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Magazine » President's Report » President's Report July/August 2013

President's Report July/August 2013

Lydia T. Scardina, President, USA Dance

As I am writing this report I am winging my way back from the first USA Dance Junior and Youth Elite Dance Camp for our World Team members and alternates, held at the USOC Training Center in Lake Placid, New York.

What an experience it has been! The facility was outstanding, with basic, but comfortable dormitory style rooms and a cafeteria that catered to the nutritional needs of the Olympic athletes who train year-round at the Center while at the same time producing flavorful and healthy meals all day and evening long. Added to that was an outstanding huge gymnasium where our athletes took their DanceSport workshops, and a spacious conference room for lectures, as well as exercise equipment in numerous locations. We could not have had a better venue for our camp.

In addition to the top notch facility, the USOC staff proved to be not only accommodating, but also very generous in sharing their time and expertise with our group, providing lectures for us on physical strengthening, injury prevention and nutrition. We also had the services of a highly recommended sports psychologist who provided two workshops for us in mental strengthening. Needless to say, not only the athletes but many of the officials and coaches took copious notes as we heard what the experts had to share. And these were very interactive lectures, with many questions asked and answered.

One of our young athletes had been suffering from an earlier foot injury that flared up while we were in Lake Placid, and the staff at the Training Center evaluated his foot in the on-site Sports Medicine Clinic, and suggested appropriate corrective action. At its Training Centers, the USOC puts all the services an athlete or coach may need under one roof, and everything is built around making it easy for an athlete to concentrate on the one thing he or she is there for – to improve athletic performance.

Our Master Coaches, Michal and Susanne Stukan, German 10-Dance Champions and World Finalists, conducted intensive workshops in Latin and Standard technique. They also shared their own training regimen and discussed what a world class athlete needs to do to reach the top. The coaches who accompanied their athletes to the Olympic camp also had an opportunity to offer their suggestions for athlete success as well as to share their areas of expertise. These coaches were: Aira Bubnelyte, Ikaika Dowsett, Rita Gekhman, Alexandria Hawkins, Elena Zakharova and Ronen Zinshtein, and they all gave generously of their time to the athletes.

The USA Dance officials who worked as a team to develop this Olympic dance camp and who came to administer it were: Ken Richards, Vice President of DanceSport, Stan Andrews, National Secretary, Inna Brayer, DanceSport Delegate, Shawn Fisher, Collegiate Competition Chair, and I.

Ken discussed with the athletes their responsibilities while representing USA Dance and the United States of America abroad and what they could expect at a world championship. I added comments on the opportunities flowing to USA Dance as a result of being within the Olympic family and a National Governing Body recognized by the USOC, and also touched on future opportunities for DanceSport to grow as a Pan American and Olympic sport. Stan Andrews shared his knowledge as a food scientist, while Shawn Fisher discussed upcoming studies to test the aerobic and physical stamina of DanceSport athletes and compare it to the physical output of athletes in other sports. Inna Brayer limbered up our young athletes with warm up exercises and choreographed a group routine which they learned and performed to open the show on Saturday night.

The Saturday night show, held in the gymnasium at the Training Center, was organized for two reasons – to thank the USOC for the opportunity to come to their wonderful facility, and also to introduce DanceSport to the staff as well as the Olympic athletes from a variety of sports who were in residence while we were there. Most had never seen a DanceSport competition, so the show consisted not only of Standard and Latin rounds in order to simulate a real competition, but also individual routines in both styles in order to allow each athlete pair the opportunity to shine. While the audience was limited to USOC staff, their families and other athletes at the Center, many were quite intrigued by DanceSport, and had questions of our group following the show. Ken Richards, as MC, did an excellent job of taking the audience through the elements of a DanceSport competition and the individual dances performed in order for the audience to better understand what they were seeing.

I wish to thank our chapters, individual donors as well as the Ernest Borel Watch Company for helping us fund this first camp. We don't want this training camp to be a one-time activity, but hope to be able to offer it on a regular basis as a development opportunity for our juniors and youth, who are the future of our sport. In order to be able to do this, we will need to raise additional funds. This Fall, USA Dance will be starting a new fundraising campaign to make future camps a reality, and we hope that our members will be generous in their support as we work to develop our future champions and raise America's DanceSport standing in the world.

Several members have asked me why USA Dance does not open this camp to lower skill levels and upper age divisions. The reason is that our junior athletes are in the best possible position to absorb the type of training offered by the USOC and to develop their skills while their bodies are in the best condition and at an ideal age to model the new techniques acquired. Additionally, this is a program geared toward those young dancers who have already demonstrated the seriousness of their DanceSport pursuits by achieving elite championship status in their respective age divisions. Finally, the space at the USOC Training Center is necessarily limited, as a block of rooms and access to on-site facilities are reserved for those Olympic athletes who train at the Center for months at a time, or come in on very short notice to train with their coaches. Groups larger than the one we had this year are just not feasible at the USOC Training Center. We hope our athletes of all ages and skill levels understand and can accept and support this training program to develop America's DanceSport youth.

I would like to close by sharing with you a note I received from the young athletes in attendance at the conclusion of the camp:

"Thank you so very much for organizing this amazing experience. It has been awesome. We really appreciate it for bringing us here and bringing these amazing coaches. You have done so much for us and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We really hope we can come back here again next year! This camp really helped all of us and we are very grateful for it."

And I in turn wish to thank our dedicated team of national volunteers, all the coaches, as well as our fine junior and youth dancers who inspired us all with their hard work, enthusiasm and desire to learn and grow as DanceSport athletes.