National Dance Coaches Association

December 2017 Newsletter

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Inside the Issue:

  • 12 Days of Christmas ... Dance Team Style
  • Christmas Gift Ideas for your Team
  • Staying Healthy Through the Holidays
  • How to Help Prevent the #1 Dancer Hip Injury – Labral Tear
  • Fostering Appreciation in Dancers
  • Handstand Flexibility Tips for Hip Hop Tricks
  • Dear Old School Coach ... Answers to Questions we ALL have as Coaches
  • NDCA Featured Members

12 Days of Christmas ... Dance Team Style

Sing along, and help celebrate the Holiday Season with some Dance Team Cheer!

On the twelfth day of Christmas

My dance coach gave to me

A BIG hug cause she/he loves me

A hospital issued barf bag

Ten extra hours of practice

Nine Band-Aids for blisters

Eight shouts of “LOOK UP!”

Seven seconds for breathing

A cold stare for crying

Five swollen joints

Four “SMILE!” lectures

Three sips of water

Two bruised knees (cause I forgot my knee pads)

And a pulled muscle in my hamstring

Christmas Gift Ideas for your Team

We asked NDCA members for inexpensive gift ideas coaches can get/do for their teams (and have fingers crossed that you get the gift you deserve in return).

For Crafty Coaches:

1. Handmade Christmas Ornament – To take it up a notch, have each dancer email you one good memory from the season thus far. Cut and put each dancer’s memory into a glass or plastic ornament ball. Add some glitter and a bow to spice it up.

2. Luggage Tags

3. Clothes Hangers

4. Get a 4 X 6 inexpensive picture frame (Michaels) and decorate the frames with stickers. Drop in a team picture. You could also write one word that describes each dancer on scrapbook paper and glue it to the frame. Talk about each dancer as you pass them out.

5. A Personalized Mirror

6. Puzzle – Cut a team photo into puzzle pieces. Give each dancer his/her piece and have the team put the pieces together, highlighting the value each member brings to the team.

For Non-Crafty Coaches:

1. Car Decals – A sign or graphic shop can make sticker car decals for your team (for example SHS Panthers Dance Team).

2. Small lotions wrapped in cellophane wrap and a pretty bow.

3. Write a short note to each team member. Roll it up and tie it with a pretty bow.

4. Fuzzy socks with a note that says, “You knock my socks off when…” and then add something you appreciate about the dancer.

5. Personalized team logo notepads ordered from a service like Shutterfly or Vista Print.

6. $5 gift cards to Yogurtland or Starbucks. Attach an inspirational quote.

7. Rubber wrist bands with inspirational quotes – To take it up a notch, find bracelets with your team’s motto or theme for the year, for example “Believe”.

Staying Healthy Through the Holidays

The holiday season can be a struggle for most. Not only are there treats and baked goods everywhere, but the stress of busy schedules can cause the metabolism to slow down, weight to increase, and energy to drop. When you are attending social events and family gatherings, the last thing you want is to feel sluggish and tired.

With these 5 easy-to-implement tips, you can skip the holiday humbug and feel amazing as you start the New Year.

1) Stay hydrated.

Did you know that the two most common symptoms of dehydration are headache and fatigue? Instead of that morning cup of coffee, drink 16 ounces of warm water with the juice of ½ lemon. The lemon stimulates digestion and will keep that metabolism running smoothly. Continue your water intake throughout the day so you are drinking 34 ounces of water per 50 lbs. of body weight. That’s your own personal ounce requirement.

2) Start with raw.

If you have an event or dinner to attend, snack before you go! Carrot sticks, celery, a small salad, or any raw veggie that you like will do the trick. Raw vegetables contain enzymes that the body needs for digestion while also containing fiber to help satiate you. When you go to the party, you will be less likely to indulge in pastry puffs because the raw veggies feed your physiological hunger. The psychological hunger is a different story!

3) Be mindful.

It’s not about perfection, but being mindful of what and when you’re eating that is important. Next time you find yourself standing over the chip bowl, ask yourself if you really enjoy eating chips or are you just eating them because you’re bored? The more mindful you are of what you’re eating, the healthier choices you will make. Aim for the 80/20 lifestyle. 80% of the time you should eat for nutrition and the other 20% is because you’re human. Perfection is overrated!

4) Avoid empty calories.

Let’s be honest, the holidays typically include alcohol. Alcohol packs on the calories, dehydrates the body, and requires additional detoxification. If you’re going to indulge in a holiday drink, stick to clear. Tequila and vodka are your best options, as they don’t contain as many calories as other drinks like wine or beer.

5) Increase leafy green intake.

Spinach, kale, watercress, Swiss chard, collard greens, parsley, and the list goes on. Greens are alkalizing, energizing, and detoxifying to the body. With increased sugar intake during the holidays, greens are important to keep the body in balance. Smoothies are a great way to get your greens in on a daily basis. Try this recipe:

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • Handful spinach
  • Handful parsley
  • ½ cup frozen mango
  • ½ banana
  • 1 Tbsp. hemp seeds

Add all ingredients to a blender, blend until desired consistency, and enjoy!

The most important thing about staying healthy during the holidays is focusing on the long-term. How do you want to feel tomorrow, 1-week from now, 3 months from now? If you want more energy and better digestion, those cream puffs probably aren’t the best idea. I promise that those “in-the-moment” decisions become a lot easier with the big picture in mind.

I encourage you to enjoy the special people around you, celebrate the reason for the season, and use the five tips I mentioned to help you stay healthy during the holidays. The New Year is right around the corner!

Lauren Venosta is a Clinical Nutritionist, Personal Chef, and Founder of She grew up dancing competitively and danced in college as a member of the San Diego State Dance Team. She resides in the Bay Area of California where she runs her nutrition practice and also teaches competitive dance to kids ages 8-18.

How to Help Prevent the #1 Dancer Hip Injury – Labral Tear

What is it?

There is cartilage called a labrum that surrounds the hip socket. Each dancer has an individual hip bone structure, so some are more prone to injury in this area. Labral tears are created most often when this structure is repeatly pinched during extreme hip flexing (i.e. end range of high kick) or forced turnout (i.e. face down frog stretch).

What does it feel like?

Typically a dancer will think she has a hip flexor strain, but it doesn’t seem to go away. Most often a dancer complains of groin pinching during high kicks. She may complain of pain in the groin area with splits. She may have difficulty stabilizing the hip for a side kick, hinge kick, or Russian/toe touch jump.

Many times the pain starts in the groin, but then begins to radiate outward like a C shape around the side of the hip. Dancers often get the sense that if they stretch the hip flexor, the pain will improve. However, they find that stretching does not improve the hip discomfort.

Note that hip popping may often indicate muscle imbalance, but by itself hip popping does not diagnose a labral tear.

What can coaches do to help prevent this?

1. Avoid the face down frog stretch. Insetad perform a seated butterfly stretch or various straddle stretches.

2. Avoid having dancers push each others’ legs into split like positons via partner stretching. This includes avoiding lying on back split like stretches, as well as standing kick position type stretches. Have dancers work on indepent stretching and foam rolling to improve splits. Most of the time, splits are limited by something other than the hamstring, so forcing the split/kick motion in standing or while lying on the back will not improve the splits, leaps, or kicks.

3. Ensure that dancers have proper pelvis alignment for kick. The tailbone needs to point down toward the floor. The ribs should come back over the pelvis. Sticking the ribs or tail out will lead to pinching in the front of the hip. This can damage the labrum over time. Many dancers have heard cues for alignment before, but they do not have awareness of their own position. This is where partner cueing or video feedback can help.

Meredith is a Dance Medicine specialized Physical Therapist, Orthopedic Certified Specialist, Exercise Physiologist, Personal Trainer, and Pilates/Yoga Instructor based in Minnesota. She is a life-long dancer and performer, currently choreographing and performing with Fitness Universe and Savage Fitness. In her free time, she loves collaboration and sharing her passion for keeping dancers health with the NDCA.

Below is a link to more information on labral tears

Fostering Appreciation in Dancers

Tis’ the season to be thankful! It is the season to reflect on the people in our lives that we love and to spend quality time with family and friends. The older we get, the more we realize how precious time is and how important it is to cherish the people and experiences that helped shape who we are.

For many of us, the people who shaped us were our dance coaches. It may have been the coach who taught us (through hard work and discipline) the life lessons we didn’t want to learn at the time, or the unbreakable bond and lifelong friendships we developed with our teammates. As we look back, we can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude and appreciation for that time in our lives. So now that we are on the other side, the coaching side, how do we instill that same depth of gratitude and appreciation in our dancers today?

While it is important to teach the team to appreciate one another, it is equally important to teach them to appreciate those that give their time, energy, and expertise. Teaching your team how to do this will promote many other great qualities including good sportsmanship, teamwork and positive attitudes.

Step 1 – Teach your team to respect and appreciate each other.

1. Expect each member to greet each other, with a hug or a “hi” when entering the dance room and vice versa when leaving rehearsals.

2. Encourage team members to cheer/clap for those who are asked to demonstrate a skill or have done something exceptionally well.

3. Have each member share one thing they appreciate about their teammate.

Step 2 – Teach your team what a “quality appreciation” looks like.

Although it may seem to most of us that actions that reflect respect for others, appreciation, and gratitude are innate behaviors and attitudes that everyone has, they unfortunately are not and it must ultimately be taught.

1. Share the qualifications of a guest choreographer, instructor, or member of the coaching staff with the team and highlight how this person adds value to the team.

2. Give thank you notes to the person that include handwritten personal reflections and appreciations from each team member. Help dancers say more than just “thank you” by posing questions like:

  • What did you learn from him/her?
  • How did he/she make you a better dancer?
  • What did you enjoy about working with him/her?

3. Give the team leaders the responsibility to purchase/design/coordinate the “thank you.” It will force them to be creative and genuine since it will come from them.

4. Circle up at the end of the class/workshop and ask dancers to tell the guest, coach, etc. what they appreciate about the session, routine, or person. This allows the dancers to express their appreciation in words with appropriate social skills, as well as experience the emotional connection that happens when you encourage and uplift someone else.

Finally, I am a big advocate of allowing dancers to go out and have other “dance experiences”. Despite that fear that I know many coaches have of losing a dancer to other programs, opportunities, and teams, I have seen that as long as you are running a quality team/program, dancers return from their experiences with a greater appreciation for what you are teaching them and express significant comparisons that broaden their dance perspectives.

Coaching, as we all know, is typically a very thankless job with long hours and low pay. If we were to calculate all that we put into our jobs and compare it to what we receive in return, we basically would be working for free. So why do we do it? We do it because we have experienced dance and were all changed because of it. We learned valuable life lessons and know that for some of us, dance saved our lives. We know firsthand the value of dance and we all have the heart to pay it forward. We are reminded when those alumni dancers come back to share their stories and personal growth journeys that we do not just teach dance, we help shape the next generation.

Felicia Vann is the founding Executive Director for Precision Dance Company, a 501c3 non-profit dance company celebrating 25 years. She has a degree in both Dance and Psychology from Loyola Marymount University and has coached and choreographed for many dance and cheer teams across California. She currently serves as the program advisor for the Bishop Montgomery High School Song Team, where she previously coached the Varsity Song Team for the past 10 years.

Handstand Flexibility Tips for Hip Hop Tricks

Dear Old School Coach ...

Unexcused Absences

Dear Old School Coach,

I am having trouble coming up with how to deal with unexcused absences on my team. It seems like every time we are about to start a practice I have girls that are late, tell me at the last minute that they're not going to be at practice, or just don't bother communicating at all that they won't be at practice. How do I come up with a system that addresses this issue more clearly?


I admit that I am a stranger among us, in that I don’t get the “everyone gets 52 chances”, “it’s not fair unless everyone gets a trophy”, and “you flunked the test so keep taking it until you get the grade you want” philosophy. I’m pretty old school so this answer is easy for me. I recognize it is NOT so easy if you belong to the aforementioned school of thought, but sadly I have no real answers for your predicament if that’s the case.

I would start the year with your rules/contract or whatever you use. This is probably different depending on what age group you’re dealing with. Let’s say it’s high school. Be very specific in your handbook or whatever format you use to lay out your rules, which I also highly suggest you go over, in person, at a mandatory parent meeting. Here goes:

  • You get “X” unexcused absences and if you use the last one, you will get both a verbal and a written warning (FYI, I allowed 1 unexcused absence. One freebie. Which for some reason nobody wanted to utilize. Because it didn’t happen without “discussion”).
  • Final warning is given to you and your parents in a written form (not text) and is copied to the Athletic Director.
  • You are reminded that if you have another unexcused absence you’ll be dismissed from the team.
  • If you have the “more than allowed” unexcused absence, you’re dismissed from the team and again, it’s both verbal and in writing to the same list of people.
  • An unexcused absence at a performance is grounds for immediate dismissal. Same protocol as above.

Now –this is recognizing that you have to know the reason for the absence before you let loose. Bona fide emergencies (car, family or health related) unplanned teacher required appointments (not something you should have known about – something the teacher asks you to do without warning which will affect your grade). I don’t know. I honestly can’t think of very many examples. In what universe can you not call or text and explain yourself – hopefully in advance? Unexcused absences to me are “I didn’t feel like coming”, “I’m not responsible enough to set my alarm clock”, “I want to go on a trip that my coach said NO to”, “I had a school commitment I should have talked to you about”, “I am incapable of scheduling medical/dental appointments around practices” and so on.

Caveat: If practices were scheduled with any less than 2 weeks notice and a dancer has a conflict I would not call the absence unexcused if they have a job, medical appointment, school conflict, or a pre-planned and pre-approved family trip, for example.

Can this be painful? Yep. Shedding really talented dancers because you hold to this rule can be really painful. On the flip side – you’re left with people who actually want to be there. I’ll take that result any day of the week.

NDCA Featured Members of the Month

T.J. Maple

Meeting TJ is like getting a shot in the arm of energy and fun. TJ is the Coordinator of Spirit Teams at Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas, and also serves as the Head Dance Coach. Over the past twelve years as Dance Coach, he has won 17 American Dance/Drill Team School Collegiate Championships in Div. 1 and IA Dance, 7 NDA Collegiate National Championships, and produced over 30 NDA Collegiate All-Americans. TJ also attended SFA where he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology. He bleeds purple!

TJ has been a Choreographer, Head Instructor, Certified Adjudicator, Speaker and currently part of the Unleashed Master Staff for NDA in Dallas, Texas. He is a member of the ESP Productions staff for the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, FL. He is also an adjudicator and master instructor for numerous companies including American Dance/Drill Team School, Crowd Pleasers Dance and MA Dance. He has been a member of the Texas Dance Educators Association since 2001. In 2012, TJ created the Texas College Dance Coaches Conference to unite all college dance coaches on a mission to form a foundation for collegiate excellence. TJ is taking his experience and passion to the national level with the NDCA, serving as the lead for Vendor Partnerships for the 2018 Conference.

High school dance coaches may be asked to help seniors navigate the college dance team selection process. We asked TJ to give some insight on what seniors should be doing NOW to prepare for next year.

  • School Applications submitted? Deadlines met?
  • Investigate programs online, asking yourself, “Am I a good fit?” Watch videos, look at calendar, look at last year’s audition information for required skills, etc.
  • Visit the school/team. Is the team offering any clinics or training sessions? Ask if you may attend a practice or performance by contact the coach. Parents should NEVER contact the coach for the dancer. Dancers should be brief when contacting the coach. Use good grammar and be upbeat and professional.
  • If skills to make the team are lacking, take private lessons to bridge the gap. Start now since some skills take time to master safely.

What characteristics do you look for in candidates at your auditions?

  • Talent, knowing the choreography, and having a good “look” for the team get candidates through the first round.
  • Letters of recommendation, school attendance records, grades, poise, articulation, friendliness, and a positive energy get candidates through round two.
  • “Wow” moments can help a candidate stand out if at the end of the audition there are 12 dancers and 2 spots. Develop a 32-count solo that highlights your strengths.

What advice do you have for seniors who feel “burnt out?”

  • Talk about your feelings with your coach, a parent, or a counselor.
  • Take a break from dance when you can, or adjust your schedule to change things up.
  • Remember why you dance and channel that into your work.
  • Be conscious of your attitude. Deciding to have a positive attitude can be transforming.
  • Be careful about negatively affecting your team with your situation. Often, coaches are counting on seniors to step up and lead the team. Be sure you aren’t leading in the wrong direction.

Check out TJ Maple’s team website at; for more information about his program.

Laura Nares

Through the “Members of the Month", we are able to share methods, strategies, and advice with each other. Meet Laura Nares, coach of the Carlsbad High School Lancer Dancers, and keep reading to find out how she motivates her team and instills good sportsmanship.


  • The team learns one competition number in September and one in October. After learning the routines, they focus on their two biggest fundraisers – a golf tournament and a December Showcase. During this fundraising focus time, rehearsals are spent building strength and stamina and working on tricks
  • After their Showcase, routine cleaning is the focus for the rest of December and all of January. Coming back to the routines after a break keeps them fresh and the dancers fired up about working on them.
  • Laura uses several tactics to motivate the team:

1. Setting individual goals, stating them out loud, and teammates holding each other accountable.

2. Defining and communicating the goals for each practice.

3. Studying videos of teams who have mastered the skills/techniques that Laura wants the CHS dancers to emulate – smooth transitions, emoting, synchronization, etc.

4. Teaching the new members about the competition process.

5. Fostering positive energy during practices, where dancers encourage each other with vocals and EVERY dancer is responsible for motivating others, not just the coach and/or leaders.

6. Creating a safe space for dancers to go full out and risk because they believe they can do it and realize that they are part of something larger than themselves – the team.

  • Regardless of the trophy they walk away with, the CHS Dance Team maintains their poise and demonstrates good sportsmanship. How does Laura instill this in her dancers? The answer is by setting expectations. Team members come into the program knowing that they must be nice and show humility. There are clear expectations for behavior and team leaders step up to be role models and enforcers. The team identifies things they can’t control, knows that the competition process is about more than the trophy, and they do it for each other. Peer pressure is a big motivator for teens, and Laura uses it as a positive motivator for her program.

Laura has coached the CHS Lancer Dancers for 8 seasons, and most recently received 3rd place in Medium Jazz and 1st in Medium Hip Hop at the 2017 UDA NDTC. She graduated from California State University San Marcos, where she was a founding member of the Lady Cougar Dance Team. She is a teacher, choreographer, and Competition Director at Carlsbad Dance Centre in Carlsbad, California.

Laila Hardman

Our last, but not least, Featured Member is Laila Hardman. Laila lives in Boise, Idaho, but has left her mark in many different places. Here are some of her many accolades.

  • Current Owner and Director of “Uraban Fairytalez” in SLC, Utah.
  • Current Choreographer for the Boise State Main Line Dancers.
  • Former Dance Captain of the Denver Nuggets and Choreographer for the Nuggets and Broncos.
  • Former Associate Artistic Director for Starstruck Dance Academy in Denver.
  • Founder of Extreme Dance London and London Dance Project in the UK.
  • Faculty Member of the dance convention, Dance Raw.
  • Founder and Former Owner of The Dance Project SLC in Utah.
  • Choreographed commercials, NFL and NBA half-time shows, trade and fashion shows with over 30 awards for her work.
  • Served as a private dance coach for several Disney Mickey Mouse Club Members, most notably Justin Timberlake. Laila has former students dancing on Broadway, in music videos, on tour with music artists, on NBA and NFL dance teams, and in commercials.

Laila has a passion for researching ways that dance coaches and teachers can train dancers to be excellent technicians who are resilient toward injury. Here is a Q & A we had with Laila to find out how she gets dancers through this physically demanding time of year.

This point in the season is hard on dancers' bodies. What is the best way to help exhausted dancers?

I think the answer to this question is with another question: How do you keep your dancers motivated? A motivated dancer can push through even if they are exhausted. It’s a good time of year to revisit team goals. If you haven’t set team goals, now is the time to set them. An exhausted dancer needs to be reminded why they are working so hard and what they are working for. It really can help push them to the next level. Start practice with something motivational or a team building exercise to get them focused and excited for practice. For example, to get them warmed up before stretching, have them run a couple laps around the gym and then line up in order of the length of their fingernails. You got their blood flowing all while they were having fun! And last, it’s okay to give them a day off now and then. If they are that exhausted, a recovery day can do wonders.

What types of conditioning are appropriate for this time in the season?

It’s important to remember the saying “you can’t beat a dead horse.” This time of year, practices should be centered around a strong conditioning warm up that concentrates on strength and flexibility and should have a Pilates and Yoga base. Running long distances, Cross Fit and weight training will not produce good results from your dancers this time of year. You are training dancers, not football players, and it’s important to remember that. Dancers need their muscles to be pliable in order to execute the choreography they are asked to do. If you are making dancers warm up with 100 air squats and then making them go right into running choreography with no recovery time you are going to injure your dancers and thus start “beating a dead horse!"

Where can coaches get new ideas for conditioning dancers?

There is a plethora of information on the internet regarding conditioning dancers. Google Dance Teacher Magazine and then search “conditioning for dancers” and many articles will come up. I personally am a big fan of MUVmethod because it’s conditioning specifically designed for dancers. The program is designed to release muscular and fascial tension while improving core strength, balance, flexibility and enhance performance and most importantly prevent injury.

NDCA T-Shirts

What better way to show your pride in being a part of the NDCA than with an official logo t-shirt!

Available in unisex sizes S-XL for just $20 (including shipping) it is a must have for all. Email Jill @ to place your order (please include size requirement and mailing address) and receive payment instructions.

Once you've ordered and received your t-shirt please send/post a picture of yourself repping your NDCA swag!

2018 NDCA Annual Conference

May 17 - 19, 2018

Hilton Lake Resort in Las Vegas, NV

We apologize for the delay but our website is currently undergoing construction. Registration will be up VERY SOON for our 2018 NDCA Annual Conference! Thank you for your patience.

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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.