National Dance Coaches Association

November 2017 NEWSLETTER

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Inside the Issue:

  • A Tribute to Kaneidra Fisher Everson by Jenny Eustice
  • NDCA Featured Members
  • Dear Old School Coach ... Answers to Questions we ALL have as Coaches
  • Teaching Points for Performing an Aerial
  • The Freshmen Meltdown
  • So Much More Than 5, 6, 7, 8
  • NDCA T-Shirts

A Tribute to Kaneidra Fisher Everson by Jenny Eustice

Many know Kaneidra by her laugh, her passion for the Loyola University Spirit Program, and the light she brought to the world. I was fortunate enough to meet Kaneidra through teaching for Universal Dance Association. I was drawn to Kaneidra’s enthusiasm for life. Constantly smiling, she befriended every person she encountered. Kaneidra and I were pregnant with our daughters at the same time, and our UDA family threw us an amazing shower at Milwaukee college camp. It was a memory that I will always treasure. The next year, our daughters enjoyed UDA camp together, and in following years spent time at the water park when college camp moved to Wisconsin Dells. I could go months without talking to her, and sit next to her at high school nationals and talk for eight hours straight.

Kaneidra fought cancer quietly, focusing her love and energy on her family, her friends, and her team. She was an inspiration for many as she balanced life and cancer--but if you were to ask her about her battle she would always focus on the good. She gave 100% to Loyola University and kept dance ever-present through treatments and surgeries. I was always in awe of how she lived her life full out, giving her daughter, Giulia, and husband, Jeff, amazing memories and moments as they travelled the world together.

Our mutual friend Toya Ambrose once stated to Kaneidra, “You are inspiring.” Kaneidra’s reply: “I don’t do anything out of the ordinary.” I hope Kaneidra’s light forever shines on her family, and all that knew her in the dance world.

Jenny Eustice is a former UDA Head Instructor, current coach of the University of Iowa Dance Team, and proud NDCA member.

NDCA Featured Members of the Month

Breanna Griego-Schmitt

All-Stars are NDCA members too!

Meet Breanna Griego-Schmitt, our first All-Star featured member. Bre is a Senior Core Staff Instructor and coach for two of the six All -Star teams at Dimensions School of Dance and Music in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Studio owner Christy Kearney has created a thriving center where dancers of all ages can take classes in several genres of dance, and Bre has worked by Christy’s side since Dimensions opened in 2003. Bre’s teams compete in both dance team and studio competitions, and have won numerous accolades, including 3rd place in Senior Small Jazz at UDA’s 2017 NDTC.

In her non-dancing time, PhD Bre serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of New Mexico. Her desire to never stop learning and growing in her own life has made a positive impact on her students as she shares her knowledge and inspiration with them.

As you fall into dance this last week of September, consider Bre's advice:

  • Choreography for solos, duets, trios and other small group numbers take a lot of time and energy. Consider delegating the tasks to other teachers in or outside your studio. Your time can then be used to focus on large group numbers that affect more dancers. In addition, it might be easier for you to consult on the other numbers later in the season and have a greater impact with a second eye.
  • Be diligent about building in time for technique and conditioning during rehearsal. It is easy to get lost in choreography.
  • Work with technique and ballet teachers to integrate skills from your choreography into their classes so that you can save teaching time. This way, when dancers encounter the skill in the routine, they will already know how to execute it from technique class.
  • Don't forget to include teambuilding activities in your program. Building connections among team members who don't see each other much outside of dance makes it more difficult. With older dancers, Bre suggests using captains or leaders to plan activities - coaches do not always need to lead. With younger dancers, however, teambuilding is offer more productive when it is coach-driven since these dancers need more direction.

Toya Ambrose

Meet NDCA’s next Featured Member - Toya Renee Ambrose

Toya has done it all:

  • Professional Dancer - Former NBA dancer for the Chicago Luvabulls and the Memphis Grizzlies
  • College Dancer - Graduated from the University of Memphis, where she was a scholarship member of the award-winning University of Memphis Pom Squad
  • Coach - Former Head Coach and Spirit Coordinator of the University of Connecticut (UCONN) Dance, Cheerleading, and Mascot Teams, and former Head Coach of the 2-time National Champion University of Illinois at Chicago Dancing Flames
  • Business Owner Owns T. R. A. Choreography, LLC, where she and her staff choreograph for competitive dance teams, studios, and all-star teams both nationally and internationally
  • Judge - Seasoned judge on the state and national levels

From a Choreographer’s Point of View

What information can a coach provide to a choreographer to help prepare for working with a team?

  • Number of members who will be learning the routine,
  • Team skills that have been mastered and individual skills that can be highlighted,
  • Team leaders’ names,
  • List of team members’ names, and
  • Past videos of the team to better understand their current abilities.

What preparations can a coach make prior to the actual choreography session to help facilitate a positive experience?

  • Communicate if any dancers will be missing or sitting out due to illness or injury.
  • If someone is out, assign an alternate or recruit a dancing body (for example, an alumnus) to learn the position.
  • Cover logistics: space booked, lunch planned, dancers wearing matching and appropriate clothing and shoes, and ample speaker volume.
  • Prepare dancers to be punctual, motivated, and open to learning something new.

Dear Old School Coach ...

Wanting Focus

Dear Old School Coach,

How do I get my dancers to focus on what THEY can control, and keeping that as their MAIN focus during practice?


Encouraging your team members to focus on what they CAN control is a really good initiative. It isn’t easy, particularly if you are dealing with teens vs. college age, to convince girls/boys to stay in their lane. The most important people in their lives are their peers, and that seems to include what their peers/teammates are doing, wearing, saying and who they’re “seeing”. Boyfriends/Girlfriends being a totally different subject –one I could write a novel about, and ….. I obviously need something to keep me focused on your question.

Once you have done some exercises that have driven home the point (I don’t think any one “item” would serve as a reminder unless the message is pretty clear and relatable first) then one suggestion I have is a rubber band they can wear around their wrist that isn’t obtrusive, but that they can snap (and cause a little sting) when they catch themselves allowing their minds to wander, their unsolicited opinions to flow, and their attention span diminishing. Now I’m not meaning a “livestrong” type bracelet. Just a nice sturdy rubber band that doesn’t have to stand out, but that they are taught to give a snap when they’re wandering off course. I suppose – it also allows you or a teammate to give it a snap when you SEE it happening - but maybe it’s best to leave that up to the person wearing it. I like this idea because when dancers are training, there isn’t a lot they can be wearing or carrying with them. This is a simple but feasible solution.

I note that some teams use a specific “focus word” or series of words to remind them, a chant or cheer that will refocus the group, and things similar to this. I think these are also useful tools for creating team focus when it seems the whole team has their attention elsewhere (which we all know can happen) but if you want the ability to re-focus to be more individualized I think the rubber band is a good idea.

If you need some ideas on creating a more focused athlete (these are not specific to dancers but athletes in general), here are some links that can give you some useful information.

Teaching Points for Performing an Aerial

Check out this exclusive #NDCA video tutorial on how to properly execute an aerial!
Share this with your team & coaches!

The Freshmen Meltdown (It Is Not A Bad Thing)

by Carrie Smith

In the six years I coached at the college level, every freshman had a little breakdown during the month of October. Most breakdowns started with me asking, “How are things (outside of dance) going?” From there, came tears and an emotional response usually involving one of the following topics.

  1. It’s midterms time! Many dancers feel academically overwhelmed and are now realizing that there are big test scores on the line. They need guidance in prioritizing academics and figuring out how to study.
  2. They realize that they are not on an extended vacation and that college is their new home. They miss family cooking and laundry services.
  3. The high school boyfriend is actually not “Mr. Right.” Breakups can be hard.
  4. Most college dance teams demand large amounts of time and energy, and the physical demands are more than expected.
  5. Prioritizing, time management, and self-control are the responsibility of the dancer, and the support system (6 high school teachers, counselors, dance coaches, studio teachers, and parents) is not there.

To help your dancer over this speedbump in life, we can do some simple things.

  1. Listen and reinforce that it is OK to feel this way. Expressing emotion is not a character flaw or sign of weakness.
  2. Help your dancer strategize how to handle stressful areas of life. Suggestions include: seeing a counselor, getting a tutor, visiting professors during office hours for extra help, making a list of pros and cons for decision making, organizing a calendar, or teaching how to prioritize and plan for the week.
  3. Pair the freshman dancer up with an older teammate who can guide them and provide support.
  4. Set a time to follow up and see how the dancer is doing in meeting goals.
  5. Give her a hug.

Whether you are the college coach helping dancers in the moment, or the high school coach receiving a phone call, you can be the one to listen and support your dancer through these life transitions.

SO MUCH MORE THAN 5, 6, 7, 8

by Jennifer Britton Whitford

As dance coaches, the list of responsibilities that fall on our shoulders can seem endless. Work with school administration, develop budgets, collect monies, order practice-wear, shoes, etc., oversee practices, choreograph routines, manage social media accounts, design uniforms/costumes, recruit new dancers for your program… the list goes on and on!

When I first began coaching, I was alone, and all responsibilities fell on my shoulders. Being described as a Type A my entire life, I thrived under the pressure, and I also became very, very tired. Perhaps this is one reason why I didn’t get married until I was in my 30’s?

As I look back on the countless late nights I spent choreographing, searching for cost effective dance wear, gluing rhinestones on each and every costume myself (yes, I did that), I am thankful for the experience, but now I have found that I find even more happiness in teaching my team to do many of these tasks for themselves.

What does that mean? Don’t grimace when I use the word “delegate.” Yep, I said it… delegate. If you Google the definition of delegate, you’ll find that the first word used in its definition is entrust. I love that! Type A’s can have a very hard time entrusting others with tasks that we can just do ourselves (because clearly we can do it best, right?). But friends, the freedom it will create for you is mind blowing. You can then be your best at coaching them.

What I am going to share with you is how I have delegated responsibilities to my college team and how it works for us. I am not saying this is the end-all to how you should run your program. In fact, I encourage you to create your own list of needs and go from there. But I believe it can and will work for teams at any level. What I will share is this: I find that now I can focus on coaching my team, rather than doing it for them, and I love it.

1. Captain: This is not an unfamiliar term. Most teams have captains. What a captain is for us is the liaison between the team and me. If team members have questions or concerns, they go to her first. This works well for us, because the girls feel that she is their comrade, and often she can help them without ever involving me. She takes lead on designing and ordering practice wear, shoes, etc. She can run a Captain’s Practice, if she wants to offer additional help to the team. She communicates constantly with all of the other leadership positions to ensure they are meeting their goals and deadlines. She and the Co-Captain handle much of the communication between the team and the school. As we are a club sport, they attend all meetings and request monies from our Student Financial Board (who manages our account).

2. Co-Captain: She assists the Captain with her duties when needed. She is also being groomed to become the Captain, so she spends time shadowing and learning from the current Captain.

3. Social Chair: She plans and organizes social events for the team. We feel that emotional preparation is just as important as physical preparation, so she takes lead here.

4. Community Service Chair: She is in charge of communications and organizing performances/appearances within our community. We feel it is important to represent our team outside of our school, and she manages this for our team. If she needs me, she will let me know, and I am there to assist her.

5. Fundraising Chair: Because our team is almost completely self-funded, fundraising is very important. In fact, we usually elect two dancers to head this up. They are responsible for setting fundraising goals for the year and designing events/activities that can help us reach those goals. I have found that when the team and its leaders can see exactly what it takes to run a team financially, they have a much greater appreciation for everything they earn.

6. Discipline Board: This is a group of dancers that handle all discipline issues. Rather than discipline falling on my shoulders alone as a coach, they decide as a team what is best, and I have the final vote on their recommendations. For example, if a dancer needs to miss practice, they determine whether the reason is excused or unexcused and what she will need to do from there. Often, it may lead to extra community service hours or time spent assisting one of the other leadership positions.

7. Social Media Chair: As times have changed, having a social media presence is key. With that, this individual is responsible for posting photos, birthday wishes, or just positive motivation to our various social media accounts.

Again, these are positions that work for us as a team. Disclaimer: I am the only coach; I have no assistants. We are a club team, so this is very different from being included in an Athletic Department. By utilizing these positions, I can focus on the routines we perform, work with my team to improve their technique and their showmanship, and spend more time thinking about the dancing itself.

I encourage you to design your own list of needs, and establish ways that you can delegate responsibilities to your dancers. This will provide them with an even stronger sense of ownership in their program. They will also understand what it takes to keep a program running successfully, both financially and organizationally. These are life skills that these students can carry out into the real world.

And isn’t that our goal? To send smart, caring young people out into society with the ability to make informed decisions? I believe it is, and delegation can be one way to help do just that. After all, coaching is so much more than just 5,6,7,8.


Jennifer is a freelance choreographer and consultant with over twenty years of experience teaching, coaching and judging all styles and levels of dance. She is a veteran NDTC judge and former State Director for Universal Dance Association and currently works as the Head Coach for The College of New Jersey Dance Team. Jennifer lives in Yardley, PA with her husband, Ray and son, Acklin.

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The NDCA strives to educate, inspire, and advocate the coaches of college, high school and all star dance teams, while providing a positive experience for all involved in the dance team community.