Terrency Romero is one of only two female head coaches that lead collegiate dance teams in Puerto Rico.
We know women are fierce competitors, and they can be even fiercer leaders. However, their positions in coaching are relatively non-existent. Title IX, implemented in 1972, flooded women’s sports with money and created more jobs in this previously neglected area, but many of these jobs went to men. Now, about 40 percent of women’s college teams are coached by women. Only about 3 percent of men’s college teams are coached by women. This means that men still have almost double the chance to coach teams. Without the equal opportunity to rise as a leader, women are often excluded. In this interview with Terrency Romero, head coach of the University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras Campus’s Dance Team (UPR Dance Team, for short), we discuss some of the struggles she has overcome in her transition from student to coach at the same university.
HC: What has been the biggest challenge being a female coach at UPR?
Terrency: “The biggest challenge has been proving to the faculty and other coaches that watched me grow as a student athlete, that now I’m an equal professional like them. I’m not that young Terrency that danced all day, I am now in charge. It has also been difficult showing them and myself that I’ve grown and I’m ready to take the team to a new competitive level.”
HC: When you started coaching, what did you notice other coaches had over you?
Terrency: “I quickly noticed that some male coaches had keys to the athletic department and the gym court and I did not. Practicing through both the basketball and volleyball season, I had to explore the environment and find other spaces in the gym court for my team to practice. The gym court floor is the safest place for dancers to spin and jump in the whole athletic complex. I also had to join conversations and see who was who in order to find a way to fit in with the group of coaches.”
Terrency started coaching in the 2017-2018 season, the same season when Hurricane María hit Puerto Rico. In her first year as coach, along with James Thomas, she led the UPR Dance Team to first place in the Jazz category, leading them to become the overall champions of the Justas LAI Dance Competition in 2018.
HC: What was your biggest concern or challenge when you started to coach the team, which previously had a male coach?
Terrency: “The biggest challenge was definitely gaining their trust. Before coaching the UPR Dance Team, I was the Assistant Coach to Jaguares Dance Team (UPR Carolina’s dance team). I had to show them that I was here to stay. It became a process to help them understand that I came here with a goal, and that was to make the team shine and be the best one. In order to accomplish this, we knew we had to work hard, and that they needed to trust me. I also tried, and try, to be as caring and supportive while also maintaining a great level of training and union among my dancers. James and I were able to rise this team to the level we wanted, and eventually win that 2018 Justas LAI.”
HC: How did your student position as team captain help in some way now being head coach for the team?
Terrency: “When I was a team member, and eventual captain, the team did all the work. As co-captain with James Thomas we ran rehearsals and choreographed our competition numbers. We also dealt with all the paperwork needed to compete. Besides all of this, James and I worked hard to show the university that the Dance Team had the potential to be highly competitive by competing at the UDA National Championships in Orlando, Florida. Under James and I, the UPR Dance Team competed for the first time in 2014.”
HC: How does it feel to know that you are one of the two female head coaches for dance teams in Puerto Rico?
Terrency: “Definitely shocking. Women have all the potential to succeed in anything they set their mind to. We should also be given the equal opportunity to achieve this. Teams can benefit from a female coach. It’s all a matter of giving us the chance.”
Outside of coaching the team, Terrency has also created an app called Slay Dance that focuses on helping dancers find clips and tips for training all in one place. This app not only impacts the Puerto Rican dance scene, but the global one as well.
HC: What has been your biggest struggle as a coach during the pandemic?
Terrency: “It definitely has been keeping my team motivated, by getting them to keep training on their own. Stretching, taking online classes, and also staying in the best mental state they can be. Besides this, showing the university that we are still working despite the circumstances. We have done training via Zoom and Instagram Live in hopes of showing we are training and trying to stay strong under the circumstances. We have also recorded videos during the pandemic of certain choreographies and clips of the dancers showing their growth. With Slay, I’ve been able to give classes, with the required protocol, and the team has shown interest and support by assisting in these classes.”