By Loraine Ritchey
Excerpts from…April 97 Dancer On Parents and ON competitions
April 1997 "At his point in time there is a great deal of media coverage regarding children's beauty pageants, made of TV movies on the girls gymnastic programs and print media covering the world of competitive ice skating. My involvement in theatre, sports and competitive dance made me a candidate for the local news media as an interview. The questions posed by the reporter gave me pause both as a parent and in my capacity as a producer and director. I have decided to share with Dancers readers one or two of the questions as they pertained to Highland. Please let me preface by saying that the opinions and answers given are strictly my own based on my own personal experiences and I speak for no one else.
Q. With hindsight would you put your child in competitive dance (Highland) again?
A. Yes! BUT this time I would do my homework as a parent "before" not halfway through my child's dancing career.
Q. Does Highland attract the "Texas cheerleader mother" type?
A. No! I can honestly say in my experience that the majority of the parents are quite sane! Personally I have only experienced one or two individuals who are "over the top" and that really were enough. When you see a parent looking at your child performing and there is "naked aggression" on that adults face, it really is a very frightening experience, one that I don't care to ever have repeated.
You can be sure though I kept my child separate from that individual and that studio.
Q What advice would you give a parent who is considering competitive sports dance or even the arts?
A. Ask yourself what you want your child to realize from the chosen arena. Are the goals realistic? Is it YOU or your child that wants the experience? Can you deal with the negatives as well as the positives?
Watch out for the warning signs! When the art form or sport becomes more important than the child of the rest of the family, the financial obligation causing hardship, then it is time to take a reality check. Put your child's welfare and happiness first!
Parents, and mother in particular, are being held responsible (as they should be) for their child's competitive well being. "Taking Control" being in charge, when it comes to this part of our child's life is not as easy as it sounds. When holding auditions how many young performers have I passed over for a part because when "all other aspects were equal", I didn't want to deal with the individuals overly "pushy" parent.
So how does one take control without being controlling? In the beginning most children enter a competitive arena because of mum or dads involvement or exposure to the art or sport. Three and four year olds only do what we want them to do; it is up to the parent to do the homework BEFORE lessons, costumes and competitions. If you are going to pay a teacher/coach to work with your child, you must get to know all you can, request and check references, talk to the parents of current students, talk to the older students and meet with the instructor. Sit in on more than one class. Got to a competition. Take note of how the teacher/coach acts with their students, both the ones who place and the ones who don't. How do the other parents react at a competition (after all you will be likely spending a lot of time with these parents and in most cases your children will be vying for the same prize) how do the students react with one another and with other studios or teams/leagues? In the area of dance and sport, you really need to check the teachers/coaches credentials, especially when it comes to "knowledge of the body", how well versed are they in this area. After all you are putting your child's physical well being in this persons hands and the decisions made now could affect them for the rest of their lives. A good teacher/coach will have no problem with the aforementioned, and if they do then my advice LOOK ELSEWHERE.
If you are already involved with a program and are feeling uncomfortable, then address your concerns to the teacher/coach, but please not during a lesson or competition… make an appointment outside of lesson time and talk one on one. If you are still unhappy but your child wishes to continue the activity then look for other teachers/coaches but be honest with them as to why you are leaving.
This isn't always easy. A parent of my acquaintance had a legitimate concern with regards to their high school coach. The parent was told by the other parents "don't make waves; it will be taken out on your son, he will sit the bench the rest of the season and there is no way you will get a college recommendation! As a parent what do you do? The parents did voice their concerns, and yes the young man was singled out because of it, the parents were put down as whiners. Had all the parents voiced their concerns as a unified group the situation may have turned out differently. However most of us are afraid to take the initiative in case our child suffers the consequences of our actions.
Parents of competitors tread a road filled with many choices, twists and turns. When your child is involved and their happiness and all sorts of emotions are pulling you hither and yon, it is so hard to be clinical and logical when it comes to deciding which way is the right way. I have made many of the wrong choices, become caught up in the competitive whirlwind, but luckily for me, I have a terrific mum who would put things in perspective with " I don't know why you are getting so emotional after all IT'S (Highland, soccer/production of the moment) ONLY A PIMPLE ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH! Thanks Mum
As always for Questions and Comments, I can be reached at
Loraine Ritchey, 1127.W. 4th Street, Lorain, Ohio, 44052.