8 Ways Ballroom Dancing is Just Like Football
Sure, it may seem fairly obvious how closely connected ballroom dancing is to professional football... said no one ever.
In fact, the only consistent correlation between football and ballroom dancing is that guys tend to earn more time watching it when they take their wife or girlfriend to a dance lesson.
We call that "football insurance".
Nevertheless, there are plenty of hidden football connections to ballroom dancing, and here are 8 of our favorites.
1. Offense and Defense
In football, it's common knowledge that the Quarterback and a Middle Linebacker line up on opposite sides of the ball. One plays offense, one plays defense, and for each of them - they have their own independent roles and responsibilities on their team.
Oh yeah, and they face each other most of the time.
Compare this to: Leading and Following
In ballroom, the leader is like the Quarterback. It's the role that decides which patterns (plays) to execute, the timing to use to complete them, and clear communication is essential. If a lead doesn't show these Quarterback-like traits, he may find himself on the bench.
Followers are responsible for reading and reacting to the Leaders signals. In football, a great defender is incredibly agile, quick to react, and stays cool under pressure situations. A defender can't ask someone on offense what the play is supposed to be, and the same should be true for followers in dancing.
2. Head Coach & Coordinators
Every professional football team will have an organizational chart that will make a lot of startup companies envious. With a single head coach, the team will employ an offensive and defensive coordinator, along with coaches that have more specialized roles specific to certain positions - Receivers coach, Linebackers coach, and strength and conditioning coach to name a few.
Compare this to: Team Teaching
Team teaching is a concept that brings multiple teachers into your dance program. Rather than having one, all purpose coach, your program will have coaches that focus on particular parts of your learning. Here are some examples:
Offensive Coordinator - Teacher that focuses the lesson on leading and patterns.
Defensive Coordinator - Teacher who focuses on following and styling.
Receivers Coach - Teacher who focuses on Dance Routines and performance training.
Linebackers Coach - Teacher who focuses on specific specialty dances.
Strength and Conditioning - Teacher who is brought in to focus on specific styling and technique, plus exercises to strengthen them.
3. The Playbook
Every team has a playbook. It's their own unique recipe for executing their strategy. This playbook includes plays built around specific game situations, and identifies which types of players are best suited in each of these situations.
Compare This to: The Syllabus
Your dance program is built around the Arthur Murray syllabus - Bronze, Silver, or Gold. This syllabus includes a variety of dances, that fit a variety of locations, that allow you to dance to any variety of music.
In chess, it is said that "strategy requires thought, tactics require observation" (Max Euwe). In football, that observation and adjustment to the following play is referred to as an Audible. Peyton Manning, most recently with the Denver Broncos, may go down as one of the best audible Quarterbacks of all time as he would, essentially, adjust the play as he observed the defense just seconds before it began.
This adaptability comes from an incredible knowledge of the playbook and cannot be expected to be mastered immediately - just ask any Quarterback not named Peyton Manning.
Compare this to: Social Dancing
Social Dancing is a constant game of adaptability. Whether you are adjusting to a new partner, a new dance, or a new tempo, this is the ballroom dance equivalent of a football Audible.
This skill is both a challenge and a reward for social dancers as they will, like a Quarterback, constantly work to refine their understanding of the nuances of their dance program to become increasingly adept at their craft.
In football, as with any other organized sport, there are a system of rules and regulations to keep the game play fair and safe. Those that do not adhere to these rules are given penalties which result in anything from yardage lost to disqualification. In football, these penalties are pointed out by way of a yellow flag that is thrown in the air.
Compare This To: Penalties
There aren't penalty flags in ballroom, but there are definitely penalties. While football teams will be penalized in yards lost, a penalized ballroom dancer will get different types of feedback for their dancing gaffe. Here are some examples:
Stepping on your partner's foot = Results in momentary embarrassment or the loss of a partner.
Being Stepped on by your partner = Physical pain and momentary, or sustained, frustration.
Dancing the wrong direction on the floor = Embarrassment and momentary heart palpitations.
Impolite Dance Conduct = Loss of Dance Partner, Possible disqualification from dance party.
6. The Team
Every football team is composed of a variety of athletes. Each athlete's skill is tailored to a particular position group - from Quarterbacks to Offensive Line, Safeties to Kick Returners. Every player serves a purpose on the team.
Compare This To: Your Dance Program
Every dance you learn is like a different position on your team. In the same way that a football team can't really function without 11 players on the field at any one given time, your program needs variety for it to function effectively.
Just like football, there will be certain positions that are much more important and valuable to the team's success, like quarterbacks and linebackers, but those positions are also dependent on less glamorous position groups creating opportunities for them to thrive - like offensive and defensive lineman.
Your favorite dances may be the quarterbacks and linebackers of your football team, but it's the supporting dances that add the skill and technique to those favorites to make them truly shine.
A football team's ability to win is based, largely, on the effectiveness of their practice habits. Football practices will include everything from strength and conditioning, individual drills based on position, and scrimmages to simulate the tempo of an actual game, and to pressure test the playbook.
Compare This To: Dance Lessons & Dance Events
Think of your dance lessons as individual drills, strength and conditioning. There is plenty of learning that can be accomplished, and each dance student can always develop better balance, technique, and style.
But without a dance event, that student will never have the requisite "game tempo experience". This is why entry level events like Arthur Murray Practice Parties are important, and why larger events like the District Showcase and a Dance-O-Rama are incredibly valuable.
They pressure test your dancing playbook and build confidence in your ability to adapt.
8. Competition and Awards
There are players and teams that are considered some of the best of all time that have never won a Super Bowl. Whether that's the Buffalo Bills of the early 1990's or Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino, each are examples of great career accomplishments without the ultimate prize.
Compare This To: Competitive Dancing
There is so much more to competitive dancing than just the pursuit of a placement or prize. It's the internal competition against your own doubts and shortcomings that can result in external recognition.
Your dance teacher knows that, and that's why they have asked you to participate.
If there's one football thing we can all understand is that there is only one team that can win the trophy, but every team that season improved in some way internally - even if they didn't have the record or results of another team.
Your dancing is no different.
In some ways, you're the Owner of the team. After all, you get to decide which coaches to use. Then again, you're also the General Manager. You can sign off on which positions to add, and their importance to the team.
Then, at times, you're the Quarterback or Linebacker - you get a chance to be in the game, to personally execute the strategies that fit your role on the dance floor.
Can you imagine an NFL owner that had all of those roles?
As distant as they may seem, we hope that these common bonds helped shed some new light on your hobby, or a little football, in the process.
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