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To Poms Or Not To Poms, That Is The Question

If you grow up playing little league soccer and football, then the natural progression is to try out for your high school team when the time comes. If you’re good enough, you might even earn a scholarship to play in college, and an elite few will even turn pro! Dance is trickier though, and there are many paths to professional dancing. Oftentimes, joining the poms team isn’t the way forward in your dance dreams. That’s not true for every team, nor is it the only reason to join or not join Poms. 

Dance can be an art form, a sport or a major in college. There are different opportunities to continue to pursue dance at a collegiate level if that’s your desire, so make sure your high school trajectory points towards your future goals- that might mean joining Poms, or it might not. Emma Goldberg, a 2021 high school graduate who spent four years on her poms team says, “Poms/dance team was something I never saw coming, in all honesty. But in hindsight, for my own high school experience, it was the best decision I ever made. The program introduced me to my lifelong friends and a healthy competitive environment, and I can safely say my coaches and teammates are the reason I’ve grown into the person I am today. I was on the varsity team for all four years of high school, and I was lucky enough to be a captain for my junior and senior years as well.” However, Presleigh Goodwin, a future graduate of the class of 2023 danced on the same team as Goldberg and chose not to audition again. “From game days and competitions to rehearsals and team bonding, Poms was extremely different from anything I experienced at the studio. I made some of my best friends and memories and learned so much from being on my pom team,  but, I decided to leave after my 2nd year to return to studio dancing because eventually I understood the training I was receiving on my pom team does not correspond with the dance goals I want to achieve after high school, which for me are more ballet-based. Becoming a member of the poms team is not a choice that should be taken lightly. Not only will it consume a huge amount of your time, but it will also define your high school experience for better or worse. 

Here are some things for both dancers and their parents to consider if you are thinking about whether or not to try out for the poms team in high school.

  • Pay attention to the current team long before trying out. Discover:
    • Are these the kids you want to spend 95% of your time with for the next few years? Collectively, how do they carry themselves?
    •  Do they get good grades? Participate in philanthropy? Respect their adults? 
    • Are they friends with everyone, or cliquey and exclusive? Are they perceived as kind, or are they “mean girls?” 
    • Is the current captain a strong leader or just the most popular person? 
    • Are the team members respected in the school community by the principal, teachers and other students? 
  • Take a good hard look at the coaching staff before trying out. Discover: 
      • Does this person work for the school? It doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker if they don’t, but working at the school makes communicating with the team members and holding them accountable much easier. If the coach has their finger on the school and team’s pulse, then they are more equipped to catch problems before they become catastrophes.
      • Is the coaching staff loved by the team? The coaching staff is going to become a big part of your life. Are they people you want to look up to? Can you/will you respect them and their decision-making, even if you don’t agree with it? 
      • Does the coach promote a positive culture? Does the coach choose uniforms that are classy and flattering? Does the coach expect and require you to get good grades? Do they penalize you for D’s or is barely passing sufficient? Are the coaches involved in practices or are the kids doing everything on their own? What kinds of messages is the coach sending to the team? Is their approach positive or negative? 
  • Make sure you understand the expenses and how to pay for them. 
    • Dancing on a poms team is an expensive pursuit. The team will dress in uniform on most game days, so there are A LOT of clothes. Many teams have taken to wearing name-brands such as Lululemon. If there is a showcase, there might be additional costumes to purchase. The fashion is fun, but there is a hefty price tag attached. 
    • The team might also have to pay for choreography, studio time, dance classes at a specific studio, master classes, a trip to nationals and more.  
    • Absolutely all teams will cost at least $1,000 per year. Most teams will cost 3-7x more than that, so make sure you ask ALL the questions. How and when does the team pay these expenses? Do you pay up front, or are there monthly dues? Does the team fundraise and if so, for how much? What exactly is the dancer responsible for? Is that it, or do other expenses come up throughout the year, such as photos, dinners, team banquet, etc.? 

 

Discern what your high school poms team is really about, and decide if that is representative of YOU and who you want to become. 

  • You can’t force a square peg into a round hole. Just because you watched some weird tween movies growing up and you have these big dreams of a fancy uniform, it does not mean THIS team is YOUR team. Be discerning and don’t go out for a team that isn’t your style. Be choosy, and choose wisely. 
    • Some teams are really good, and they are about WINNING. Winning is not something that comes without major design, so if you have a competitive nature, then this might be the place for you. Make sure you are prepared for a more-than-demanding practice schedule where you spend an enormous amount of time fine-tuning and perfecting one or two dances. EXPECT that you won’t participate in every routine. When the team is mostly about winning, it does not mean you will dance every routine or performance just because you made Varsity. It doesn’t even mean you will dance ANY routine or performance! Be prepared to sit the bench and cheer from the sidelines (even though you paid a lot of money to do it).
    • Some teams aren’t very good at all, and that can be equally hard. Are you a great dancer and this team will be endlessly frustrating for you? Are you a mediocre dancer and you are not ready for the pressure of being yelled at to get it together? No matter the skill level of your poms team, it’s still “competitive,” meaning you will compete against everyone else at State, and you may even travel to a competition for a Nationals event. Whether anyone likes to admit it or not, competition adds an element of pressure to the individual dancers, the team unit, and the coaching staff- because frankly, nobody likes to lose. Pressure can make people behave differently. It’s okay to sign up for this, but make sure you’re aware of the dynamic and that this environment is right for you. 
    • Most teams fall somewhere in between, and they can be a lot of fun too. Here dance technique will likely hit its peak right as you join poms, and will not continue to improve. That might be okay with you! You will get to dance and perform for your school and you will cheer for all of the teams at their games. Just keep in mind that joining the dance team does not usually equate to more or better dancing. If continuing to grow in dance styles and technique is important to you, then make sure to stay involved in your studio as much as possible, especially in ballet and other tech. classes. 

 

As you enter high school, and you and your family decide if joining the poms team is right for you, consider all the angles and ask all the questions. Think about your future goals, and whether or not becoming a member of this team will bring you closer or further away. Do your homework. Make sure the team is composed of the type of people you want to become. Make sure the coaching staff is one that will help you tap into your potential. Consider the expenses, how you will afford them, and if it’s worth it to you. And finally, make sure the team is representative of the type of experience you’re after. We are here to support you in achieving your dreams, so make the best decision for you and we’ll cheer you on along the way!