Competitions are a learning experience

Competitions are a learning experience

The only thing more fun than watching a good competition is being part of one.  At least that is true in Dancesport, and probably in many other sports as well.  Dancesport competitions of all styles:  professional, pro-am, and amateur, offer different but equal rewards that are all too often forgotten in the rush to be like the pros.  In reality the next level may not be what you think it is or where you want to end up.


We all agree that youth baseball and other sports are not the major leagues.  Yet, we hear consistently of parents driving their kids hard to become stars (so they will have a better retirement plan).  Arguing and/or fighting with coaches, umpires, and neighbors making a derogatory remark about their kid seem to becoming the norm rather than the exception.  We look at these idiots and say, “They have forgotten the purpose.”  Developing teamwork, sportsmanship, physical skills and dexterity are not as important as stardom, prestige, and applause.  If you look at sports of previous times and so-called “more primitive cultures,” you find that most games children played developed the skills they needed as adults to survive.  Today’s message, all too often is, stardom, prestige, and money are all that is important to today’s athletes and to most of their parents.


Lest I digress too much, let us go back to dancesport.  I have previously written about dance competitions of old.  The goal was often to be the last one standing, not the best one performing.  Even today, professional competitions include dances such as Jive, and Quickstep as the final dances to see who has anything left at the end.  So maybe we still want to see strengths and not just pizzazz.  Though that may be the goal of the competition organizer, it needn’t be the goal of the competitor.  After all, today’s successes in life depend upon developing skills other than just strength and endurance.


Few sports offer the variety of skills developed and improved through dancing.  They include lateral movement, acceleration, speed, poise, balance, timing, compromise, leadership, style, and yes even strength just to name a few.  These skills develop not through a concentrated effort to improve each, but because of the unique nature of dancesport, developed from various cultures and societies.  Dancesport therefore develops different skills and strengths in a natural and relaxed manner.  Having said that, one could assume that merely dancing would be sufficient to develop those same skills, but that would not be true.  There is something unique about the competitive spirit and how it enhances and focuses training and development.


Once a person has made the commitment to compete with a deadline to perform, the entire experience of learning, and practice changes.  I should say there is a difference between commitment and decision.  Each and every time you get on the floor from that point forward, your experiences are different.  At a club or party, you see how close you can come to extending yourself and stay in bounds.  You learn that time is of the essence, and practice becomes (if planned) more productive, whether that practice is on your own, in a class, or with an instructor.


Teamwork is the achievement of a group of individuals learning that with compromise, and doing different things, we can accomplish more, sooner, and easier.  In dancing some parts are obvious.  The picture is supposed to be the girl’s.  She gets the spangles, beads, and the man gets tails (something to hang on to?).  Steps are designed to show off the best parts no matter how good the man thinks he looks.  Men learn that floor craft takes on a whole new meaning when other people are out to get you, and we love it.  There is certain exhilaration in cutting off the competition, and zooming around the floor.  It is just like driving in the mountains with the top down versus the crowded freeway in the sedan, and you don’t have to travel any farther than your studio to get that feeling.

The competitive experience is not just about winning.  It is about pushing yourself to achieve more.  This achievement is not measured in how many Golds, Silvers, Bronzes, or “Glad you came Awards” you receive.  It is about how many of the other skills you have improved that will lead to happier, more productive, and yes, for some, even better results in the future.  Those results can include your dancing or competitive experience, but most likely will also include social confidence, business acumen, personal relationships, and so much more.  After all, if all your sport or hobby does is improve your sport or hobby, you haven’t gained much when and if it is all over.  Make sure you understand, going up and picking up that 1st Place is certainly a bonus we all enjoy, and strive for.  Without that we wouldn’t try as hard or accomplish as much.  That is what makes the competitive experience so valuable in achieving goals.

Anyone who considers dancing a sport or hobby should definitely consider competing at least once if not regularly.  Decide ahead of time, what skills you want or need to improve and develop, and then look at the event as a training exercise with a date of reckoning and an event to celebrate.  Then look at what was accomplished, and what needs to be worked on next.  The only time the result should be paramount is when you are going for the National Championships in your division.  Until then it is all about learning, and how much fun you can have along the way.

Michael S. Reichenbach

Published in:

Dance Week Magazine

2709 Medical Office Place

Goldsboro, NC 27534

Vol. XXVIII No. 11

March 14, 2003

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