Friday November 28 2014
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Don't Be Afraid to Dance

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Lynn Swann. Jerry Rice. Hines Ward. What does this trio of retired football stars have in common? Yes, they all have multiple Super Bowl rings and own Super Bowl MVP trophies, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

All three of these NFL superstars are outspoken advocates of dancing.

No, not dancing in the end zone after scoring touchdowns—though they’ve all done that as well—but real, honest-to-goodness dancing.

Swann, fresh off acrobatic Super Bowl catches, talked often about his training in dance. The Hall of Fame wide receiver still proudly points out the athletic benefits he gained by studying ballet, such as developing important muscles in the arms, legs and abdomen.

Rice and Ward are remembered most for their uncanny skills, dancing into the end zone time and time again during their illustrious careers. But their dazzling performances on the hit television show “Dancing With the Stars” helped boost the show’s audience and opened up new kids to the possibility of dance.

It’s definitely no longer a girls-only club. Attendance in community dance classes has surged as more people use the art as part of their regular exercise routines. Former Cowboys star running Emmitt Smith was also a big hit on DWTS, and Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall has spoken eloquently about how dance classes played a positive role in his life as a youngster. Mendenhall’s thoughts about dancing’s impact on young people makes me believe what dance instructors have been saying for years: dancing improves a young person’s confidence and self-esteem.

Only a few short weeks ago, I joined scores of moms and dads in school auditoriums across the country as we watched our children on the stage in their spring dance recitals. One thing I noticed is more and more boys who have joined the stage, using their athleticism in the performances.

I’ve gained a greater understanding of how the many benefits of dance can extend to my daughter’s participation in the other sports she plays. She’ll be more physically fit, flexible, and aware of her spacing and responsibilities on the soccer field. She’s also developing muscles that will increase her ability on the tennis court.

She may not wear a Super Bowl ring later in life like Mendenhall, Smith, Swann, Rice and Ward, but as I watched my daughter on stage this past spring, I realized I was watching a more confident teenager. And I finally realized what my fellow parents already knew: my daughter was doing something she absolutely loves to do. She was having fun.

She was dancing.