About Coach Erin

Erin is a 17 year veteran dance team coach in Minnesota. A 3 time MADT coach of the year (2009, 2010, 2014) and winner of 2 state championships in high kick with the Cannon Falls Bomber Dance Team. In high school Erin danced for Winona and Apple Valley high schools. Erin is a nationally known blogger, writing for the Radio City Rockettes and a Hollywood movie among other projects. Erin also teaches on a freelance contractor basis for many MN high school teams and can be contacted for date/time availability at mnhsdanceteam@gmail.com


Interview: Judges Association of Minnesota

The Judges Association of Minnesota (JAM) is beginning its 14th year of officiating dance team for Minnesota high school teams and I got a chance to catch up with the ladies of the Core Group to see what’s new in their organization this year.  The combined experience and backgrounds in that room were quite impressive – it’s easy to see why we have such a strong base of officials for our sport that any other state would envy.  Be sure to check out JAM’s website – they have an excellent history section and information about using their scheduling teamand who to contact.  They can be found at 
Let’s get into some highlights of our conversation: 
Erin:  Fill in the readers about what it really takes to be a JAM dance team official. 
         JAM training is a required event for all officials regardless of experience.  There is always something new to learn or a skill set to sharpen up on.  We also have a required trial judging and mentorship program where new officials team up with experienced officials to do some test judging that doesn’t count in the meet, but allows conversation and questions about judging effectively to occur in a real world setting.  We require new officials to trial judge at least 3 times before their scores can be counted in a meet.
Erin:  Walk me through your training day – what are you doing all day? 
         We start with a session on professionalism, image, and representation of JAM and the sport, then we move on to learning the kick counting/timer position and the tab room jobs.  Then we have live technique demonstrators come in and show both basic and advanced skills and combinations.  We spend the majority of the day focusingon the scoresheet criteria and watch video to practice using the scoresheet effectively and correctly.  All of our training is very interactive and focused on discussion.
Erin:  So ladies – what’s new with JAM for this next season?
         Coaches should be seeing their CCC newsletter hitting inboxes each month.  The CCC (or Coaches Contact Committee) expands the ability of judges and coaches to get questions answered and keep the updates going about the happenings of JAM. 
         Annual training for new members is coming up on November 3rd or November 17th.  Registrations for officials is ongoing until September 30th – if you’re thinking about getting into the world of judging, there is still time. 
         Fall (only) coaches are now able to join JAM as officials.  Now that the separate fall and winter seasons have been well established, they can be worked into the existing judging system with conflict of interests in mind. 
         JAM currently has approximately 120 members and is growing for this year!
         The scheduler position is now a two-personteam.  One point person is contacting schools directly about scheduling dates and number of officials, and then there is an additional position handling the scheduling of the individual members into the meets.  Hopefully this new structure will make things more efficient and timely.  
Erin:  Any reminders for teams as we head into the choreography season?
         Uniforms and/or questionable moves can always be brought to attention of the Superior Judge or a Rules Coordinator prior to the meet. Don’t hesitate to ask or have a move demo done.  Judges hate giving out a penalty as much as you hate getting them, so be sure to ask if you aren’t sure.  Keep in mind, however, that the judging panel for your meet that day will have to rule based on what is seen and executed on the performance floor.
         Remember that the rules about uniforms and moves are coming from a safety perspective.  If it’s questionably safe, perhaps its best to leave it out.  Even uniform rules aren’t there to be restrictive, rather protective of those girls who may want or need that extra coverage to be comfortable on the performance floor.  
Erin:  Any advice for those on the fence about coming into the judging world?  What if you just aren’t as qualified as the current membership?  Just graduated?  Or has a limited interest or schedule?
         By all means don’t be intimidated to join JAMif you think you have a passion for the sport, We can provide the training, mentoring, and careerlong support you want. You are not left on your own to fend for yourself. 
         There are also tons of options and jobs you can fill.  Some people only kick count/time, others love to tab, and some judge just one style, or even one weekend a month rather than a full schedule.  JAM can work with your needs and you only begin judging “for real” once you’re comfortable.  If you want to trial judge for a full year, you are able to do that. 
A special thanks to the JAM Core Group for taking time to share a little behind the scenes and some updates with us!  Parents and dancers – be sure to take some time to check out all the hard work judges put in to scoring meets for you – they are a dedicated bunch!  Coaches look for your CCC emails and don’t hesitate to keep that communication going.  We can all benefit from the services JAM provides to ensure a successful and safe competition season ahead.  Keep an eye out for more updates from JAM as we get into the competition season. 

The JAM Core Group is comprised of Stacy Abel, Amanda Ballensky, Lauren Barnes, Colleen Christensen, Sara Hordyk Portner, Becky King, Katie Ohlund and Emily Puza.

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