All dance teachers are not created equal…
Here are 6 qualities of a good coach, and 6 mistakes to avoid in choosing one!
How to go about choosing a dance coach?
You could pick teachers based on competitive accomplishments, or certifications but things like these only tell a small part of the story.
Often times great dancers had a lot of natural ability and didn’t struggle with many of the things that many of us do so talented dancers do not always make good coaches.
The average person is probably not that talented enough nor willing to put in the amount of work of required to extract the value a top professional coach.
What about technical qualifications?
While it would be logical to assume that a dance teacher with many technical qualifications would be a good teacher, it isn’t necessarily so. In a lot of cases anyone with just minimal effort can pass a certification and hang a proverbial shingle on their door.
So what makes a good teacher?
1. Experience – It take a long time to get good at anything. Especially teaching.
2. Reputation – It takes time to develop a good reputation. Its worth something!
3. Professionalism – If teachers care to be professional they probably care in general
4. Passion – It doesn’t tell the whole story but when the above is in order is like gas on a fire!
5. Patience – Some teachers don’t have it but I think its key long term.
6. Flexibility – This is required to account for the realities of life and the differences in people.
If you are a natural dancer or at the stage where you want to compete – a top competitive dancer would be a good choice.
If you’re a dancer who takes dancing very seriously and want to work on a lot of technique, a teacher with lots of technical qualifications or a coach with a long history of l dance experience would be a good choice.
But if you’re an average person who just wants to improve have fun with dancing, there are probably plenty of good choices of teachers. If you can find one that you communicate well with you will be well on your way.
Here are 6 mistakes that are all too common in choosing the right coach.
1. Not trying out coaches with an end in mind.
If you do not begin with and end in mind it will be impossible to track your progress and determine if you are on the right path. You must have a goal in mind when you begin your search.
2. Assuming that because the teacher is a good dancer, that they are a good teacher.
As we talked about before becoming a good teacher takes time… lots of time. Often times top dancers are still in the development process of becoming good teachers. If you can find the right person, a top dancer can be a good choice. If you find the wrong person, you could wast a lot of time and money before you figure out that they are not the right coach for you.
3. Not developing a relationship with a coach.
Students often are looking for a ‘magic pill’ and hop from coach to coach looking for the perfect solution to their problems. Just like any relationship, a teacher student relationship takes work. Learning is a process so developing a relationship with a coach will payoff for you over the long term.
4. Using coaches independently and not as a team
Sometimes for various reasons you might want to develop a team of coaches. Although I don’t recommend a team of coaches in the beginning, over time finding 2-3 coaches who each have specialties can be very valuable provided they are all on the same page with the fundamentals.
5. Not realizing that there is more than one way to succeed.
This one is tricky. Often times coaches will have different philosophies on dancing. Provided you have established that your coach is one of the good ones (see “what makes a good teacher” above) often times coaches have different approaches to creating great dancers. If you can stick out the process with the right coach you will extract the value from their experience. Just resist the urge to look for a greener pasture and jump ship before fully learning their ways.
6. Not trusting the process
Getting good at anything takes time. It is a long process no matter who you are. Its easy to get frustrated an look for a magic answer from a different coach. Resist this urge. Take your time and trust the fact that no matter how smart you are or how much natural talent you have becoming good takes an incredible amount of time. Take that time and trust the process of your coach.
The final steps to becoming a champion…
What if you are a top level amateur or professional dancer vying for a championship?
The final couple steps of your climb to the top will take almost as much effort as the push to break from the pack. Sometimes the tips and tricks and strategies to winning a very high level competition like a US Open or World Championship tile WILL require the input of someone who has been there before. This is one of the times that I advocate adding someone to your team who has done what your are trying to accomplish. At this stage the mental pressures of preparing for such an event can only be shared with you by people who have had that type of experience. It’s at this point as a competition that you will be able to extract value of the limited time that you are likely to be able to spend with this rare type of coach.
Let me step back a minute and say this…. Not everyone should be paying $150-$200/hour for a champion dancer to coach them. Most people will have far more success from simply avoiding the 5 common mistakes in choosing a coach stated above, developing a solid relationship with a good coach and putting in the work over the long haul.
Most of us are not trying to become a champion. We just want to feel good about our dancing and know that we are making progress from our efforts. There are 2 thoughts I will leave you with. They are 2 things that break my heart when I see a student struggle in working with a coach.
- The student thinks that there is a magic pill and never settles on developing a relationship with a solid coach that can guide them. They jump around coach to coach and remain frustrated. No matter how the teachers try to help, the student still looks for the magic answer rather than taking the coach to heart. It’s sad to watch but I see it all too often. In this case, its the student that is at fault not the teacher.
- The teacher takes on a student that they do not have the ability to coach properly. For whatever reason, ego, financial or just simply ignorance, I see teachers trying to help students accomplish goals that they are simply not able to help with. I’ve seen too many students blindly follow their teachers before the frustration mounts over time, leading them to seek another coach. I hate to see students waste their money but worse their time in a situation like this.
Although this appears that either the student or teacher can be at fault in a failed student/teacher relationship, the only person that is 100% responsible for you is you, so chose your coach wisely!
All the best in dance,
Brian Barakauskas is the founder of West Coast Swing Online. A UCWDC hall of fame member (2017) Over the last 20 years Brian had taught people in over 25 countries around the world. As the owner of Dance Louisville in Louisville KY for over 12 years, he has been one of the driving forces for WCS in the midwest of the United States. He is a sought after teacher and coach who has impacted prominent dancers across the globe. Connect with Brian on Facebook.
Want to work with me personally via video?
I have a very busy schedule but will take on video lessons when my schedule allows. Please email me personally at Brian@WestCoastSwingOnline.com to inquire.