Dance Mom?

dance mom 2

I spent three days last week with my daughter at my first…..sorry…..her first dance competition.  She loved it more than I thought was even imaginable.  The jury is still out on if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

It was a new experience for both of us.  I’m not sure who was more nervous on the first day, her or me.  She was doing an acro routine that involved an overhead lift (in which she was the one being lifted), front limbers and a forearm stand thrown in amongst some dance moves.  With only seven girls on stage there was little room for error.  Once it was done I felt like I needed a drink.  Too bad it was only 1:00 in the afternoon.

For the uninitiated, a dance competition involves young girls and boys performing solos, duos/trios and group dance routines that are judged by three judges.  The judges are typically ex-dancers who are now studio owners, choreographers or teachers.  For the competition we attended EVERY dancer gets a medal.  Very PC.  Their score gets them a silver, high silver, gold or high gold.  Within each group the top three performances are announced as third, second or first.  Got it?

dance mom 1

The styles of dance range from classical ballet, to jazz, to tap, to Broadway and acro and hip hop.  There are more styles,but you get the idea.  Ages range from four to sixteen.  All shapes and sizes and colors.  Oh, they have a category for international too.  Saw some beautiful Chinese fan dancing.  Anyway, I digress.

The dedication of some of these girls is admirable.  No, it’s astonishing.  I can’t even imagine the amount of hours they must train a week.  My daughter dances seven hours a week and I thought that was a lot.  I’ve had other mothers gasp (yes, gasp) at how much she does.  In reality it’s only a fraction of what others do.  And I’m okay with that.

And then there’s the cost.  Ya actually I’m not going to go there.  Let’s just say that it’s more than soccer.  And hockey. Combined.

I came away from the first day with a bit of a headache.  My daughter’s ballet teacher compared it to Disneyland and she is so right.  Everywhere you turn is a new costume, headpiece or makeup look.  Gaggles of little girls run around buzzing from too many Skittles.  Moms suck back coffee trying to keep up with the gaggles of girls they are in charge of.  Each time the theatre door opens you get a blast of new music and a fresh wave of costumes dashing by.  It’s head spinning.

dance mom acro

So here’s the tricky part for me.  Dance is art and therefore it is subjective.  Obviously there are some dance teachers and parents who have a different take on what is acceptable and age appropriate for costumes, music and choreography.  Everybody makes their own choices and I’m not the judge of them.  Well…I kind of am.  In my head anyway.

I personally would not allow my six or seven year old to get up on stage wearing red sequined boy shorts, a black crop top and fake eyelashes all while twerking to a Nicki Minaj song.  But that’s just me.

The world of dance competitions, my dance teacher friend told me “needs to be taken with a grain of salt.”  I think that is very sage advice for this new dance mom.  I will try to remember it in the years to come.

The Best Thing in Life is being eight and just loving to dance.

Soccer Anyone?

soccer girls

It’s Monday night, 7:15pm at the all weather field at Ambleside Park in West Vancouver. My friend Sarina and I are sitting on the grass talking about the Women’s Only Soccer Program she runs. As we chat, women start to trickle in across the park. Some come with a friend, some come alone and some come in groups. It’s the first night of Sarina’s ABC’s of Soccer summer session program and a couple of the women are noticeably a bit nervous. Sarina introduces herself and encourages the women to start kicking a ball around. They are all shapes and sizes and ages and fitness levels looking to learn some skills and play some soccer.

Sarina started the Women’s Only Soccer Camps in 2002. Two things got her there. She had recently changed careers and was looking for something to compliment the somewhat rigid life of banking. At the same time she was playing soccer in a local over 30 women’s league. She would see women come out who wanted to play in the league but didn’t have much, if any, experience. They had the desire but got zero support and encouragement and ended up not returning. She felt it was such a shame that these women, who were looking for some fun exercise, were walking away, when it would be so easy to give them a little training and the tools to let them enjoy playing on a league team. So Sarina created the Women’s Only Soccer program that runs every Monday night in West Vancouver.

I was introduced to the program about six years ago. I hadn’t played in years but was looking for a good workout after my daughter was born. Even though I knew some other ladies already, I still felt kind of nervous that first night and totally useless once I got out onto the field. Two things stick out in my mind from that first adventure back into soccer. First, I ran my ass off and couldn’t walk properly for a couple of days. Talk about a whole body work out. Second, I felt so empowered. I couldn’t stop talking about it to my husband when I got home. It was fun, exhilarating, challenging, exhausting and oh ya, so fun! Even when I sprained my ankle in my second session I couldn’t wait to get back out there.

As the women gather in a small circle Sarina goes over a couple of things. “I don’t care if your are late and I don’t care if you have to leave early.” She just wants them to show up and have fun. After a few quick safety points, she asks them to each quickly introduce themselves and describe their level of soccer. Some women have been in her program for years, some play in a league and are looking to improve their skills, some haven’t played since they were ten and some have never kicked a soccer ball in their life. Everybody is welcome and everybody is included. The women were immediately put at ease just knowing that they were not alone. As they head off for a quick warm up lap of the field they are already chatting and getting to know each other. Did I mention how fun this program was?

Before the women showed up, Sarina and I got a chance to talk about why the program is so successful. There are a lot of reasons. To start, women are having kids later in life and don’t always have a lot of options for finding a fun, unintimidating workout that fits into their busy lives. With the Women’s Only Soccer Program there isn’t a huge time or financial commitment and the timing allows the moms to slip out the door after the kids are in bed. One of the biggest attractions, I think, is that there is no judgement what so ever. Nobody cares if you score a goal or if you pass the ball to an empty space or if you can do perfect throw in. Last week a women showed up that Sarina used to play with. She knew the woman was an accomplished player and wondered, at first, what she was doing at a scrimmage league. At the end of the evening the woman mention what a great time she had. Sarina realized that it wasn’t about the level of play or the skills achieved for this woman. It was about the environment, the workout and the fun.

At the heart of this amazing program is Sarina’s coaching style and approach to women’s soccer. Women show up week after week because they know they will learn the basics of soccer in a fun, encouraging environment and that is so important. Really it’s one of The Best Things in Life for me.  If you are interested in meeting some great women, learning soccer and having so much fun, I encourage you to contact Sarina and join her one Monday night on the field. I plan on doing it again very soon.

Marathon Decisions

running man

I’m thinking about running a marathon next Fall. Actually I’ve been “thinking” about running a marathon for a long time now. My go to excuse has always been that I wouldn’t have the time to train between work and kids activities and hubby’s travel schedule. So having recently quit my job, I seem to be all out of excuses. I’m a bit preoccupied right now with deciding if I will in fact do this or not. I’m turning fifty this year and it seems like a good milestone to work towards and check off my list. Right?  So why is so hard for me to commit?

The marathon I wanted to run was in San Francisco in October. It was the Nike women’s marathon that had an amazing (albeit hilly) course with spectacular views winding through the city and past the Golden Gate Bridge. I envisioned myself running; no bounding, through the streets of San Francisco as the fog parted and the sun shone down on me leaping across the finish line with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. How’s that for incentive. Not to mention the hunky firemen handing out Tiffany necklaces at the finish line. I am writing this in the past tense because Nike, in their infinite wisdom, has chosen not to offer the full marathon in October of 2014. I have to say I was a bit deflated when I heard this. “Now what?” I thought.

I’ve been a regular runner since I was in my late twenties. I’m not a great runner. I think if I had to sum up my running style it would be consistent. I’ve never run any faster than a 10 minute mile, even after weeks of training. But on any given day I can go out and run a solid 4-6 miles (with hills) and feel pretty good. I’ve been fortunate in that I haven’t had any major injuries. Stiff sore muscles and a couple of bulging discs (not caused by running) have occasionally sidelined me for short periods, but for the most part, I have been lucky. There’s this guy who runs quite regularly in my area. I would love to run like him. He makes it look so effortless and natural. Like a gazelle. I’m more like a small pony.

What does it take to run a marathon ? What is the motivation ? What is holding me back from committing? Could it be the monumental effort it would take to push my body to run 26.2 miles? I have run a half marathon before and have been told that the rule of thumb is, if you can do that, then you can do a full marathon. Who makes these rules anyway?  I’ve read all the training advice. Printed out the training program. They totally make it seem doable. Actually, the reality is that it is doable. It won’t be fast or pretty but it is doable. On my run this morning I thought “I feel really good. If I just follow the program I will be fine.” The voice inside my head when I am running is very different from the voice inside my head during the rest of the day and way different from the voice in my head at 7:00 in the morning.

I guess what it comes down to is deciding if I want to push my body to do it at this point in my life? It’s only 18 weeks of training and then if I never want to run again I would be okay. I think. Why is this so hard? Why do I do this when I have to make a decision? I did it when I was deciding whether or not to quit my job. Back and forth, back and forth. I nearly drove my husband crazy one weekend changing my mind every half an hour. I know that when I finally do make a decision it will be the right one and that I will see it through.

I thought that writing about this dilemma might aid in my decision making process. Not so much. It’s interesting to me that I started this post thinking about running a marathon but in actual fact what is bothering me is the fact that I find it so hard to make a decision and commit.  The Best Thing in Life would be for somebody to just register me and tell me that I’m doing it.  But what would I learn from that?