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Ballet Talk for Dancers
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dancindaughters

Sports and Ballet: commitments to both?

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Treefrog

I respectfully disagree. At the age of 12, kids should still have the latitude to check out any number of loves, hobbies, interests, or passing fancies. Maybe, just maybe, she'll find out she is more passionate about soccer than ballet, has more talent for it, etc. Maybe she'll learn that the teamwork and camaraderie suit her better than the relatively solo discipline of dance.

 

The practical problem that I see is juggling two potentially time-intensive activities. This is the problem we are facing with DD#2, who is about to turn 12. Luckily, her soccer (in a totally recreational league) involves just one practice and one game a week -- neither of which, mercifully, conflict with ballet classes.

 

It does sound as though the coach might be a tad intense. I've seen and coached a lot of youth soccer, and although it is true that play becomes more serious and aggressive as the girls age, the injury rate is not that high. I assume your daughter would not be playing at the all-star or travelling team level?

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Funny Face

Dear Mom: I'm going to have to agree with Mel on this one. I'm speaking as a teacher of children that age. The administrator of the school at which I have taught for many years has observed that soccer seems to make her students tighter and less flexible. That's her observation, and I respect it. But, my problem has to do with a couple of other things. I don't like the coach making that remark, even in jest. That's an irresponsible attitude, both for boys and girls. Secondly, even in a responsibly coached soccer game, there is contact in that sport, between the players themselves, and the players' heads with the ###### (the latter is something I will never understand).

 

Moreover, you mention that your daughter is en pointe. That means she's had a sizable amount of training and has already made something of a commitment to ballet. I wish you could see the strain I see on the faces of children who are in this pre-teen age group when they arrive for ballet class, straight from soccer or swimming or whatever else they are cramming into their lives. Often, there is no time in between one activity and another. They come in with wet hair, sweaty, and not ready for class, mentally or physically.

 

Sometimes this is because parents are squeezing all of this into their children's lives. Sometimes, it's the children who are trying to do all of this. Your daughter is still a child, and much as she may think she wants to combine all of this, she can't know or understand at her tender age what kinds of commitments both of these activities involve, or the possible repercussions of soccer on her ballet dancing. She needs you, Mom, to guide her gently and firmly in this regard. You don't want a worst case scenario whereby she ends up hurting herself and unable to participate in either soccer or ballet. And, from the sounds of that coach, I don't have a good feeling about this.

 

Does this mean I think children shouldn't be well rounded? Yes and no. Yes, I don't think so in terms of how much our youngsters are currently cramming into their lives, to the point that they need cell phones and palm pilots in junior high. No, in that I DO believe there are things children can involve themselves in that COMPLEMENT ballet training. For instance, I believe that all children should learn to swim, with enough training to obtain a lifesaver's badge. But -- I accomplished this in the summer when I was 10. That's different from, say, training for the junior Olympics in swimming. Music training is good, perhaps a summer school acting class, etc. And, she should be encouraged to do reading outside of school as well. And -- it's important that parents don't involve themselves and their children in so many activities apart from each other. There should still be time for you to take walks together, or prepare dinner together, things that provide opportunities for you to really talk together, outside of the time you are shuttling her from one activity to another.

 

Good luck in your decision.

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vagansmom

At 12, if she can manage the time commitments, I'd say let your daughter decide. I wouldn't make the decision based on concern over whether or not soccer is good or bad for ballet. Or vice versa, if that were the case. There's time for that later and only if she's really ballet career driven.

 

There will quickly come a time in her life when she won't be able to manage more than one intensive commitment. Meanwhile, let her explore what she loves.

 

When my own kiddo was about 11, her PE teacher came to me and said she was afraid to let her play soccer because she was so aggressive! She played only during school hours but the games were coed and multi-aged so she'd be playing against boys and girls up to 2 years older than she. The teacher was worried that, because she was so slightly built, she'd get her leg broken when someone else kicked. Daughter was never intimidated by size or strength and was always in the thick of things kicking away.

 

My advice, even while the possibility gave me pause, was to let her play. I LIKED her aggressiveness in sport and she absolutely loved the thrill of it. I figured that if she were a kid back in my day, she'd be playing amidst neighborhood kids of all sizes and shapes and would've run the same risks. She missed those games so much when she left middle school and no longer was able to play any team sports. To this day, she looks back fondly on that time in her life. She was strong, aggressive, and held her own.

 

I agree though that the soccer teacher really shouldn't ever have made such statements about "carrying them off the field in stretchers". I'm shocked that parents didn't complain. It's either an irresponsible statement or an irresponsible scenario. Either way, the unprofessionalism is abhorrent.

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Mel Johnson
I've asked her to make a choice, and she chose ballet

It would appear that the choice has been made. Now, get her out of that soccer program before that coach causes her an injury.

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Guest natthecat

:o Wow! So many interesting comments on this posting. We have been and are there now-in terms of juggling the two. I cannot tell you how many times my husband and I have gone back and forth about whether our DD should do both.

 

My oldest DD has been balancing for years a very low key travel soccer team and serious ballet. yes I know-how can travel be low key. She is now 16 and yes we were worried about injuries. Soccer is a contact sport I don't care what anyone tells you. In fact rec can be worse when the kids are less skilled (I play and my other two children do as well). I guess I look at this way. SHE WANTED to play. That was the deciding factor. I disagree with Mel's blanket just pull her out of it comment etc. And I disagree with the comment that ballet is not a sport. I think it is both--art and sport.

 

I think it should be your daughter's decision, unless of course there are incredible time conflicts and logistics issues with practices etc. that affect the family. We are so fortunate because DDs studio is literally five minutes from our house. If it was not as convenient I would venture to say her opportunity to play soccer might have been curtailed. We might have pushed more for a house rec league, which we tried to do last season anyway but she wanted to stay with her travel team.

 

This season my daughter will miss two games on Saturday. Her team will be annoyed but that is just the way it is. Her league plays on Sundays and they practice once a week max. Saturday is ballet classes (as is everyday except for Wednesdays) as well as rehearsals for the the upcoming concerts. So you can do both, though one is definitely a side activity. She enjoys both and frankly I hear about just as many injuries in ballet. My daughter fortunately thus far, has not had any serious injuries doing either activity. She is small but good training early in soccer was important as of course it is in ballet.

 

The one note I would have is the coaches remarks about being carried off in a stretcher etc. I think that was a alittle harsh, but having a 14 year daughter who plays on a top travel team in our area and on two other summer league teams, girls do get hurt and one of the most common injuries is tearing up their knees big time. But this is a league where kids are traveling all over the country etc. Her coaches promote being tough on the field but do not advocate rough play etc. I guess from what you described the league your daughter is playing in is less intense. But as I said earlier in this post you can hurt in any league.

 

On a side note, my 14 year old did ballet for two seasons max and decided it was not for her. She did gymnastics and made her local team at around the same time she made her local soccer travel team at 8 years old. We made her choose after a year of doing both, since there was no way we could balance these two very time intensive activities. We simply could not get her everywhere and we also knew that soccer was her deal. She actually was not very sad to leave gymnastics since the time committment was even more than soccer at that stage. Her big activity now is soccer but she also does a bunch of other activities so you can have a variety. And these kids are young and should do other things to add balance, a wide range of experiences, and fun!! :D The key is time management--something I think everyone on this board is grappling with and getting gray hairs from--I know I am.

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Treefrog

I'm with Mel here. Get her out of THAT soccer program -- and go find her one in which she can enjoy herself! :D

 

Funnyface, I like what you have to say about kids (and parents) trying to squeeze too much into one small life. Personally, I've always tried to arrange things so that ballet and soccer never occurred on the same day (that's one reason to volunteer to coach -- you get to set the practice times!) That was much easier in the younger days, when there were fewer ballet classes each week. Also we have had to set priorities. Like you, MissInga, I asked her which activity she wanted to commit the most time to. The immediate answer was "ballet." So, okay, she can have fun with soccer (one practice, one game, total time commitment 2.5 hours weekly) and work a bit harder on her dance (four classes weekly, 5.5 hours, plus rehearsals). When she asked about joining a traveling team for soccer, THAT'S when I put on the brakes and said, "Well, sure, if you really want to cut way back on ballet." She didn't, needless to say.

 

The point is, it's hard as a parent to sort out what's best for your child. The pressure to intensify training at younger and younger ages doesn't help. We push kids into making these decisions before they have enough experience to know what the possibilities are -- or, we cram their lives full to the breaking point because each coach/teacher insists that to do the activity properly they absolutely MUST devote X hours per week. As vagansmom notes, there was a time when your daughter wouldn't have had to ask to join a soccer program -- she would have dashed out the front door and joined the neighborhood game. We would have called that "playtime". Sadly, things don't work that way anymore. :o

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Mel Johnson

Q: Are sports good for dancers?

 

A: Only as an occasional pleasure. Dancers must take good care of their bodies.... Playing football would be particularly hazardous. In fact, any game in which you have to kick a ball would not be good. If a toe is injured, a dancer may have to give up dancing and all those years of study will be wasted. Tennis is all right, I suppose, for a little pleasure and if not pursued too strenuously. Actually too much athletic activity destroys the finesse of a dancer's gesture. The truth is, of course, that dancers are so busy working on their ART (emphasis added) and are usually so tired from their studies that they seldom have the time or energy for sports.

 

--George Balanchine

Essay, "Careers in Ballet",

§ Seven,

Complete Stories of the Great Ballets, 1954.

 

It may be a little dated, and I may disagree with him on a lot of things, but in this respect, Mr. B. and I still see eye to eye.

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vagansmom

Major Mel, I mostly agree with your comments but in this case, I guess I don't because of the child's age. If she were a little older, even by 2 years, then I'd feel differently. But 12 is still pretty young. I guess the real questions, MissInga are: How serious is her ballet commitment? How many hours is she dancing?

 

We, myself included, are all stating our opinions without knowing enough facts. Two years experience en pointe, at the age of 12, doesn't necessarily mean a strong commitment because some schools - shame on them! - put their girls automatically on pointe at the age of 10 or younger.

 

But if this girl lives and breathes ballet, is in an intensive pre-pro program already which involves not just ballet classes but also lengthy rehearsals, then she's not going to have time for a sport.

 

However if she's taking, say, 5 or 6 classes a week and has expressed an interest in playing soccer also, then maybe she's more conflicted than she's willing to admit. Maybe she wants to try some other activities. Twelve is the classic age for many kids to start looking elsewhere. Perhaps this girl's ballet commitment isn't as strong as even she feels it ought to be.

 

Ordinarily when a 12 year old ballet dancer has suddenly decided she may want to also try something else, it's a signal. If you allow it, MissInga, she may very well join a soccer team and do ballet at the same time only to discover where her real affiliation is. But I'd want her to discover that for herself. I'm not sure that's happened in this case since she had to choose without ever having experienced the other (soccer) activity.

 

But I do strongly agree that the coach's remarks are scary enough to give me pause about entering my child into THAT person's program.

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Funny Face

And then again, there's the philosophy of Balanchines' protege, Jacques D'Amboise, who, when starting up his National Dance Institute (NDI) program with just six boys in 1973, insisted that the classes be worked into the normal hours of the school day. He contended that a child's after school hours were sacrosanct, in that simple play time was also essential to proper development. Perhaps he was reflecting on his own tenders years as something of a young hellion in dance classes, where he was known to scare the girls by jumping over them, or disrespecting the teacher by letting out Indian war whoops. Of course, NDI was designed to introduce children to dance, not necessarily make every child in New York City a bona fide ballet dancer. And -- remember that those who were chosen for the especially talented group DID have to make a much stronger commitment than did the majority of the students in the program.

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gbna

She is 12, she should do many things, including read, play music, be in plays goof around ETC. All these things are MUCH better than what she could be choosing IE : drugs, sex, ot shudder politics :D .......

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gbna

Clicked to fast....

 

Make that OR politics. The point is she is 12, a few years from now she will have to settle into one or two things, but right now let her be a kid. Let HER choose as long as it is a good activity, she may find something she likes better.

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Victoria Leigh

Lots of good discussion here, actually :D I think perhaps we need to draw some lines between a 12 year old who studies ballet, and a 12 year old who has already shown the potential and commitment and is in an "on track" program in a professional school.

 

In the case of the former, I think exploring all sorts of things is fine, and sports are excellent, along with all the other things which have been suggested. However, in the case of the later, the child who is seriously headed towards a career in ballet, it's a different story and I go completely with what Mel (and Mr. B.)have said. Soccer can be dangerous. Anything involving kicking, or things which can damage feet and legs, such as skiing and track, are definite no no's for this kind of student. I do NOT think that they should not play any sports, however. On the contrary, I think that many of them can aid in developing coordination and muscle development which can be most helpful to a dancer. The question is which sports and how much. This will of course need to be decided by the dancer herself, along with what opportunities exist, and the amount of time available outside of ballet.

 

I grew up in Florida, so of course was playing outdoors year round. I played most everything except soccer, and never had to do track. It was not until the high school years that just about everything but ballet became impossible! And, I believe that all that activity in sports made me stronger as a dancer. However, at 12 I was not yet in a "serious" or "on track" program in a professional school. By 13 I was, but still managed a lot of other activities until a bit later than that. Even cheerleading throughout jr. high school! :o

 

:hyper:

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Funny Face

I like that little jumper on the bottom of the post. Can you still do those, with your legs parallel to the ground? I used to practice those to no end in our upstairs bathroom (in front of the mirror).

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Victoria Leigh

Not a chance, Funny Face! They would be calling 911! :o:hyper::D

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Guest natthecat

I agree with many of the comments. There are so many factors to consider. But I find myself totally on the opposite side of the fence (or whatever that expression is) on some of the basic issues raised here, such as not doing any sports (or anything involving running) for fear of injuring yourself because of a potential career in ballet, especially at the age of 12.

 

Also the comments that soccer is "dangerous." Yes like any sport or activity you can get injured. My daughter's SI had an inordinate number of injuries this summer. Some kids had to go home midway because of their injuries. Most of the kids had overworked themselves at this second SI (which is happening more and more with all types of sports and activities where kids are really I think specializing and overdoing the training at very early ages). Yes soccer can be rough (and frankly a really fun sport to play by the way), but ballet also produces some career ending injuries as well.

 

I will also say this about combining the two. My daughter is in great shape not only from ballet training, but from the rigors of soccer training-, enjoys the social as well as athletic elements of soccer, enjoys the discipline and performance aspects of ballet and enjoys the social interactions with her fellow bunheads at her studio.

 

The fact is a very tiny percentage of girls and boys will go on to be pros and be able to make a living dancing. Perhaps a larger percentage of kids whose parents frequent this forum will make the professional ranks--(as an aside, that would be an interesting statistic to see) but on the whole most of these kids including my own, will in all likelihood go to college and not have a professional dance career of any real duration or at all. For the select few (and I am really talking about girls--since the competition seems less intense for boys--and please forgive me parents of boys, if this is not true-just my uninformed opinion) who do have the chance to "make it", then perhaps a different mindset is needed. However I would say that denying even these gifted kids some sporting activities is a big mistake in the long run and extremely short sighted.

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