The 3 Leadership Tips I Learned From My Daughter’s High School Pom Dance Team

Strong leadership is alive and well in our youth

As a negotiation coach, I work with numerous business professionals as they work to identify and achieve their goals. Similar to an athlete, professionals set their goals, train and execute. However, unlike a competitive athlete, professionals sometimes have the liberty of giving up on a project due to unforeseen circumstances. After spending a couple of decades in the corporate world, I admit that I was one of those professionals who sometimes took advantage being able to put a project aside when necessary. By contrast, a competitive high school athlete makes a commitment at the beginning of the season to be fully engaged with his or her team. Even when they are sick or physically injured, they are required to show up and be the best cheerleader any team could ask for. I have experienced this level of commitment from my own teenage daughter with her Varsity Pom Dance Team, whose season extends 10 months. The team practices hundreds of hours to be ready to cheer at every one of the school’s football and basketball games. Add to that a competitive season, which requires traveling and weekend practices. Any dance mom reading this is nodding her head in agreement. During this past dance season, I decided to do an informal audit of my daughter’s team. Full disclosure: neither my daughter, nor her coach or teammates knew I was engaged in this activity. What I learned from going to every game and competition – listening to every update from my daughter and teammates, as well as reading every form of communication from the coach and other dance mothers – is that strong leadership is alive and well in our youth. Even though the team has had to deal with illnesses, suspensions, injuries, changes of venues, you name it, they still kept it together as a team. They also made a mark for their high school by bringing home – for the first time in school history – a state championship and a 5th national placement. Impressive! How did they do it? Yes, they had talent and the desire to win. But so did the other teams. Based on my observations, I am confident they won because of these three leadership tactics deployed throughout the season.
  1. Having a demanding and dedicated coach: We hear it everywhere- the importance of having a coach. But how many of us really take that step of finding a coach who is going to challenge us and push us to a point where we feel exhausted and ready to give up? My daughter’s pom team has a dedicated coach who was one of them when she was in high school. Her demeanor is calm but the fire within is intense. She equipped the dancers with the technique and choreography they needed to succeed. But she also took the time to really take care of the details in relation to each dancer’s performance, attitude, actions and work ethic. When some of the dancers began to struggle academically, she pushed them to study more. When the dancers were off from school during holidays or breaks, she expected each one of them to practice and work out even during their time off. She held the team members accountable by requiring check-in points in which each dancer was required to send workout videos to the entire team.
  2. Establishing and nurturing a relationship: One could assume that if you spend a significant amount of hours with a group of individuals you will naturally develop a wonderful relationship. I believe it takes more than just hanging out with others to get to that point. True relationships must be nourished. Simply developing a relationship isn’t going to cut it. Take my daughter’s team, they were able to establish a level of trust and comfort with each other to the point that they saw each other as sisters. And they acted like sisters – they loved each other and fought with each other. But through it all, their main goal was having each other’s back. They even used the hashtag #Family in everything they did.
  3. Having a support system with a wide reach: Each dancer is fortunate enough to have an amazing family who cheers and supports them. During this past season, they also learned just how wide their support net actually was. It included other dance parents, students from different schools, teachers and community members. As the team geared up for state and national competitions they received support from people who had never even seen them dance. These individuals felt the love and bond this team had established. Let’s remember that what we do in our work and family lives is not something that will solely affect our immediate surroundings. It can be relevant for others across a wide variety of networks. Therefore, for the benefit of others, as well as yourself, it is important to take the time to truly commit to what you are doing.
As a businesswoman I have been fortunate to learn from this fabulous team. Next season the team will gain new members and say goodbye to dancers who are graduating. No one knows what challenges they will face or how they will perform. However, I do know that these 16 talented dancers formed a lifelong bond, as well as memories they will share into the future. In sports, as in life, it is not just about winning, it truly is about relationships and creating life-long memories.

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