Rising up from failure


Elizabeth Carr

The West Ottawa varsity dance team begins their pom routine.

Dani Minarik

The West Ottawa Dance Team shivered as they walked into Davenport University. The bus ride to Davenport was the coldest bus ride they had ever been on. They showed up and gave their all while dancing. During the award ceremony, they held hands as the scores were announced. The announcer went from eighth place to seventh to sixth and all the way to third place without even mentioning the West Ottawa Varsity Dance Team. The team was ecstatic, they were finally about to place! Until the wall of reality hit them, they weren’t gonna get first, second, or third place, they were tenth place. Out of ten teams, they were last, which was not unusual. They didn’t even dance well enough to receive recognition for their failure. 

   Being constantly in last place was very hard on the team mentally. Every time they placed last, they questioned their skills. Soph. Mackenzie Keifer said, “It was hard to go to every competition and put in our best effort while knowing we just weren’t good enough to beat the other teams. Our team still continued, though, because we all loved to dance. Even though we definitely weren’t winning the competitions, we still were having a great time dancing together, which made it easier to lose every time.”

    After a year of failure, the team knew they had to bounce back to success. 

   Keifer was a member of the West Ottawa Varsity dance team last year. Talking about her experience on the team, Keifer said, “I did not find it very enjoyable because I would be made fun of a lot. I only kept doing it because of the people on the team.” Other students actually would record the team to make fun of their dancing and also stand up and mock them while they were dancing. 

   Because of these instances, the first change made to the dance team was to help build the confidence of all the dancers. First, Varsity Dance Coach Jess Carr talked with Athletic Director Bill Kennedy about the instances they were recorded and made fun of and he said that as long as there was evidence, he could take action against the students who were making fun of the team. Hearing this helped most dancers gain confidence again because they felt way more safe and able to express themselves.

   The next step Carr took to better the program was the addition of the Spirit Squad, a team composed of JV and Varsity dance team members who want to perform at things like assemblies, basketball games and all other performances that aren’t competitions. This played a huge role in getting team members to return for this year’s season. 

   Another way the dance team bounced back was by adjusting the practice schedule. Keifer explained how last year the practices were not on a consistent schedule and they would sometimes only practice one time a week but it would be for four hours, which she said was very hard and tiring for the team. 

   “Coach was not what was blocking us from success,” Keifer describes. “She was the most supportive coach and cared about all of the team as dancers and as individuals. Jess would push us to our limits and try to make us the best dancers that she could make us into.” 

   Matilda Johnson, another dancer from the Varsity Dance Team said, “Coach Jess was the only reason I was on the team to begin with.” Although Coach Jess wasn’t the problem, another major change to the dance program was a new varsity coach. As Coach Jess was moving to California, they needed someone to coach them. This brought along the past elementary school dance team coach, Coach Yulissa Aguilar. 

   Aguilar played a huge role in implementing the new changes to the dance program. She implemented a new practice schedule, which brought consistency and a better work ethic to the team. Also, she played a role as more of a coach compared to Carr, who was more of a friend. Aguilar is a former member of the West Ottawa Dance Team and she said, “When I was on the dance team, the environment at the school was not the same. Most people didn’t know we had a dance team, and definitely didn’t make fun of us.” Her mission while being the coach of the team is to better the team’s skills and to help the team win competitions. 

   While the actual season hasn’t started yet, the improvements to the West Ottawa Dance Team are starting to pay off during the practices and are becoming evident in the teams dancing.