When I coached at Cannon Falls I had the privilege to work with a family who had 4 daughters who all danced for the team at some point. I couldn’t think of a better person to talk to for some advice for new parents than their mom, Beth Jensen.
Erin: Tell me (because I really can’t keep it straight) how many girls danced for Cannon Falls? How many years/state medals/competitions do you think you’ve racked up after all that?
Beth Jensen: Well, that would be 4 girls. Starting in the 01-02 school year, up until last year. Anna danced 4 years, Beka 4 years, Sarah 6 years and Maria 3 years. State medals: 1 -3rd place (Jazz), 4 -2nd place (kick) and 7 first place (kick). We sat on bleachers for 11 seasons. That probably makes over 80 competitions.
Erin: Holy Cow! That’s an impressive set of stats. Do you have any tricks for getting through a long day of invitational? Things to make it smoother/easier/better?
Beth: Meet days are long and start early. It’s probably not a lot different from other sports in that you want to charge your cameras and pack your bags the night before! Encourage your dancer to keep her meet bag packed with the things she needs for every competitions, so there isn’t much to do Friday night – of course it’s important for them to get to bed at a decent time. Allow plenty of time to get there – so you have time to find the right side of the gym to sit on and get settled before they close the doors. Also, bring ibuprofen! We liked bringing our own food to keep meals healthier and cheaper. The first fan shirt I bought was a sweatshirt – way too hot for those packed gyms!
Erin: Any advice for making family time at home better during dance season? (work/life balance issues)
Beth: We struggled at first with their 5-8pm practice time as it was over dinner hour. But decided to just make our dinner hour after practice so we could all sit down together. Worked for us. Dinner conversation? Yeah, you guessed it. Christmas season is always a challenge because the weekends leading up to it are busy with meets. Shop early for gifts if you can. And if your team does sister gifts and/or cards, encourage your dancer to get them all ready in November, before the competitions begin. Saves you from the Friday night “Mom! I need a sister gift!” panic.
Erin: What kind of special challenges come up when you have sisters on the team?
Beth: In our experience, it was always a plus. (well, unless you count expenses) They supported and encouraged each other. The older ones taught the younger ones difficult moves, and how to keep organized, did their hair and drove them to practice. They watched many hours of state tapes together, learning from the best teams. We even had a situation where older sisters were coaching a younger one – went just fine.
Erin: Anything else you think we should know about?
Beth: Be involved, if you can, in the parents’ association – or start one if your team doesn’t have one. It makes it more fun, helps the team and you can make new friends. There are lots of levels at which parents can participate – you don’t have to do everything, just pick one or two (or three or four for those over-achievers). Dad’s can participate too! Bob used to graph out formations and transitions with the girls and was on the parents’ association board at one time. Learn about the how the judging is done. Get one of the judging sheets that explains each of the categories, and ask a coach, experienced dancer or parent to explain it. Watching the meets is lots more fun if you understand what to watch for.
Sarah Jensen: Dancers – get a copy of your music on your iPod or a CD and keep it handy in the house, so you can practice whenever you have a few minutes, it’s a great break from studying! One of the best things we happened to have at our house was a picture window across from the kitchen that they could use as a mirror at night. An inexpensive mirror can be a huge help for practicing good form and arm angles. Most of all keep it fun – dance is meant to be a joyful, fun activity! Make the most of it!