feel valued and understand their roles. If that culture is not developed, everything becomes a much bigger struggle. I have seen physically talented teams implode because those things weren’t put in place first.

2. Articulated Goals - The coach is able to verbalize what the goals are. This includes micro goals for each practice all the way to macro goals for the year. Goals must be achievable and all members must understand what their role is to help reach the goals.

3. “Lead from Where You Stand” Attitude - All team members appreciate the role of leadership and take ownership of leadership tasks. Whether that position is serving as a role model for younger dancers or teaching and cleaning during practice, everyone understands that they have a role and commit to fulfilling that role.

4. Connection - Coaches have a network with other coaches that provides a safe place to vent with someone who understands as well as to get support and/or ideas. With our company, Circle Up Leadership, we work with coaches, dancers, teams, and even states to help them develop their connections. Since most dancers are not going to dance in college or professionally, we find that emerging leadership skills are the main things that high school dancers have developed from their dance team experience that will help them with life. We want to keep them connected and networked in one common place. We are developing a professional networking organization for dance people. Check out our website at: www.circleupleadership.org.

How do coaches move from coaching to judging?

If you don’t have a state association with a training program, reach out to a judge in the dance community who you admire and respect. Ask that person for advice and help with networking. Get training and credentialing in judging. NDCA offers both online and in person credentialing classes.

What trends are you seeing in judging?

Some people entering the judging community think that they need a ton of studio training and dance skill knowledge to be a good judge. Obviously, knowing the technique of dance is important, but it’s not the only thing. Artistry and theater can be just as valuable. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have an extensive studio background.

I am also noticing a trend in some states toward “difficulty” being included in many sub captions, even in some such as showmanship and staging. It seems to be the new buzzword. I find it disheartening because judges are having to evaluate this in addition to evaluating each sub caption and providing feedback. To me, it feels artificially imposed and can add an awkwardness to the score sheet that adds confusion. Difficulty can be appropriately measured and valued without being spread too far and wide.

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Joni's Bio

Joni May

Scottsdale, Arizona

Co-Founder and Director, Circle Up Leadership

NDCA Judge Credential Program Co-Director

Joni is an advertising and non-profit professional who has been a dance, cheer and guard adjudicator and coach for over 25 years in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and nationally. She was the co-founder, Executive Director and President of Academy for TeamDance Illinois, a competitive dance team circuit that served over 250 youth, high school, youth and college teams by offering 30+ regional competitions, 3 championships, training intensives and a multi-leveled comprehensive judge and official training program. Prior to this she served as a Hall of Fame judge and Board of Director for the Illinois Drill Team Association and has coached at the Varsity and JV levels. In addition to judging and coaching, she founded a dance team consulting company that provides consulting and choreography services.

In 2016, Joni co-founded Circle Up Leadership (CUL) along with Toya Ambrose and Ebony Johnson. CUL is a national 501(c)3 non-profit organization that offers leadership training and networking to dance coaches and students. CUL is founded on the premise that there is an emerging leader inside each dancer and coaches coach better when supported by a community ready to lead.

Joni holds a Master of Arts in Advertising and is completing her executive certificate in non-profit leadership from Northwestern University Kellogg Center. She is proud to serve alongside IHSDTA’s Kelly Berheide as a Co-Director of the National Dance Coach Association’s Judging Credentials Program. Joni is the proud mother of 4 grown/college-aged sons and one grandson. She and her husband own a small manufacturing company and love college basketball, boating and travel.

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