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: A Dancer’s Mental Health

This time of year can be the most exciting and full of promise, and then on the flip side it is full of anxiety and often disappointment for dancers looking to make that varsity routine.  Maybe you won’t make that team, or last year’s experience was one you’d rather forget.  There are things you can do to prepare mentally for the tough issues you may face at the start of winter season.  
Today we’re talking with Danya Espinosa, Mental Heath Practitioner specializing in childhood mental health.  She’s based out of Winona Minnesota (and a former high school classmate of mine).  You can learn more about her at www.danyaespinosa.com
Erin:  So Danya, the audition time of year for dancers can be full of anxiety and worry about performing at the highest level and impressing their coaches.  Any advice for girls and parents going through this process for the first time?  What can be done to mentally prepare and not get in your own way?
Danya:   As a student, be confident in your skills and ability to perform. If this is something you love, your enthusiasm will be portrayed in your dance. As a parent, it is important to confirm feelings of fear and anxiety for the child. Telling someone not to worry only makes that person feel as if they shouldn’t worry. When that person worries anyway, how much help is that comment to begin with? Those feelings are there. Address them.  In regard to preparing mentally, it is important to take care of your body. Obviously practice is important, but getting enough sleep, eating nutritionally balanced meals, and participating in activities that bring pleasure and relaxation are just as significant. When stress becomes overwhelming, it is time to take a break. 
Erin:  Every team with a division between JV and Varsity seems to have girls who are disappointed with what team they were placed on.  Anything parents can be doing at home to support their girls? 
Danya:   I think it’s important to remember why you are dancing in the first place. Yes, there is a lot of competition, but each person is important to the team. The best thing a parent can do is to listen to their child’s concerns. Telling a child it doesn’t matter what team she made disregards her feelings – because it matters to her. Telling her to try harder only tells her that she must not have tried hard enough the first time. Promising that she will make the team the next year doesn’t help either because we can’t make that promise. We have to ask ourselves, “What did other girls do to make the team I wanted to be on, and how do I learn those skills?” It may not guarantee a spot the next year, but at least her dancing skills have improved and she feels more successful. 
 Erin:  What about quitting teams and resulting bitterness over a bad audition?  Is there a benefit to sticking it out or when is it best to leave things behind?
Danya:   Quitting activities and starting new ones are a part of life; however, if there are mixed feelings about quitting that involved feelings of bitterness, these feelings need to be addressed. A bad audition doesn’t mean the chance of success is over. When it comes to sticking it out vs. leaving things behind, it is really up to the individual. Rash decisions shouldn’t be made in the heat of the moment and often it is important to see things through to the end. But most importantly, are YOU happy doing what you are doing? When the answer is no, it may be time to find something else that does make you happy. It is also important to note that if dancing was once a much enjoyed activity that isn’t enjoyed anymore for unexplainable reasons, it may be time to see a mental health professional to discuss potential depression. 
Erin:   Some teams/dancers had a rough season last year with various bumps in the road.  Any advice about moving on and making this year happy and healthy?  What if there are unresolved issues?  Should old events be brought back up?
Danya:   I think looking at the new year as a fresh start can start one out on the right foot. If there is a way to learn from past mistakes, then it may be beneficial to discuss old events, but if it is to muster negativity, it may not be worth time and energy. Know that you define your future by what you do right now.
Special thanks to Danya for giving us some perspective on the upcoming team tryout periods and starting fresh this year.  Good luck and keep a positive attitude, season starts next week!

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