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An Interview with Haley Gott of the West Milford High School Dance Team

  • December 20, 2016

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… to support your local dance team! Capezio wants to hear from your dance teams, school clubs, and studios. Below, we have interviewed West Milford’s High School Varsity Dance Team Coach, Haley Gott. Want to share your story? E-mail social@capezio.com.

AL: Hi Haley! Please introduce yourself and give us a brief background on your career.

HG: My name is Haley Gott, and I began coaching the West Milford Varsity Dance Team in 2010. I was a member of the team from 2004-2008, where it really made a positive impact on my life. Growing up a dancer, you learn the importance and meaning of dedication very early on. It is something you carry through the rest of your life’s adventures, and it’s something I personally wanted to make sure I shared. Coaching has been a wonderfully inspiring experience, and as much as we focus on our dancing, I like to make sure we take time to equally focus on work ethic, confidence, and maintaining a positive outlook.

AL: Please give us a brief background on the dance team.

HG: The team was first founded in 1994 as a small club, and has grown into a thriving, competition based team performing both locally and nationally. There are currently 11 members of the WMHS dance team, who are working now on their two competition routines for the season. They will compete in the jazz and variety divisions throughout New Jersey, leading up to their debut at the DTU National Championship in Orlando, FL this February.

AL: How do the dancers represent their school and student body?

HG: The team represents their school at the annual pep rallies every fall and spring! They also represent our school at local fairs, festivals, and specialty school events. They perform at home wrestling matches and the occasional basketball game too!

AL: What struggles do you face as the coach?

HG: Aside from coaching each practice, I am also responsible for organizing all fundraisers necessary to fund our season and trip to nationals. That involves scheduling, acquiring permits, managing budgets & orders, as well as organization of calendars and practice space. The biggest struggles we have faced over the years have been having a big enough place to practice, raising enough money, and gaining the recognition and respect we desire as a program from our peers. It’s very difficult to have to turn dancers away from our program because it’s just too expensive and our school doesn’t provide the funding. It’s equally as frustrating when we are supposed to be in one place for practice, but get kicked out by another group that’s ‘more important.’

AL: How do you motivate your team?

HG: I am a firm believer in leading by example. I motivate my team by showing them how to push limits, how to develop positive work habits, and how practice always makes progress. If I expect them to do 50 push ups, I make sure I do it right there with them. I also encourage them to help each other as much as possible, I think that’s what keeps us a team and not a group of soloists on the floor.

AL: How do you recruit new members?

HG: We recruit new members first through our middle school program, The West Milford Junior Dance Team (grades 5-8). That is a huge help in bringing dancers on at a younger age. We also visit the middle school every Spring to talk to dancers about our program and give them information about try outs. We also do the same sort of information session at our high school club fair in the Fall.

AL: Do you feel the dance team is an important part of the athletic program; and if so, why?

HG: We as a program feel that dance should be a very important part of the athletic program. Since 1994 girls have been training, practicing and drilling to represent our school in the best way possible. Practices are 3-4 days a week, around 3 hrs in length, aside from the studio classes they are taking on their own time. There are pulled muscles, bruises, floor burns, you name it. It’s cardio, strength training, and memorizing & perfecting choreography. These kids are athletes in every sense of the word.

AL: Why would you like your team’s story to be heard?

HG: We would like our story to be shared because we really want to make a difference in the dance team community. We know we are not alone in feeling this way, and we are not the only ones struggling to succeed. Perhaps it’s time we make a statement for all schools to recognize, dance is a sport! We pour our hearts and minds into every eight-count, every puddle of sweat, and we deserve respect and equal access to facilities, just as much as any other team.

AL: How can friends and family get involved?

HG: People can get involved by liking our Facebook page, West Milford Dance Team, and showing support through our local fundraisers. We recently attended a board of education meeting where the upperclassmen expressed their frustrations and concerns about the way our team is treated. The response was positive, but not quite what we had hoped for. We will continue to raise awareness and push for the recognition we deserve!

 

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