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Eye on the Prize - How to Develop a Competitive Mindset

Check out our podcast episode on this hot topic! Listen now on Apple Podcasts and Spotify!

Some dancers are born competitors, while others develop an interest in competition over time. Either way, a competitive mindset is a great way to stay committed and inspired throughout the competition season and beyond. But what is a competitive mindset and how can young dancers develop it? On this week’s episode of Making the Impact, Courtney and Lesley chatted with IDA Judges Rachel Perlman and Tracey Boon to define competitive mindset and discuss its many benefits for dancers.

Photo courtesy of Diva Dance Competition

First, what is it? Rachel defined a competitive mindset as tying success to not only the outcome but also the effort and hard work that comes before whatever it is that you’re attempting to achieve. It’s not about winning or losing, but rather the fact that even if it feels like nothing is at stake, there is something at stake. There is always an opportunity to prove something to yourself through your own ever-evolving growth. Tracey agreed, noting that the word “competition” applies that there is an “other” involved, whether it’s another team or another individual dancer, but she reminded listeners that the other can be yourself! It’s easy to focus on other people but you should always try to compete with yourself.

On the flip side, a competitive mindset is NOT focusing on competing with others. Tracey emphasized that when dancers focus solely on other people, their personal success becomes based on what others are doing which, in turn, devalues what each individual brings to the table. A competitive mindset also isn’t fixed--there’s an emphasis on growth and openness, as well as application of feedback. Instead of thinking, “this is useless” or “I’ll never get it,” dancers with a competitive mindset work to figure out how they can achieve a skill or move to the next level.

While it can be difficult to help dancers understand that they are, indeed, their biggest competition, Tracey and Rachel shared some great strategies. Tracey explained that since the competitive students at her studio understand the setup of being on the competition team and prepping to go compete their dances, that part doesn’t really require conversation. Instead, she can shift the focus to each individual. She likes to take a piece of paper and write down different months on each line and next to the months, write different goals. As each new listed month approaches, the dancers can check in to see if they’ve mastered their goal or if they need to keep the same goal, whether it’s nailing a turn sequence, securing a new skill, or anything else related to their performance. This approach instills the idea of competing with oneself, as it forces the dancers to self-evaluate to determine whether or not they’ve accomplished their goals.

Rachel also encouraged dancers not to discount their small wins. Maybe you didn’t score as high as you wanted to at competition but if you nailed your triple pirouette or a judge complimented your performance quality, that is still a huge accomplishment! She also shared the importance of creating positive affirmations. For every goal or correction on your list, consider the positive components and give yourself a pat on the back! See if you can shift the focus from a numerical score to your actual progress. After all, every competition uses different rubrics and adjudication ranges, so it’s better to focus on the bigger picture.

Dancers should also gain inspiration from their competition. Whether a dancer books a job in an audition, gets called out in convention class, or wins top score, look at that dancer, evaluate what made them stand out, and figure out how to adopt those attributes yourself.

Tracey left us with great advice, encouraging dancers to always value themselves. Similarly, Rachel explained that winning and losing don’t need to be black and white--there can be a gray area in between. After all, the team that loses the Super Bowl still made it to the big game!

Photo courtesy of Diva Dance Competition

Thanks to our guests, Tracey Boone and Rachel Perlman for joining us on the podcast this week! You can follow them at @fuelmovesweat and @traboon1.


Maddie Kurtz is an IDA staff writer/admin, choreographer, judge, and dance educator. Check out her other articles on the IDA Blog, visit her website, and follow her @maddiekurtz92.


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