Are you ready?
This question can have very simple implications or very deep ones. If I asked you one morning if you were ready for work, you’d run a simple checklist through your head and be able to quickly respond yes or no. But if I asked you if you were ready for the big presentation at work that took you months of preparation, you might hesitate as you processed last minute jitters and considered more than just a checklist to determine your readiness.
Same can be applied to ballroom (and really, what can’t?). Are you ready for your lesson? Simple yes or no. Are you ready for your last lesson before your competition? You might need a little more time to consider.
As I mentioned last week, Teacher and I have a go/no-go lesson set to decide once and for all if I’m ready to debut at the Open level at Desert Classic. For those expecting me to be at the comp, don’t worry. Even if it’s a “no-go”, I’ll still be there to cheer everyone else on. We should have a Girl with the Tree Tattoo meetup!
With D Day (Decision Day) drawing closer, this concept of readiness has been winding through my brain. The little demons in my head are having a field day, of course, whispering I won’t be ready, I’m not good enough, I peaked at Silver, etc., etc. Change the record, boys, we’ve heard this one before! Still, I’m human and so it’s difficult to ignore the doubts, however old or small.
How do you know if you’re ready? On one hand, I don’t think you’re ever 100% prepared because there are always unknown variables at a competition. How close do you need to be to 100% though? Do you need to have your choreography memorized and be able to dance it completely on your own? Or do you just need to know it well enough that you can follow your partner through the fuzzy spots? What if you don’t have choreography?
People have competed mere weeks after they started dancing. Were they fully ready? Probably not. But then again, if they were entering the Newcomer or Bronze levels, is it less critical? Can you be less prepared at the lower levels?
I remember feeling way underprepared for my debut in Standard at Ballroom Beach Bash. We choreographed the last routine and then I was out of town for about a week and then it was time to compete! That went well.
Actually, it wasn’t that bad. It was incredibly stressful in the moment, but looking back, I feel like we gave a decent performance. Even if I did mix up my American Foxtrot and International Foxtrot routines.
Open Smooth is different. We’re not in closed the entire time, so I can’t rely on being able to just connect with my partner and move where he tells me to move. It’ll be a lot more obvious if I forget my steps in Open.
You could say that the more advanced or complex the dance is, the closer to 100% you want to get. But we’re really just talking about the technical and logistical aspects there. Knowledge and understanding of steps, timing, styling, expression, etc. Then there is the mental and emotional aspects. If you have doubts creeping through your gray matter, you may not feel ready no matter how well you’re able to execute your dance moves. If your doubts get really bad, they may start affecting how you dance, which will make you feel even less ready. How do you know if it’s just your nerves or if you really aren’t ready?
I at least have some predefined parameters by which to determine my readiness for Desert Classic. If I can demonstrate I can do certain things on my own, then we’re good to go. If not, well then I stay on the sidelines for a little while longer. I’m determined to compete of course, but at the same time, I can’t ignore the fact that we only returned to the Viennese routine last week. I also can’t ignore the fact that I’m busting my butt in practice to make sure I’m ready to go!
Setting mini goals to help you decide if you’re ready to compete or not is a good way to combat the uncertainty. If the goal is clear and specific, such as you’re able to dance your routines by yourself or you’re able to follow your teacher to the music, then it takes out the part where you wring your hands as you try to decide. Either you meet your goal or you don’t.
At the same time, I like to be reasonably flexible. Say you don’t meet your goal but you come really close. If you’re feeling really positive about what you can do, then go for it! Or don’t. These competitions aren’t one-time events. They happen every year and there are enough of them that you could compete almost every weekend if you so chose. So while it’s good to feel more or less prepared and confident, if you don’t and you still want to compete OR if you don’t and you don’t want to compete, then that’s fine! It’s just one event. There will be another one. At least that’s what I try to tell myself when I start getting on my own case about making sure I’m ready for Desert.
I think what I’m beginning to conclude is the way to tell if you’re ready is to honestly ask yourself if you’re ready! I know, terrible conclusion. Let’s see if I can make it better.
The trouble with defining the point where you’re ready is it’s so variable from person to person. One person can train for 6 months (or almost a year) and still not feel ready to compete. Another person can train for 6 weeks and feel more than ready.
Part of it also depends on your goal(s) for the event itself. Are you just looking to go out and enjoy yourself? Are you trying to move up the competitive ranks? Are you wanting to make a big impression? What you ultimately want to accomplish at a competition also plays a role in determining your readiness.
Teacher and I have discussed our goals for my first Open-level competition. On one hand, I just want to get out there. I miss competing and it feels crazy that it’s been almost a year since my last event. The year is almost halfway over and I haven’t competed once!
On the other hand, I don’t want this to be like my Standard debut, full of stress because I didn’t know my routines and we barely had any time to practice together. I want to walk out with the confidence that comes with being well-rehearsed. Let’s not forget my ongoing knee issues. Last week, I was like we’ve got this, no problem! The doubts are getting a little more active as we get closer to D Day, but I still think we’ve got this. I’m just more aware of the mountain of work left to do to ensure that it is gotten.
Speaking of which, I better finish this off and head to bed. Gotta get up early tomorrow so I can get in extra practice time!
Let me know how you decide if/when you’re ready for your next competition in the comments below!
If you’re uncertain about your readiness, do check out The Solo Practice Guide for Ballroom Dancing. It will help clear out those doubts, so you can focus on your dancing.
Happy dancing, everyone!