Interview: Parent & Dancer. The family behind the dancer.

To become a successful Irish dancer requires an abundance of hard work, determination, talent and plenty of support. Top dancers, typically have teams of the best dance teachers, nutritional advisors, psychologists, strength and conditioning coaches and physical therapists. Being an Irish dance parent is not an easy job. Aside from the financial and logistical support, it’s important to know when to let go of the reigns and let others take over and when to give them your emotional support. For most people, family support is everything! As you know, Irish dancing as a sport is not easy and the time and effort that goes into everything can have a major impact on families. So, I wanted to get some feedback from parents and dancers to really find out how they feel and if they would do it all over again. This interview was with a parent and a retired Irish dancer.        

Were you happy to have the family support or did you prefer to do your own thing?

“I have to admit that there were times when they made me upset. And it’s very easy to forget that they are probably more nervous than you. Looking back now, I am so grateful for what they did! When you look back, you realise how supportive my family had been through the years, how much they pushed me to be the best because they knew that’s what I wanted. They always gave me everything I needed!”

 

As well as introducing Irish dancing to their children, families  also provide help to the dance schools to help with fundraising events, competitions and shows. 

Parent: I made the effort to help out the school as much as I could because I wanted to make sure events took place and ran smoothly so my child could participate. 

 

When at home, dancers never stop dancing. They will be dancing in their bedrooms, in the living room when others are trying to watch t.v, in the kitchen where people are trying to cook dinner, in the garden, under the table, with their hands… it never stops! They even designate them to a room in the house to practice. 

Parent: Yes, the dancing was constant! Since day 1. Ive replaced my floors, ive added an exrta layer of flooring, ive re-arranged furniture, ive done almost everything at this stage. We converted one of the rooms in the house at first but as time went on the space was too small so we converted the garage into a practice studio. Looking back, I would do it all again if i had to. It was keeping my child healthy and strong, it kept her away from trouble, she had friends, she had a hobby and she was happy. 

Family support is important for most dancers throughout their journey, especially when deciding what you need to give up in order to progress as an Irish dancer. When a child is between 3 and 13 years of age, it is the parents job to support their child and to give them as many opportunities as possible to enjoy sport, encouraging them to participate in as many activities as possible. During this early development stage, a parent can usually recognise their child is talented in an activity. When this happens it can be a difficult time because this is when a child must decide what they want to focus on most.

Parent: Yes, lot’s of people used to tell me how much natural talent she had and there was a few who used to tell me that she had the potential to win a world title. I was very protective of her though and a little bit cautious because deciding to stick with one activity is a big decision. In the end, she danced most of the time and took up one other hobby that would still benefit her dancing, but at the same time she could still enjoy something different. 

When you start to develop in a sport, this is when parents start to pay more attention. However, this dedication can give rise to sibling jealousy, as siblings may resent the time and money that parents have to spend with the dancer in the family.

Dancer: Yes i’m sure this happens but we were very fortunate not to experience this. My family including the support from my siblings, are the reason why I had a huge driving force behind me to help me realise my dreams were possible. We all chose something we loved and the demands for those activities were very different but no matter what, our parents supported us as much as they could and we supported each other as well. 

As you can see, the recipe for success not only requires hard work and natural talent but it also requires one very important ingredient, family support. The support given from parents and family is unconditional and rarely an easy job. It is one that sees much sacrifice but in return you will have great memories and you will have built a great relationship and hopefully you will see some success along the way. 

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Your head coach, author & therapist
Peter O'Grady

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