How To Strengthen Your Mental Game in DanceSport

How can one strengthen their mental game in Dancesport and be mentally strong in a competition? How can one have the right mindset in this dynamic career? Being mentally “in the right place” in order to improve performance and results is possible with a little effort.

This topic covers the core of everything that I teach to the couples that I meet both in private sessions and in lectures. Being mentally and emotionally strong and operating in the right brain frequency is the main goal of any couple that wants to work with me. When you are able to do this, your dance quality and performance will improve for sure.

Understanding this, also take note that it is difficult to teach an individual to master this technique in a short video(only 14min). We could talk about this topic for weeks, but what I have created for you here, is a great start.

How can you be stronger in a dancesport competition, in your daily practice sessions and in all your dance career? Here are six steps to begin winning your inner battle!

1. BE MENTALLY CONFIDENT

Confidence is always the number one skill that I ask my dancers to work on. I am sure you know why. Have you ever seen a high-level dancer without confidence? Of course not! In a dancesport competition, you need to be and feel confident. It is very difficult to go on the dance floor, together with six or twelve couples, and perform at your best  (relaxed, energetic, focused, enjoying), if you are not confident. Without confidence everything will be much more difficult.

However please pay attention to the difference between introverted and confidence. These are not antonyms. In other words, you can be naturally introverted and still confident at the same time. Introverted is only a personality type. One does not need to become an extrovert to become successful in the dancesport world. Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, you need to be confident while on the dance floor.

Be confident and believe in yourself. Use language in your favor, telling to yourself positive and powerful words such as, “My preparation for this competition was very good, and I feel ready for this competition”. Put yourself in the right mental and emotional state and go for your dance.

2. BE POSITIVE ABOUT YOUR DANCE

It is possible to be confident and negative at the same time. Just remember the time that you were confident but everything would go wrong. This is not the state that you want to be in when you are dancing or practicing. Try to be confident and at the same time, positive.

Unfortunately for the human brain it is easier to focus on the negative (our brain prefers to focus on that so it can find any threat). As a result we spend the majority of our days with negative thoughts that limit our performance and in all aspects of our lives. Just remember the last time that you had a bad night of sleep before a competition.

Just remember the last time that you had a bad night of sleep before a competition. When you woke up you had thoughts likes this: “Oh I didn’t rest enough and now, for sure, I will have a bad performance since I do not have stamina and focus”. When you think like this you are not in a positive state and worse, you are telling yourself that you are not ready for that competition. The problem is that your performance will follow the mental thoughts inside your head. Your nervous system follows and will replicate exactly what you believe to be true… in this case, that you do not have energy.

Your performance will follow the mental thoughts inside your mind. (Tweet This!)

To make matters worse, when we are in a negative mindset, it can escalate into perpetuating negative thoughts. This is when we find ourselves in a negative cycle which can be difficult to stop.

So we all need to be positive, believe in ourselves, and act in constructive ways.  This applies to practice sessions and dance competitions. For example, when someone asks how you are, you can quickly reply “I’m Great!”, with energy in your voice and body. Just by saying this, you are programming your brain to be and feel great, to act positively and to search for “great” ways to live and, of course, perform.  You are not being fake or lying, but using your brain to lift you up and be the best you can be.

Just by talking and acting positively, you are sending signals to your nervous system that will release the right hormones that will make you feel better and positive. Waiting for something good  to happen to feel positive is a mistake. Choose to feel good right now to the best of your ability. This way, great things will come to you quicker.

If you are positive, for sure, when you go to the dance floor, everything will be easier. Positive energy sets good things into motion.

3. DANCE THE FORCE, DO NOT FORCE THE DANCE

Just like a jedi in the movie Star Wars, I believe that you have a “force” inside of you. In other words I believe that you have everything inside of you to be successful and achieve your greatest dreams. We all already have all of the knowledge, energy, and skills inside of us. We only need to know how to use them. The best way that I discovered to use this “force” was by relaxing and being patient. In order to allow our dance and performance to flow in a natural and powerful way we need to relax and let it go. This is the only way that you can show your true potential to the world.

However most of the time we try to force our dancing. This happens when we go to the dance floor and are so worried about a specific step. We want it to work perfectly but end up pushing too hard. Forcing the dance in times like this does not help us. When we are too focused on the little things and on results that we are waiting to achieve, we will not be able to dance in the right mental and emotional state and our performance will suffer.

So, next time that you are dancing, try to relax and let the force control your dance. Do not force the dance.

4. FOCUS ON WHAT IS WORKING

In other words, try to not focus on quick fixes. This is a tip specificaly made for when you are competing.

My experience at the WDSF Prague Open is a great example of when to use this tip.  Everything was going great. I was getting almost all of the crosses to make it to the next round, thinking that we would make the final. When the quarter-final came, feeling the pressure rising as well as the level, we decided to change our rumba. We decided to start in the middle of our routine. The reason was that we had a beautiful figure there and we wanted to catch the eyes of the judges from the beginning. What happened is that as soon as we started our choreography (from the middle), I fell out of balance and fell on the floor. I lost all of my focus for the rumba, and then, because the lack of focus, we danced the Paso Doble and Jive in the wrong heat… Result? Bye bye final and bye bye semi-final as well… I learned this lesson the hard way.

Make it a point to try not to focus on quick fixes. I am telling you this again, because this happens to a lot of dancers. How many times did you change your routine or just a small step the same day of a competition? This happens because we arrive to this high-stress enviornment, see all of our competition, the stress rises, and our brain reacts to this uncomfortable situation. It sends you signals to do something, so dancers feel the temptation to change something, as if by doing that, they will feel more prepared.

Focus on what you have already, on what you have been practicing, and what you know that works. The temptation to change will be enormous. Be strong and keep doing what you know works.

5. FOCUS ON PERFORMANCE. NOT SCORE.

I am always telling my dancers ( and if you follow me you already saw this on my facebook page and website), when the competition starts is when you should stop competing. In other words, when the competition day starts, it is the right time to stop thinking about the outcomes that you want to achieve in that dance competition.

When the competition starts, is when you should stop competing. (Tweet This!)

Many times, when dancers are performing, their minds are in other places. They are too focused on the final place that they want or need to achieve (maybe getting to the final, or even winning that comp). Focusing on the future or past puts your in the wrong mindset and you will not be able to perform at your best.

For a great performance we all need to be focused on what we are doing (the music, our partner, the dance). Our brain works quicker and with its highest intensity when we are focused on the present and on the current moment. At your next competition focus on performance, on what you have, and on having fun… Be present.

6. STAY IN CONTROL OF YOUR EMOTIONS

The topics of this post are related to our mental side but also to our emotions. It is very difficult to have the right mindset (be mentally prepared) if you do not control your emotions. Just try to think about this – How can you be confident if you are angry or frustrated? And what about positive? It is very difficult to have positive thoughts if you are feeling negative emotions.

At this point you understand the power of emotions. The problem is that most of time we do not control our emotions. One moment we are happy and the next we are sad and angry. This happens because we believe that we will be happy when we achieve or are able to attain something externally. How many times did you say to yourself and others things like this:

  • “I will be happy when I win the championship,”
  • “I will feel accomplished with my dancing when I will be doing finals regularly.”
  • “If I could have lessons with that teacher, then I would feel great.”

However, I agree we all should think about emotions in a different way. Our emotions are a decision that we all make each moment to have, or not. So when you get angry because of a specific event, the truth is that you decided to be angry when you were faced with that event. The event did not actually cause that emotion within you, but only you. The meaning that you gave to that specific event is responsible for the emotions that you felt.

So you can decide to be happy and fulfilled right now, while you try to achieve your goals and dreams (for example, winning the championship). You do not need to wait for the dream to come true to be happy. At the same time, you can control your emotions when you are in a dance competition. Imagine that you just saw a couple that is very competitive and usually makes you feel anxious. Those emotions are just a response to the meaning that you gave to that couple. Start by breathing and relaxing yourself, and send away those emotions.

By controlling your emotions you will be able to gain better focus, be more positive, confident, focused on your performance, and more important than everything, feeling great and happy during all of your dance competitions and dance career.

As I said before, there is so much more to talk about regarding this subject. However, even if you do not know anything else about mental training, following these six steps will start to make you feel a difference. You can feel more engaged with your dance and with your life in general.

I am sure that with this six steps you will have a… DanceSport On Fire!

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Thank you so much for your support and please leave me a comment below or on YouTube, with your opinion or questions. I appreciate it and can’t wait to hear from you.

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About the Author

Joao CapelaView all posts by Joao Capela
Performance & Mental Coach for DanceSport; Mental Training Speaker; International Dance Teacher & Entrepreneur.