How to develop self confidence in dancers

Jul 22, 2021

Today’s post is by Team Member Dr. Chelsea Pierotti. Dr. Chelsea is a Sport Psychologist for Dancers and founder of the Podcast: Passion for Dance

When I judge dance competitions, I can always see the teams who just ooze confidence as they take the floor. It’s not fake, or a show. When they walk out, I know they are 100% confident and stand behind what they are about to do. Then there are those teams that walk out with that sense of, “please don’t mess up, please don’t mess up…” and I can see it in their body language.

Why is one team so much more confident than another? Is it just the teams who have a high record of success? Sure, a past win can definitely instill confidence, but how do you help the dancers who haven’t experienced a big win yet, but you know they have more potential than they have seen? Confidence not only impacts your whole routine, but it starts from the moment you take the floor and the judges are watching.

Confidence is the belief that you can successfully perform a desired behavior.

It’s being confident that you can nail your hip hop trick, or turn section, or finish the routine mistake free. In psychology we talk about two different kinds of self-confidence. It can be both dispositional and situational. Dispositional confidence is more like a personality trait. It’s something relatively stable within a person, their general degree of certainty about their ability to succeed. They are a confident person. But there is also situational confidence, or when a person is confident at a particular moment about their ability to succeed.

These two usually go together, if someone is generally a confident person, they will also be a confident dancer every time they take the floor. But the two types of confidence don't always go together. One dancer may be confident most of the time and have high dispositional self-confidence, but when it comes to a certain new hip hop trick, she is nervous and struggles to try it or perform under pressure. She has low situational self-confidence.

It works at the team level as well. A group of dancers may have high confidence overall, but low situational confidence when it comes to a specific situation like a certain event, for example. Do you have that one competitive event that you attend every year and no matter what you do it gives you intense butterflies as soon as you enter the building? The look, the crowd, the smell even, they all come at you and even a usually confident person may become overwhelmed and lack situational confidence.

The point is, there are different kinds of confidence and as a coach you may have to help athletes with one or the other. It’s important to think about the athlete’s struggles. Is it with a specific situation or skill or is it more general?

If you are a high school or college coach, then your athletes have already had lots of time competing and training that have shaped their confidence. It can be hard to turn things around if it’s already been years of negative mental skills training, but you can do it. Shifting someone’s confidence won’t happen overnight though. It’s a slow process with a little bit every day. Just like learning a new difficult skill. It takes daily practice and consistency, but you will see and feel a difference.

~Dr. Chelsea

Stay tuned for part II next 360° Thursday!

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