Term 2 and 3 are the school terms for Rugby/Football/Netball/Hockey, and little Suzy is suddenly expressing an interest in playing a sport. But, Little Suzy has been dancing since she was 3, she's already committed to her ballet exams and those dance competitions, should I let her play?

As a child, I was the kid that did everything. I started off in ballet and then by the time I was 7 years old I was also doing swimming, gymnastics, tennis, athletics, Brownies, netball, playing the Clarinet and I think there was a stint of hockey in there. Some might read that and think my Mum was crazy, how can a child do that many after-school activities, get her homework done and not be burnt out? Too be honest, I don't have the answer to that but I do know that I turned out ok, always got my homework assignments completed early and am so thankful that my Mum let me try so many activities. So here are some reasons based on my experience as to why you should or shouldn't let Little Suzy play sport...

1. Wide Circle of Friends

Growing up I was so lucky to have many different groups of friends. Of course I had my school friends, but because of the range of after-school activities I did, I also had my netball friends, Brownies friends and dance friends. I got on well with these friends all for similar reasons but we connected through our different interests, they all contributed something different to my childhood.

2. Different Skill Sets

Each activity or sport I was involved in helped to widen my skill set. Some of these complimented each other and some of them were quite individual. I always remember my netball coach commenting on how I danced around the netball court, I could jump really high to intercept the ball and turn in the air whilst grabbing it, thanks to dance! I was quick on my feet as my weight was always correctly placed and ready to go, thanks to dance! I had the stamina to get through my dance routines with energy, thanks to running laps at netball! I could hear the different rhythms and instruments of my dance music quickly, thanks to playing the clarinet!

3. It Keeps Everything Interesting

I truly believe that Mum allowing me to try all of these activities helped me realise what I really wanted to do. I always had to stick out the full term (even if I didn't like the activity) and then as I got older I started to narrow down what I wanted to continue. There were so many people I danced with that only participated in dance growing up and come 13 years old hadn't tried anything else and quit. I believe that being able to participate in and experience such a wide range of activities enabled me to realise that dance was what I loved doing.

4. Time Management

Playing sport and dancing enabled me to refine my time management skills at a young age. During NCEA Level 2, I was dancing 5 days a week, training for competitions in Australia whilst committing to netball, but I never handed in an assignment late. Because life was so busy I was forced to schedule my time and make sure that homework time was homework time (not procrastination time). By the time I got to University I was teaching dance, training and performing for the NZ Breakers, Auckland Blues and Vodafone Warriors. My class mates would comment, asking how I managed to finish assignments early when they had no other activities but had barely started their work. I always responded, that I have always been busy and learnt that when I had an hour free I had to use that time wisely.

5. Commitment

Being part of a dance competition team and a netball team (or any sports team) is a lot of responsibility, there are two potential teams that you could end up letting down, however there are ways to make it work. You can't change the day of your dance exam and your dance competition team doesn't generally have reserves, but a sports team does. It is important to be organised with your dates and working with your sports coach to make sure that a game you're rostered to sub off for is on a competition day etc. Mum and I managed to make both work from the time I added netball to my activities, right though until I finished during university. We never missed a dance practice or performance, in fact I rarely missed a netball game (or game I was scheduled to umpire). It is possible to make them both work.

There are so many other physical benefits to a dancer playing sport. Yes, there are risks of injuries from sport that can affect dance but as long as the dancer knows this, ensures they warm up correctly before their games and warms down afterwards, preventable injuries can be avoided. I think the most important thing to check is that Little Suzy can commit to whatever she takes on. If she is a little bit older and looking at taking her dance through to a professional career, perhaps sport isn't the right option, however if she is young I strongly believe in allowing children the opportunity to experience different activities on top of their dance to see what really enjoy.

This past term, I have loved seeing photos and hearing stories of our BoPPA Performance students starting netball, tearing up the rugby field. I think it is all part of being a child, experiencing these activities, learning about commitment, finding out what they really enjoy doing!

How my journey ended...I began to take my dancing very seriously at about 10 years old, this is when Mum said I needed to make some decisions. I dropped a lot of my activities, picked up ballet again and some drama lessons but managed to keep netball going alongside. The most important thing was that I had tried all of the activities I wanted to try, not let anyone down along the way and was able to make a decision about what I really wanted to pursue.

Miss Dani x