Through the Lens of a Dancer | Q&A with Coach Kayla

Today’s Topic: Through the Lens of a Dancer | Q&A with Coach Kayla

Hello everyone.  My name is Kayla and I am new to the Complete Performance coaching staff. I’m super excited to be part of the coaching staff and to work with many athletes this year, especially dancers and cheerleaders.

A brief background about myself – I have been cheerleading, playing basketball, and swimming my whole life.  In college, I decided to pursue cheer, dance, and swim.  I was on three different teams at once.  It was a lot, but I was so passionate about all three of them that I really wanted to pursue all of them.  In college, I decided to audition for the San Francisco 49ers Gold Rush Cheerleaders.  I made it and was on the team for six seasons.

I learned so much.  Being on the biggest stage, the NFL, was just amazing, but everything was amplified as a dancer.  There were a lot of stressors and a lot of things going on, and we’re going to be talking about that today – what happens through the lens of a dancer.

Pursuing Sports Psychology

I decided to pursue sports psychology while I was a 49ers cheerleader.  I discovered that there’s a really big need for the mind and body; it makes a world of difference and it’s really, really important.  I have my Master’s degree in Sports Psychology and I will be getting my doctorate in Clinical Psychology in few months when I graduate.

I started doing sports psychology seminars with the 49ers cheerleaders bi-weekly, especially when we had a game coming up.  It was just a nice space to talk about all the stressors and things going on, like all of the things that we had to worry about on game day.  We really wanted to talk about it and bring awareness to those things so that way we would know how to tackle them.  I would provide certain mental skills and techniques.

Top 5 Things a Dancer Thinks About While Performing

Today we’re going to be talking about the top five things a dancer thinks about while performing.

1. Being Watched

The first thing, which is really, really stressful, is having the coaches watch you.  When I was performing on the field, our coaches would often watch us and they would take notes.  When my coaches were watching me, I was very anxious and nervous.  I was analyzing their non-verbals.  I was asking myself, “Are they watching me?  Are they watching my teammate next to me?”  It was very anxiety provoking.  Our coaches are also at every practice and they help us with rehearsals, so there’s also that anxiety to make them proud on game day.  I’m sure all dancers want to make their coaches proud.

2. What do my parents think?

The second thing that a dancer thinks about when they’re performing is what their parents think of them.  I remember on game days we would always have pre-game performances and appearances.  We would walk around the stadium and do a few short dances.  My parents and my family were always front-row watching me perform.

I cared so much about how my parents thought I performed, I would rush to the locker room after I was done and my mom would be the first person that I would text.  I would ask her, “Mom, how did I do?  How was my performance?  What did you think about it?  Can you send me any videos?”  And that was a big moment for my mom to really offer me words of encouragement and positivity because whenever she was really positive for me, it lasted throughout the game day.

Power of Positivity & Encouragement

It was almost like any mistake I made didn’t matter because my mom thought I had performed great before game day started.  So, parents, that’s a really great opportunity for you. Please give your dancers as much encouragement and positive affirmation as you can before their performance.  It’s something that they will think about while performing because they think so highly of you.

3. Formations and Routines

The third thing that a dancer thinks about when they’re performing are formations and recalling any routines.  On the football field, there are so many different hash-marks and we either had to be on a hash-mark or off a hash-mark.  The whole performance I’m trying to not only remember my dance routines but also trying to figure out my formations; it was so chaotic.

That was something that always used to stress me out.  It was a lot of pressure because if I messed up my formation and wasn’t in the right spot then it was a domino effect that would throw off all of my other teammates.  There’s a lot of pressure in just learning how to dance through when you know you’re not in the right formation.

Last Minute Changes

Also, on game-day, let’s say I had been practicing this one formation for months, this one spot.  Well, things happen.  Dancers get hurt, and sometimes my coach would say, “You know what Kayla, we really need you to change your formation.”  That was really stressful for me because then I was having to learn a whole new formation.  So formations can be very, very stressful along with recalling routines.  Being a Gold Rush Girl we had probably 25 or more routines.  It was tough remembering them all.

4. Coping with Mistakes

That goes into number four – coping with a mistake. It’s how you get through the mistake.  There are so many dance routines.  Not every game-day is going to be perfect.  Not every performance is going to be perfect.  Everything is magnified for a dancer. You forget to put one left arm up and you think the whole world saw it.

Especially for me, if I made one mistake, I would think that everyone, hundreds of thousands of fans in the stadium saw me.  I’d think that my parents saw me and my coaches saw me. All it is was just one left arm that I forgot to put up, but everything is really magnified.  Having to push through a mistake is tough, especially if you have a mistake that happened at the beginning of the game.

Pushing Through It

Let’s say you have a mistake that happened in the first quarter.  Well, you still have a few more quarters to go before the game is over, so it’s a really pivotal moment of, “I have to get over it.  I have to get over my mistake.  I can’t let it affect me.”  So pushing through a mistake is really important.  Using any sports psychology techniques can really help you get through.

5. Self Confidence & Internal Dialogue

Number five is self-confidence and internal dialogue.  This is huge.  It’s interesting being a dancer and cheerleader.  Yes, it’s a team, but there’s this rule in the dance and cheer world that you can’t talk on the field and you can’t talk while you’re performing.  So if I’m having an internal process where I have anxiety or I can’t let go of my mistake, then that can really take a toll on me.  I’m having to break down all my feelings and really try to get through it, and that can take a toll on your self-confidence.

So before every game-day, I always used to ask myself, “What can I do to feel more confident? What can I do to feel confident on game day?”  There are a lot of distractions and things going on, like fans yelling or the music not starting at the right time.  I would try to ask myself, “What’s in my control?  How can I feel more confident?”  That whole week I would practice my dances more, I would get a massage, or I would do certain things to help me feel really confident on game-day.  Also, a lot of meditating and mindfulness activities.

Parents Can Help

Parents, this is where you can help if you know that your dancer or cheerleader has a performance that week.  Maybe ask them, “Hey, how can I help you feel really confident about your performance?”  It might be staying up late watching them perform their routines for you or drill their routines or getting a massage, whatever it may be.  I would definitely encourage you to ask your dancers how you can help them feel more confident.

Other Distractions

These are only five things that a dancer thinks about when they’re performing and there are so many more.  I had to pick five, but I had a list of 25.  I didn’t even to mention the uniform.  Sometimes when I was on the 49er’s cheerleading team we wouldn’t practice in our uniform, and when we’d wear it, it would become a distraction.  There were cameras, fans yelling or saying things, and sometimes I couldn’t hear the music.

There are a lot of things and maybe we can talk more about that in the next live.  But this is what it looks like through the lens of a dancer.  My goal and hope with having this conversation is it can offer parents a different perspective when you’re watching your cheerleaders or dancers performing and really immersing yourself into what their lens looks like when they’re performing.

Talk to Your Kids

There’s a lot of things that they have to focus on.  I also encourage you to have a talk with your dancer or cheerleader by asking them, “Hey, what are all the things that you’re thinking about when you’re performing?”  I think it would be a great bonding experience.

So, that’s all I have for you today.  I’m super excited to be a part of the coaching staff.  Any dancers or cheerleaders feel free to book or schedule a consultation with me at  I would love to work with you all.

Thank you for tuning in you.  I’ll see you soon.

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