How Being a Competitive Dancer Changed my Life

I started Scottish Highland Dancing when I was four years old, and began dancing competitively at the age of six. Over the course of my competitive career, I have faced many challenges, but there have also been many benefits that far outweighed them. I’m going to share some of the positive experiences I have had as a competitive dancer.

 I learned to lose with grace and win with humility

In any competitive sport, there are wins and there are losses. You have to be prepared for both and it is critical that you know how to handle these moments. Sometimes you dance your heart out and do not get the results that you hoped for, while other times you feel like you’ve gotten the recognition you deserved for all your hard work. Good sportsmanship is extremely important and while it is absolutely okay to be upset at a loss, congratulating your competitors rather than being angry or putting them down will make both of you feel better in the long run. The same goes for winning; even if you totally deserved it, congratulate your competitor on the effort they put in! You’re expected to be happy and excited (I’ve cried tears of joy on stage) but try to be conscious of the fact that others may not have done as well as they’d hoped, acknowledge that they did their best, and make sure you are not celebrating your victory by bragging or bringing others down. I’ve been on both the losing and the winning sides before, and although at a younger age it was sometimes hard to understand why I didn’t always place high or receive awards, I have come to the realization that I can be happy as long as I know I’ve danced my very best! It’s also important to use disappointing results as a learning experience and take those opportunities to ask yourself what your competitor did that you didn’t, and learn how to become a better dancer.

 I gained life-long friends

Going to competitions often involves quite a bit of travelling, which has provided me with opportunities to meet other dancers from across the country, many of whom I am still in contact with today – nearly a decade later. Friendships are a vital part of any sport, as they help those long days at meets, games and competitions go by  a little faster and mean that you always have someone to cheer you on!

 It taught me to deal with stress and nerves

Competing can be nerve-wracking because it often involves getting in front of a large crowd and sometimes performing new steps or routines for the first time in front of a large audience. Even as an experienced competitor, I still deal with competition nerves from time to time! If you don’t put them behind you, these nerves will can get in the way and prevent you from performing to the best of your ability. Twelve years of competing has taught me to throw the nerves away as soon as I step on stage and hear the music start. I’ve been able to use this skill in many other aspects of my life, switching out the stage and the music for various settings and scenarios throughout my life. Dancing is also a way for me to conquer stress, as being physically active is essential to maintaining a healthy lifestyle both mentally and physically. I often find myself using dance as a way to relax and destress before bed, especially before a major test or exam. It helps me manage my stress in a positive and effective way and reap the benefits of physical activity in the process!

 It helped me develop a good work ethic, planning skills and balance

Being successful in any competitive sport requires a great deal of time management. You have to balance practices/rehearsals with school, jobs, and any other sports and hobbies that you may be involved with, as well as your social life. This involves knowing how to split up your time so that what is most important to you gets prioritized and you have time to do everything you need to do without burning yourself out. I’ve found myself taking study notes to many competitions to study during travel time and between dances as well as running over steps in my head during my commute to school, and using study breaks for practicing. I have been able to use these skills outside of the dance world as well. The work ethic that I have developed has come in handy during difficult semesters at school, especially during midterms and finals!

While for me these benefits have been the result of a competitive dance career, they can also be the result of any competitive sport. The benefits that come with even a small amount of involvement are immense and will be valuable for the rest of your life.