CAT | Practicing
A reader has requested that I create a routine for kicks similar to the one I created for the splits. So here it is . . .
As I said for the splits, it’s important that you follow the routine so that you can get the kicks that you want in the time that you want. This will take three weeks of strong commitment and dedication. Good luck!
Read the bottom (*) for information about getting high kicks.
To start off . . . See how flexible you are. If you can do the splits or are very close, that’s great! If not, that’s fine, too. Just make sure you are simultaneously developing your kicks and flexibility (see this post for lots of helpful stretches and a good, 3-week stretching routine). (more…)
This is a follow up to my previous post: how to increase productivity at practice.
The first step towards making practices run by quickly and effectively is to eliminate all wasted time. Try these things:
1. Start early. Get practice over with. No one wants to practice on a Saturday afternoon! People generally prefer getting practice over on a Saturday morning so that they have time to do other things. If you practice after school, get straight to practice. Allow 15 minutes for everyone to change and get ready. Once fifteen minutes is up, start warming up immediately.
2. When you start practice, start for real! Don’t say that practice is starting at 2:00 when you don’t actually do anything until 2:30. When you say that it is time to practice, start moving and get going.
3. Plan practice. Have an agenda ready. Know exactly what needs to be worked on. You know how teachers sometimes have “lazy days” where they have no plan for their students so they show a video? Don’t be one of them. Be prepared with an agenda, and once practice starts, work on that agenda immediately.
4. No down time. I emphasized this in my previous post. Team members do get close and talkative, but that can happen outside of practice. Do not tolerate chatter, and make it stop before it gets too loud.
5. When you need to talk, everyone needs to listen. So, the team just finished doing the routine and you just saw some mistakes that need to be worked on. Immediately tell everyone what you saw, and how they can improve. Make sure that everyone is listening and not talking to each other. If you allow people to get up and get water and talk to one another, they stop listening and you lose the team’s focus. Tell them about their mistakes and get straight to fixing it.
6. Make a team decision on breaks. It is your choice whether or not you will permit breaks (usually these are about 5 minutes). For some teams, it seems to restore focus and after the break, people are ready to work again. For other teams, it just puts everyone in a talkative move and takes away the focus. Experiment with this, and see how it works out. Ask the team for a vote. Remember, though, that adding in a break is basically adding in a few extra minutes into practice. Naturally, with a break, you will leave practice a few minutes later than without one.
7. Do not tolerate tardiness. If everyone knows what time practice starts, then everyone should be there at that time and ready to warm up. Of course, every once in awhile, we forget or wake up late or other circumstances come up. If a team member is constantly showing up late to practice, have a talk with her. If the behavior continues, then she is not committed enough to be a part of the team.
8. Take notes on performances. Rather than having the team perform and stopping them whenever you see a mistake, just take notes on the things you see. If a certain angle needs work, jot it down and discuss it later. It is usually a better idea to take several notes and tell everyone about their mistakes when the time permits. When members keep stopping in the middle of the routine to listen to your comments, they don’t build endurance.
9. Find a way to get to formations quickly. If you don’t have a planned way to get into formation, it can take a long time. Getting into formation usually takes a few minutes when you are unsure about what to do. If possible, place tape on the floor so you know exactly where to go and don’t have to space yourselves out manually each time. Make sure everyone knows exactly where to go when you say get into “so and so” formation. If someone is confused or doesn’t know where to go, she is wasting precious time. By getting to formations quickly, you can save plenty of time each practice.
Implement these and see how much time you can save!
Here’s some tips about how to get the best out of practice in the least time.
Tip 1: Make sure that you’re not overpracticing. If you practice 24/7, you’ll just be tired, not motivated, and you may actually retrogress because of this. In general, practice for three days a week and two hours each session sounds about right. Don’t go crazy about practice. When I was on the drill team, one of our rivals at competition used to practice in the morning before competitions, and eight hours on Saturdays. That’s just overworking it. It’s unnecessary to do that to your team–and to yourself!
Tip 2: Don’t do any unnecessary practicing. Read about this in my article about endurance.
Tip 3: Come to practice prepared. If you are a leader and forgot to bring the music, or do not have clothing to practice in, then you have let the team down and already decreased the rate of productivity at practice. Bring everything and have it ready to go by the time practice starts. In the case that you don’t come to practice unprepared (which should rarely happen), don’t use it as an excuse to waste practice time. If you don’t have music, for instance, just count out the routine.
Tip 4: Don’t waste practice time. Start when you intend to, and not five minutes afterwards. Of course, part of having a team is bonding with one another, which results in sometimes talkative practices. Try to eliminate this by not having any “down-time”. By this, I mean keep working and don’t stop for a team talk. If team members are dancing, they are unable to talk to each other because they’re focused on dancing, so keep the focus, and don’t let it stray (and as a leader, don’t lose your focus, either!). If you are a captain or other team leader, remember that you are a model. If you initiate side conversations, then everyone else will. Be a role model, not a hypocrite. After reading this tip, you might think: “well, how will the members improve if I don’t stop them from dancing and tell them their mistakes?”. Well, here’s the answer: stop only when you absolutely have to, and don’t allow anything else to happen. Most practices work in a similar fashion–you do the routine, and when you’re done, you listen to what the coach has to say about your performance. But, usually the case is more like this: you do the routine, get a drink of water, talk to a friend . . . then go listen. Change that habit–eliminate the “down-time”. One drink of water per 1.5 hours is enough to keep you hydrated, unless some special circumstance calls for more. Practice should be like this: perform the routine, walk directly to the coach and her his/her opinion–no down-time. Of course, each team has a different practice method and might not run this way, but in general, your goal is to keep the water breaks and talking to a minimum.
Tip 5: Be happy, and in a good mood. This always makes things go faster because people are happy to get things done. Come to practice refreshed. If you had a bad day, pretend to start anew. Do not let any unimportant aspects of your personal life distract from your performance. Naturally, when everyone is happy, everyone tries harder. So keep up the good mood at practice!
This is just a start of my list. I will be updating this post later with more tips; I hope that these help your team!
Responses to comments are posted at the end of this article.
A lot of people have told me that they have one split but not the other, or are very close to their splits but just can’t get there. Also people have told me that they stretch all the time with no improvement.
If your splits are not improving, it may be because you are stretching incorrectly. Remember that you should warm up your muscles before you stretch. You should actually be warm and sweaty before you begin stretching. This requires at least a ten minute jog, if not more. Warming up is not just walking a lap or running a few yards. When you are warm, you can feel the stretch much better.
Remember also that you should be stretching consistently (stretch both legs, for instance, not just one side of your body). Touching your toe for two seconds is not stretching either. Feel the stretch, the longer the better. A couple of minutes per stretch is excellent.
Lastly, splits require flexibility in more than one area. Stretch everywhere, and make sure you sit in your splits (or as close as you can get to your splits) for a few minutes after stretching.
If you are still having problems, feel free to leave a comment and tell me about it.
Edit 1/18/07: My posts about stretching the splits are for all kinds of splits (center, side). All other types of splits (like splits in the air) are just like normal splits, except with leg strength added.
Edit 2/25/07: Kerry–for the splits, the back leg should be perfectly straight in the end. Don’t worry if you’re not there yet, it’s just a little extra stretching. Try to gently push that back leg straight. Another way is to try to sit up straighter because it pushes your pelvis down to the ground and sometimes straightens that back leg. If your front leg is close to the ground, then stretch until the end of the week to see what happens. If you’re still a bit off the ground, then try lenghthening your stretching sessions. Getting extra warm before stretching helps. The best stretch for getting your front leg down is to just go down as far as you can and hold it for a minute or two. Then do some other stretches, and try it again. Concentrate hard, and you will find yourself getting nearer to the splits. For tryouts, all teams are different. Usually, the majority of people who try out are freshmen. It works like this because people who are interested in drill try out when they are freshman, and if they make it then they’re on the team . . . if they don’t make it then they usually don’t try out again because they don’t think that they can make it. Anyway, they will not expect you to know everything. Anything that you need to know will be taught to you, and if it is not, you can always ask for help. Most of the people who have never done it before will make the team based on the fact that they have potential. They usually don’t judge your perfection, but they judge things like your determination, willingness to improve, listening skills, work ethic, and your ability to work with others. If they see someone who has no experience, isn’t perfect, but works hard, practices a lot, and wants to get better, that person will make the team.
Edit 5/13/2007: Rebecca–in my opinion, it is never “too late” to start. Making the drill team is largely about your commitment and dedication. It’s not about whether not you can do the splits; it’s about how badly you want to get the splits down, and how badly you want to learn drill. If you truly want to make the team, then your best bet is to demonstrate your commitment by stretching now and practicing hard during the try-out/audition process. If you need help with the splits, I’d recommend that you read this article: http://drillobsession.com/?p=93. In the meantime, good luck with making the team next year!
Edit 2/25/07: Kerry–I’m sure everyone is worried about it! Practice. Do it slow and to the counts, then speed it up gradually. The way to do it is start slow, and perfect it. Then speed it up a little, and perfect it. Do this until it is up to beat with the music. It will take awhile, so don’t feel inclined to rush. If you start out slow, it will eliminate the bouncing.
So, the moment you’ve all been waiting for .
Here is my suggested 3-step routine that will help you elevate your kicks. The only thing is, like the one with the splits, you need to be doing this everyday. I think that’s the hard part. This isn’t a week-by-week thing. You need to continue stretching, practicing, and strengthening your legs everyday. If you reserve 15 minutes a day for each step, your kicks will be 10Âº higher in 3 weeks. I hope three weeks is short enough for you to keep up your motivation!
This might also be a good idea to do with your team, so that everyone will have high kicks in three weeks.
You must be flexbile in order to get high kicks. Some stretches and stretching routines are in my splits article.
You need leg stretch to get your kicks high.
Everyday, you should be kicking. Try kicking with heavy clothes on your legs or heavy shoes on (no high heels!). It will force you to use more energy. It’s kind of like lifting weights, except with your legs. If you have an elastic exercising strip (I forget what those are called, but it’s basically a stretchy rubbery rope that you pull with your arms to exercise), use it. Put it around one ankle, step on the ends with your other foot and bring your leg as high up as you can.
Another one: lift your leg up in kick position as high as you can without a bounce. Hold it there for fifteen seconds and try not to waver too much. Switch legs.
It might also help to lie down on the ground and have a friend stretch with you. Lie down, face up. Point both toes and keep both legs straight. Have a partner elevate one leg as far towards your nose as possible. The strengthening part comes here–you try to elevate your leg high while your partner pushes you back. Doing it to a count/beat/music will help.
Kick to a medium tempo song, 2-4 eight counts. Kick for as long as you can do the kicks perfectly. Once you start getting sloppy, stop and take a break. Your goal is to be able to kick the amount of 8-counts in the routine, perfectly. So, keep up the endurance. Everyday, do three sets of kicks, and make them all perfect. The length of the set depends on your good your endurance is. If you can only do one eight count perfect, that’s fine. Just keep doing it everyday, and you’ll see that number go up to 1.5, 2, and eventually to the number of eight counts you will need to last. Remember that the routine doesn’t end with kicks, either! So make sure that after kicking, you still have some energy left.
The best way to improve your kicks is to keep kicking. Endurance is a huge part of having good kicks. Once you’re tired, your unpointed toes and bend knees and bad posture won’t matter–you just want to get it over with. You need to have enough energy so that you can think about these things.
3. Practice, in context
Practice your kicks in the routine, because those are the ones that matter the most. Do the whole set. If you feel exhausted by the end, you’re not there yet.
Comment and tell me how your kicks are looking.
Every year during try-out season, people always ask me what they need to know. Of course, it differs from team to team, but generally, this is what the try-out judges are looking for.
Teams usually have to do the splits and have high kicks. They usually don’t expect that you can do the splits (or even get close) at the beginning of the year, but they do expect that you can get them by the end of the year. The key word is potential. Show themÂ your improvement–when you stretch and warm up, actually stretch. You will notice that you are getting flexible day after day.
Yes, this really matters, and it’s a pretty big decision factor, too. If you have a bad reputation, you’d better change it. No one wants someone lazy or uncoopoerative on their team, even if that person is naturally talented and sharp.
Most people have no dance experience before joining drill. That’s fine. You need to show them by the end that you have improved and learned. If you don’t show them that you’ve gone from a non-dancer to a dancer, you haven’t made an impression.
Knowledge of Try-out Routine
Typically, there is a short routine that you must perform to try-out. You better know it! Even if nothing is perfect, but you know the entire routine, you’ve shown your dedication in memorizing the routine. That part, I think, takes a lot of work. Angles and perfect marches aren’t that big of a decision factor at this stage.
Dedication and Helpfulness
If you already know the routine and have perfected it yourself, go help someone out.Â Don’t be an expert, because you’ve not reached that stage yet. On the other hand, if you don’t know the routine, practice on your own. If you’ve got that part down, then practice with someone. Make sure you try it on your own before you seek help. No one wants to help someone who doesn’t even try.
Your smile matters. Keep it beautiful and bright!
Please don’t miss the try-out practices. If you absolutely must, don’t be scared to notify the coach. Do it right at the moment that you find out you can’t do it. Do not wait.
The little things (having your hair up, no jewelery on, proper shoes, etc.) that you do wrong can add up. Don’t be late to practices. Think before you make a comment.
I hope this list helps ease your nerves a little. Remember, you can make drill if you practice. The most important part (I think) is to first practice on your own. This way, if you’re confused on some part or forgot a move, you know exactly where it is and can find someone to help you. Don’t be taught the routine then immediately go to someone for help. You are capable of memorizing the routine on your own–you just need the confidence and work ethic to do it. When you are taught a portion of the routine one day, you should be able to do it to the tempo of the music the next day. Drill requires self-motivation, practice, and dedication. Seek help for the next level–angles, sharpness, etc.
Good luck at tryouts.
After reading this, here are some articles I recommend you also read:
- FAQs on this post - NEW!
- How To Become More Flexible
- Problem With The Splits?
- Ways To Improve Your Flexibility
- Flexi-tize and Strengthen Those Legs!
I know it sounds crazy. Have your splits down in three weeks when you’re still two feet off the ground? It’s possible, but you just need the time to commit to this. Before you read this, I’ll warn you that it sounds like a TON of time, but think about it . . . you want your splits, right? Why don’t you just get them now so that you don’t waste time thinking about how far from the ground you are? How long have you been trying to get those darn splits down? A year, perhaps two? Three weeks is not bad at all.
So, let’s get started (If you’re just looking for stretches, scroll down). Stretch where you feel comfortable, but not distracted. An area with a computer, for instance, might be a bad location, because you may be tempted to go on the internet and surf, which destroys your focus and stops your flexibility from improving. Focus and stretch as if you were meditating.
Reserve thirty minutes a day to stretching (yes, including weekends, or else it won’t work. If you absolutely cannot stretch on one day, just make sure you get straight back to your stretching routine the next day). Warming up before you stretch is very helpful because it makes your muscles warm and easy to stretch. The warmer you are, the easier the stretch will be; thus, the more success you will have in getting those splits down. And here are your daily stretching routines:
Session 1: 15 minutes
I recommend that you get this over in the morning, before you go to school, work, or whatever you do during the daytime. After warming up, start your stretches. I recommend that you stretch one minute (at the very least) for each stretch. Remember: the splits are not dependent on one muscle. Helpful stretches are listed and described at the end of this post.
Session 2: 15 minutes
This one I’d say to do before you sleep. Do not slack off because you’re sleepy or tired. Brush your teeth, stretch, then sleep. If you absolutely cannot do session 1 in the morning and session 2 at night, then leave at least 2 hours in between sessions. You need to gain flexibility, have some time off, then work back on the flexibility to regain it and improve it.
Keep up with the same thing as week one, but now stretching time is increased to 45 minutes a day. That means there is now a session in between–session 1.5 should be done after school, work, etc. And if not, leave 2 hours in between sessions. You should really start noticing that you’re getting close to the splits.
Increase your stretching time to one hour. This is same as week two, with another session. This is the between dinner and before bedtime one. The free time that you have after dinner and before your last session should be used for an additional 15 minutes of stretching. After the end of this week, you should be in your splits! Yipee!If you’re having problems or not noticing any improvement, try other stretches. Again, a variety of stretches is your best bet. Remember to sit in the splits, or as close as you can go (I know it hurts, but how else can you get it?).
Tip: Stretch when you’re doing an inactive activity, like the laundry, reading a book, watching TV, or talking on the phone. This should be apart from your sessions, which require 100% focus. Extra stretching is always beneficial!
Precaution: It’s NOT a good thing to be feeling pain when you stretch. Pain is different from soreness. The two concepts are a bit hard to explain in writing. In general, if your legs feel painful when you stretch, it’s a good idea to ease back a little bit. If you find that you are still having problems with this, the best bet is to consult a coach or doctor since they know best. Many readers have questioned whether or not they are physically capable of doing the splits because they feel that they are making little progress; I will refer you to this splits misconceptions article for that purpose.
Some helpful stretches
V-sit: sit with your back flat against a wall. Bring both legs as far back to the wall as you can and keep proper posture and straight legs. While keeping your posture, bring your back down towards the floor as your arms reach out in front of you (not down) as far as possible. Feel the stretch. Do this first pointing your toes, then flexing your feet. Try moving your legs out further as you go on. Also, you can reach out towards your right and left legs. Remember to breathe!
Straight leg stretch: Basically, keep your legs straight and feet together. Stand, and without bending your knees, reach down as far as possible. Put your weight on your toes (not your heels)–this feels a bit unnatural at first, but it is the proper way to stretch. You can also do this one sitting. Sit with proper posture, legs straight out in front of you and ankles together. Reach out with your arms. Do this both flexing and pointing your toes.
Sideways stretch: Ok, so you’ve probably figured out that I’m making up names for the stretches as I go along. Pretty creative, eh? Anyway, the “sidways stretch” goes like this. Stand in the straight leg stretch position. Now bring your right leg out in front of you (like you’re taking a step forward) about two feet. This doesn’t have to be precise, just as long as you’re close. Stand up, keep your posture back. Now reach down to your right foot, keeping your posture back and your hips in line. Your hips shouldn’t shift to aid you in your stretch. Go down slowly, and if you hips shift, come back up and try again. Go as far down as you can without shifting hips. After doing this for a minute, bend your left leg and continue stretching to your right. Now switch legs.
4 Stretch: Named because it looks like a number 4. Sit down on your butt and put both legs straight out in front of you. Bend your left leg so that your left knee is on the ground, your left foot also on the ground with the flat side touching your right knee, and your right knee is straight with toes pointed. See the 4 that your legs make? Stretch, with proper posture, to your right leg. Reach out with your arms, as far as you can. After a minute, remembering to breathe, of course, flex your right foot and continue reaching out for another minute. Switch legs, and repeat.
Standing V-leg stretch: Stand up, posture back, with your legs shoulder width apart. You can go a little wider if that’s more comfortable for you, but try to keep it as close to shoulder width as possible. Bring your straight arms between and beyond your legs–reach back. Also reach to your right and left legs. Reach down the center, too. As with the straight leg stretch, keep your weight over your toes rather than your heels.
Half squat: Squat. Keep your right leg where it is and place your left leg straight out your left side, toes pointed, as if you were doing the center splits with your left leg. Put your right hand on the ground to the left of your right foot. Use your right elbow to push your right knee out. You should feel stretching your inner thighs. Switch sides.
The splits: Well, if you want your splits down, shouldn’t you be doing them? . Never be discouraged by how far you are from the splits. Just get as close as you can and hold it there for awhile (a minute). Relax, and repeat a few times. You can also do the splits on the wall (preferably, a doorway, so you can keep your balance). In a few days, after doing multiple stretches, you will notice that you’re getting closer. Rejoice!
All of these stretches usually take about a minute. Above, I’ve given you much more than fifteen minutes of stretching, so spread these stretches out. Do some in one session, others in another session, but try to stretch as many muscles as you can each session. Don’t confine yourself to just one stretch. Do both splits in each session at least once (preferably at the end, to see your improvement).
Another thing to remember is to stretch both legs. A lot of people stretch one leg, while the other leg is completely inflexible. This leads to uneven kicks. It’s a good idea to get both legs flexible so you aren’t stuck with being good with one split and not the other. You never know what split you will encounter in the future!
Remember, you must focus on and want the splits, or else you’ll never get them. The wanting part is easy. Who wouldn’t want to do the splits? The focus is the hard part. Stretching in your kitchen, for instance, is a bad habit. You’ll see that bag of chips and box of cereal and be completely distracted. You’ve lost your focus. If you truly want your splits, you should be stretching like you’re meditating. Think of nothing other than those splits, breathing, and your flexibility. This is not the time to daydream. Now go stretching, and remember, think:splits, splits, splits, splits, splits, splits, flexibility, splits, breathe, splits, splits . . .
*Note*–more stretches have been submitted through comments. Some of these stretches are listed below.
Additional stretches and responses to comments (see also FAQ)
Thanks Hailey for the comment! Here’s another good stretch from her: “A good stretch is the frog. You lye on your stomach, and bring your feet together, with your pelvis on the ground, sort of like the butterfly in reverse, and the goal is to get your feet to touch the ground, still together, and your kneeâ€™s bent, and your pelvis on the ground. After you acheve that bring your feet closer to your body and do the same thing over again, untill you can have your kneeâ€™s bent, feet and pelvies on the ground, and your feet right against your body. It helps dancers with their turn out too.”–I have heard of this one and tried it myself; it’s a lot harder than it looks, but an excellent stretch. It’s a good before-you-sleep stretch, while you’re in bed and have nothing better to do. Now you can add it to your stretching routines. Hope those splits are coming along well.
Nina, thank you for the comment. Sorry for the confusion! I hope that this re-explanation of the frog stretch might help you see what it is.Frog stretch: Lie down belly on the floor. Bend your knees and put your the bottoms of your feet together– push them towards your pelvis, while trying to keep every part of your body flat on the ground. It’s like the “butterfly stretch” except on your stomach. I’m not sure if that’s a universal term, but the butterfly stretch is where you sit on your butt and put your feet together, knees bent. You try to push your knees to the ground and feel the stretch in your inner thigh area. This helps with your center splits because you need flexibility in that area.
If you are getting little results, make sure that you are warming up before stretching (the warmer, the better) and focusing hard on flexibility and nothing else. Get “in the zone” (100% focus) when you stretch. No phone calls, TV, or music if it distracts you. Use a variety of stretches everyday. Don’t forget to breathe. Good luck!
Thanks, Evi, for suggesting the lunge as a stretch. I usually think of it more as a workout and muscle-strengthening activity, but it does work as a stretch if you let your muscles relax. Here is my explanation of it for those that want to try it: stand up, feet and heels together. Take a step forward with your right foot, keeping a large stride–this is just like the “sideways stretch” position except with a larger space between your legs (for average height, keep around 3-4 feet or whatever is comfortable for you). Now bend your right leg to make it perpendicular to the floor. This is a step before the lunge–the “runner stretch” (I just realized that I forgot to add this!). The runner stretch is helpful for your calves; hold in this position for a minute or two. Now, to get to the lunge, keep your right leg in position, and slide your left foot back as far as possible while keeping your right leg still in perpendicular position from knee down. This is the lunge position. Typically, lunges are done to strengthen your leg muscles (thighs, particularly). If you are interested in doing that, stay in position for about five seconds, then take a step with your left leg and do it again. Keep repeating (you should feel a burn in your thighs) and hold weights at your side if it gets easy for you. It might help if you squeeze your ears with your elbows or hold onto your hips to keep balance (if you are not using weights). To use the lunge as a stretch, place your hands on the floor on each side of your right foot so you can keep balance, ease the pressure off of your thighs, and focus on the stretch more instead of focusing on strengthening your leg muscles. There is a primary goal when stretching, and that is attaining flexibility. Take things one at a time–you can work on leg strength later! Anyway, the lunge is particularly helpful in stretching your inner thighs. Notice that, if you continue sliding your leg back (and let your front foot leave the perpendicular position), you will slide into a split! I found it helpful to get into the lunge position and slide back as far as I could into the splits until I finally got there. Hope that the lunge helps you!
Elphie, I am proud of you for getting those splits (almost) down! Great job with your stretching, and I hope you are happy with the results! That last inch or two will not be too difficult. The way that you get that down is by sitting in the splits for a few minutes (maybe about 2 minutes). Then, switch your splits so you can stretch the other side. Get up, walk around a little, and restretch. If you sit in your splits for just 2 minutes about 2-3 times a day, it will be there in a few days. Concentrate, warm up, and stretch. You’ll get there. Don’t worry too much about being able to pick up choreography. If you aren’t so experienced, it will just take more practice to get it down. Don’t stress if you don’t get the routine while it is being taught. Just try to remember all that you can so you can practice once you get home, and then go to your audition the next day feeling like you’ve worked hard and learned something. Best of luck at your audition.
Diana, thanks for offering great advice. Remember that flexibility is something that is developed. You may return back to normal the next day for the first few days of stretching, but do not lose motivation. Keep stretching with a strong focus. Soon enough, you will be able to see improvements. Good luck at tryouts!
Melanie, if you are scared to go into the straddle splits, just remember to slowly go into them. Keep your hands on the ground and slowly lower yourself. Once you feel tension, hold the position to feel the stretch; however, do not go so far into the splits to the point where you feel pain. Another way to practice the straddle splits is to sit on the floor in a v-sit position. Gradually pull your feet further apart. Reach forward with both arms to feel the stretch. It helps do v-sit with your feet against the wall, so that you can pull your body into the wall (or you could sit with your back against the wall, and pull your legs back towards the wall). Hope that helps! Thanks for visiting.
Charlotte, you should consider sitting in your splits for a little less than two minutes. When your knee starts to shake, try to make it stop by balancing yourself; if that doesn’t work, don’t worry! Get out of the splits, and then go back to them when you feel ready. It takes time for your body to develop the ability to do the splits. As for the grinding in your knee joints, you should definitely be careful with that. Make sure that your ankle/foot isn’t bent the wrong way because that could cause your knee to be irritated. If it is painful, you should ask a doctor about it.Melanie, this post is for all splits (right, left, and center).<
Hi Beth, you asked if there are stretches that would decrease your flexibility. Nothing that I know of will actually “decrease” your flexibility. If over time, you don’t stretch, then you become less flexible because your muscles have relaxed. If you are stretching properly, it can only increase and develop your flexibility. As for starting ballet, there is never a “latest” age. Most people start when they are very little because it is easier to develop ballet skills, such as flexibility and pointy toes, at that age; however, if you are committed, I believe that you can gain those skills. It will be much harder as you get older, but it is most likely still possible (for most people).Austin, most boys are able to do the splits as well; however, the reason it is harder for boys is because they are generally less flexible than girls. By this, I mean that a girl who never stretches tends to be more flexible than a boy who never stretches (I have no idea why this is so). Anyway, because of this, it takes guys a little bit of a longer time to get the splits because they have a longer way to go in terms of flexibility in order to achieve the splits. I did say that most boys can do the splits… please refer to this splits article to see if you’re capable.
I’ve batched up a ton of questions and addressed them in the FAQ post. From now on, I’ll be updating that page instead of this one. Check it out!
Anyone else have stretches or suggestions? Any confusion on the stretches? Comment!
Lots of drill teams donâ€™t keep consistent schedules. Itâ€™s usually a completely random schedule, based on what facilities are available. For instance, if there are no areas for practice (pretty impossibleâ€“youâ€™ll see what I mean in Finding Places to Practice) then there will be no practice, or practice will be held at a different time (in the morning, for instance) or different day to accomodate. Of course thereâ€™s constant competition with other sports teams for school facilities such as the gym, but thatâ€™s not a valid excuse for not practicing.
By a consistent schedule, I basically mean a â€œclass scheduleâ€. Your first period class might be everyday, from 8-9am. This is how drill practices should be; for instance, Mondays to Thursdays, 2-4pm. No changes. Read How to Schedule Practices for more information about this method.
So hereâ€™s the six benefits of keeping a consistent schedule:
1. No surprises
No oneâ€™s going to come to school late and say, â€œbutâ€¦ I didnâ€™t know that school started at 8amâ€¦â€; likewise, no one will come to practice (or not come at all!) with this excuse. And no one is going to plan something at this time unless itâ€™s the last resort. The main reason for missing practice is not knowing when practice is. So, if someone knows exactly what days/hours practice are, then she can plan accordingly and schedule appointments whenever there isnâ€™t practice. So no surprises. No â€œI didnâ€™t knowâ€ excuses.
2. Happier members
No one likes having an inconsistent schedule. Itâ€™s like having your manager at work give you crappy hours! No one likes that. Itâ€™s just frustrating and hard to work with. If people know exactly when drill practice will be held, they will know when they are busy and when they are not. If someone asks me if Iâ€™m busy on May 15th and itâ€™s a month away and I have an inconsistent drill schedule, I wonâ€™t know. Iâ€™ll probably have to delay my answer on that question until the new schedule is released. And if this date is supposed to be for a project or other type of appointment, itâ€™ll probably be too late by the time I know. If, on the other hand, I do have a consistent drill schedule, then Iâ€™ll just have to know what day of the week May 15th is, and Iâ€™ll be able to give an answer on the spot. People are naturally happier when they know when things are happening. What if school started a different time everyday? Wouldnâ€™t that suck?! Same with drill. Keep it consistent!
3. Immediate notification of conflicts
If someone canâ€™t attend practice on a certain day (with a good excuse, of course!), then she can tell you right away. For instance, if a member planned a doctorâ€™s appointment on a Thursday three months away (because, well, her doctor is all booked and closed on Fridayâ€“or another acceptable excuse), she can notify you immediately. This way, you can decide whether itâ€™s worth it to cancel practice to accomodate one member; in addition, you can have time to think about this and plenty of time to notify the team. I was often afraid to tell my captain or coach that I had to miss practice because I would end up scheduling a doctorâ€™s appointment a month in advance, and a month later when the schedule came out, Iâ€™d realize that Iâ€™d be missing practice. Iâ€™d often be scolded with a â€œwhy did you schedule at such an inopportune time? Canâ€™t you change the appointment? Didnâ€™t you know that there would be practice that day?â€ Ugh. I didnâ€™t really like being confronted in this way. As youâ€™ve probably experienced, some events have to be planned a weeks or months in advance, and sometimes they just donâ€™t work out. Itâ€™s really frustrating dealing with this kind of situation, and this is mainly why people are scared to confront their coach and they end up procrastinating on it . . . until the event is tomorrow (and then you get scolded real bad . . . oops).
4. Less stress on others
By others, I mean family, rides, friends, your manager, etc. Families have to deal with drill schedules, too. Family events must be planned accordinglyâ€“if there is no consistent drill schedule, itâ€™s very hard to do this. The people that are responsible for bringing members back home also have to work around this. They can be busy people! Not a good idea to stress them out. Also, lots of drillers work (how else can you pay for that uniform?!). They might have managers that schedule their hours for them. If practice is inconsistent, itâ€™s hard for the manager to do this and hard for the member also. She canâ€™t tell her manager that sheâ€™s simply not available Mondays thru Thursdays from 2-4pm. If the drill schedule is inconsistent, sheâ€™s going to tell her manager something more like, â€œI might be busy on that Friday . . . I donâ€™t know how long though or if I even have practiceâ€. That doesnâ€™t impress your manager. Youâ€™ll probably get fired soon for not having enough time for that job! Itâ€™s always a good idea to keep consistent so thereâ€™s room to do other things, like work.
5. More room for other activities
An inconsistent drill schedule is very inconvenient. It basically makes sure that you donâ€™t miss school, and thatâ€™s it. It doesnâ€™t care if youâ€™ll miss an appointment, a piano lesson, a club meeting, or whatever else you do. Drill is time consuming, but it shouldnâ€™t take up all your time. Usually drill doesnâ€™t take up all your time, but with an inconsistent schedule, it blocks out all the room you have for other activities because of the random schedule. You canâ€™t plan to join the club thatâ€™s everyday after school on Friday because youâ€™re not sure if thereâ€™s practice and you can probably only attend half of the meetings. If you know exactly when there is practice, then you can add more room for other extracurricular activities. If, for instance, practices are Monday thru Thursday, you can know that Friday is okay for joining a club, scheduling lessons, volunteering, etc.
6. Happier coach/captains
You get to be happier, also! There will be less stress on people missing practice and not showing up because the schedule is not working for them.
Iâ€™m sure that once youâ€™ve tried the consistent schedule method, you wonâ€™t go back. Itâ€™s so much more convenient for everyone, including you. There is a clear sense of when youâ€™re busy and when youâ€™re not. No more, â€œhmm . . . is there practice? The schedule isnâ€™t out yet, so I donâ€™t know . . . â€œ. Itâ€™s a good feeling.
Comment and tell me how the consistent schedule is working for you!
Edit 2/25/07: Kerry–when you dance, do things one at a time. The counts come first. Dance with the counts, and don’t worry about smiling for now. Once you have practiced dancing with only the counts, you get used to it and don’t have to concentrate as hard on those counts. Now try adding the smiling.
When you create the routine, you need to make sure that itâ€™s challenging, interesting, appealing to the audience, etc. Thatâ€™s the obvious. You also have to make sure that it is capable of being 98% perfect.
A difficult routine is great, but a difficult routine performed poorly is just as bad as a boring routine. Challenge yourselfs with a difficult routine and make it as perfect as possible. Of course there is no such thing as 100% perfection, but if you want to succeed in competitions, youâ€™re going to need at least 90% perfection. If this is just not happening for your team, maybe itâ€™s because the routine is too difficult! Maybe the counts are too fast, the moves are too far apart to transition to, the music is too fast, etc. Simplify it and make the work easier on the team. If youâ€™ve read my other articles on choreography, you should know that you yourself must be capable of performing the routine with the music first. Sometimes people will create moves that they themselves canâ€™t even do! Practice first. Teachers donâ€™t teach things that they donâ€™t know; likewise, you shouldnâ€™t be teaching a routine that you have not practiced and perfected. Make sure 90% perfection is possible.
As for the routine itself, one way to make it fun, new, and interesting is to add your team memberâ€™s creativity to it. They can contribute to the choreography and make your life as a captain easier! In the end, make sure anyone who creates a section of the choreography gets credit for it in some way! After all, if you donâ€™t credit this person, youâ€™ve basically took credit for her work. Youâ€™ve learned this lesson at school already. Donâ€™t plagiarize.
The main reason choreography is so hard to perfect is because it is created without consideration to the pace of the music and the plausibility of the moves. Of course itâ€™s okay to first start off slow and speed the counts up to the music, but the instructorâ€™s responsibility is to perfect the choreography before she teaches it. If you canâ€™t do it, no one else can. Make sure you can do it, and make sure there are no extremely difficult, based-on-chance moves. These could be cartwheels or other risky moves. It usually leads to sloppiness anyway. Donâ€™t add something to the routine unless youâ€™re sure that everyone is capable of perfecting it (including yourself!).
Though I say to not add something that canâ€™t be perfected, I donâ€™t mean to make the routine boring and easy. Challenges are good, but extremely risky challenges like head-spinning just wonâ€™t work, unless everyone can do it. Make your routine as creative as possible, with unique transitions and a bit of everyoneâ€™s creativity in it.
Trying to get everyone to practice is tough! Drillers have their own lives outside of school and sometimes canâ€™t work around the schedule. Donâ€™t you wish you could freeze time?
So in the case that you canâ€™t freeze time, what can you do to get everyone to practice? Working with missing members is difficult, so here are some ways to work around this.
Remember, if you are a captain, your responsibility is to accomodate team members and work with them. Youâ€™re not better than them. Youâ€™re just leading them, and in order for this to happen, they must be able to attend!
Vote on practices. Ask your team members what the best days for practice are. Usually Sundays are already eliminated because many people have religious affiliations. But some people are busy every Wednesday with other important things. You canâ€™t stop them; these people have their own lives and drill should not interfere! Voting will eliminate skipping practices for periodic events, like meetings, Church, whatever people do. This allows team members to speak up for when they cannot be here. Remember: work with your team members. Instead of scolding them when they arenâ€™t here, create a schedule that will allow them to be here. Itâ€™s simple as that.
Keep practices consistent. Donâ€™t make the schedule random. After youâ€™ve voted and found out which days are okay for practice, find out which days you will practice. This should be a periodic schedule, like Every Monday to Thursday from 2:30 to 4:30 PM. Something like that. This way there are no random practices on days that people are busy. In additional, members will have a chance to join clubs and be involved in the school in other ways; in this example, Fridays are always free, so members can join clubs that are on Fridays.
No surprise practices. This goes with keeping practices consistent. Donâ€™t expect everyone to be at practice if you alert them the day before! Preferably, practices should be scheduled one month in advance. Two weeks is good enough, but itâ€™s the bare minimum. The earlier they know about practices, the more time they have to alert you about times that they cannot be here; consequently, you will have more time to reschedule or cancel and keep everyone at practice.
If an extra practice is necessary, VOTE! Again, itâ€™s not a team memberâ€™s fault if she canâ€™t be there. This way you know who can make it.
NEVER schedule before asking/voting. This is probably the biggest planning mistake there is, but people do it all the time! Just ask yourself why you would schedule something when you know someone canâ€™t make it? Without everyone, practice is almost a waste because one person is behind.
Be nice about it. If someone canâ€™t make it, ask why (nicely!). If this is a plausible excuse, then itâ€™s ok. Reschedule practice if there is time. Things like funerals or sickness come up unexpectedly. You canâ€™t expect a member to alert you two weeks in advance about this. Also, some appointments can only be made during practice time. Clinics usually close early and are closed on Fridays. Just ask the member to explain and use your own reasoning to see if this is okay. Smile. If youâ€™re angry about it, the then she will be also. This creates a negative team.
Make sure you show everyone the schedule. They canâ€™t be here if they donâ€™t know!
There is always someone that likes to be sick or have a headache every other day. In this case, you should talk with her. See if this is a plausible excuse or if she is simply trying to miss practice. Donâ€™t be afraid to kick her off the team; besides, the reason sheâ€™s always â€œsickâ€ is probably because she hates practice. These people pull your team behind.
Remember that bad scheduling leads to missing members and unproductive practices. Scolding your members for being absent leads to a negative team mood. So work with your team members to form a schedule!
My article about planning actual practice time might also be helpful.