Aye, Aye, Captain!
Illinois College dance teamers on the field (courtesy Illinois College)
After surviving your rookie year, paying your dues and dancing your heart out, you’ve finally snagged that highly coveted spot on your dance team: captain! But now that you’ve got the job, the hard work really begins. You may think you’re a natural, but there are a ton of things to keep in mind once you’ve been selected. DS spoke with 10 former and current dance team captains to get their advice on how to be the best captain ever.
1. Don’t dwell on last season. “It’s best to learn from the past and move on. Whether you’re coming off a season-ending win or loss, don’t compare this year to the last. Focus on the present and find new things to learn. As you lead, your teammates will follow.” —Sabrina Hermsen, two years as captain, University of Minnesota
2. Set goals together as a team. “Create a chart with goals for technique, team bonding, community service, competition and anything else you want to include. It will help you understand what your teammates want to accomplish so you, as a captain, can push them to their fullest potential.” —Sydney Oprita, one year as captain, Eisenhower High School
3. Keep the energy level high. “Your team will experience highs and lows throughout the year. When practices get tough, find ways to keep everyone excited, like coming up with mottos that will remind them to have fun. Last year, our motto was ‘KIL IT,’ meaning, keep it loose. It pumped us up and reminded us to enjoy every practice.” —Samantha Cameranesi, one year as captain, University of Minnesota
4. Be alert and adaptable. “At Nationals (or any performance), unexpected events may take place, and you have to be able to work around them. Adapt to the circumstances without panicking. If you freak out, your team members will, too.” —Chelsi Richards, two years as captain, Utah Valley University
5. Be organized and manage time wisely. “Use a planner to help balance school, dance team and leadership responsibilities. When you’re captain, your coaches and teammates will hold you to a higher standard. Organization and preparation are crucial.” —Rylee Blair, one year as captain, Arizona State University
6. Be conscious that you were chosen to be the model of your program. “As a leader, you must represent both your dance team and your school. Set a good example before, during and after practice. Be confident, draw from your past experience on the team and always stay positive.” —Kendall Crudo, one year as captain, Eisenhower High School
7. Make people want to be led by you. “Create an environment where your teammates feel their ideas are heard and they have a voice. Build relationships of trust and understanding so teammates follow your instructions because they want to, not because they have to.” —Sara Leary, two years as captain, Pennsylvania State University
The Penn State University dance team (courtesy Penn State University)
8. Make a personal connection with everyone on the team. “Each member brings something different, but they also have different needs. As a leader, it’s your job to know how each girl is doing. Put together team-bonding activities at the beginning of the year so you can get to know one another. We have an ongoing team text message group so we can stay in touch during the day.” —Lilly Smiscik, one year as captain, Eisenhower High School
The Eisenhower High School dance team (courtesy Eisenhower High School)
9. Don’t disconnect yourself from your teammates. “Yes, you’re a leader, but you’re also a member of the team. Your role is just as important as anyone else’s. Make sure your teammates know you’re still part of one team where everyone is fighting for the same thing.” —Rachel Caughey, two years as captain, University of Minnesota
10. Never forget why you’re on the team: to dance! “Constantly demonstrate your own personal passion for dance. It’s the reason you’re the captain and should be your driving force. Your love of dance will resonate with your team.” —Brittney Bennett, two years as captain, Arizona State University
The Arizona State University dance team at a competition (courtesy Arizona State University)