Last year, I was contemplating changing dance coaches. I had been competing full time with B and I enjoyed working with him. He was funny, supportive and encouraging. He was well-respected as a performer, someone who attracts a lot of attention. People liked watching him dance. They told me so, often. I knew I had to step up my game if I wanted to dance with him and not look dumb. I wanted to look like I belonged with him, so I got better by default.
But after two and a half years together, I needed to move my dancing in a new direction. I felt I could grow more as a ballroom dancer. I was already working with a ballroom coach on the side and I was falling in love with International Standard and the focus on technique it offered me as a dancer. B, although he did some ballroom dancing, particularly American Rhythm, did not have competitive students in those styles (especially standard). I knew the switch would happen at some point in time and I wanted to do it right. This wasn’t my first time changing coaches, in fact it was my third.
Leaving your guru can be as hard as ending any intimate relationship. You may have spent years revealing the weakest parts of yourself to this person. They know all the dirt, the good, the bad, certainly the ugly. They have shown you acceptance, imperfections and all. You might be fearful that you can’t go it alone or that you will fall on your face without them, but if the time is right and you know you have to go, here are a few bits of advice to make the split a little less awkward.
1. Always leave on a good note. When the time came to split from B, it was a little harder than I thought it was going to be. You see, working with a dance partner, you develop a close relationship with that person. Even though the decision to change coaches might be a need-based change (like in my case), that instructor is still going to feel rejected. At first it was hard for me to even think about telling B I was going to leave him for another instructor. I didn’t want him to think I didn’t appreciate him or that I valued his teaching any less. He knew I had been getting additional coaching on the side and it probably wasn’t a surprise when I broke the news, but it was still hard. I made sure he knew he had done his best with me.
2. Break it to em gently. When I finally made the decision. I told B how much I had learned from him and how wonderful it had been working with him, that he was a great coach. I explained that my decision was based on wanting to focus on a different type of dancing. That I was just growing in another direction. And I think he understood. Always do this in person if possible, never in public, never by Facebook (same thing). I made my break at the end of our season, a very good one at that, and I thanked him for his contribution to my success.
3. Never leave in the heat of battle. When you work with a coach, you’re likely to have disagreements or see things differently. Remember, you hired a professional for their expertise and advice. If they are telling you things you don’t like, it might just be the very thing you need to make a difference in your life. Take the time to explore the possibility that they might be right. What would it cost to try? You can go from one coach to another looking for one you like (who agrees with you), but they might not be the best coach in terms of getting you the results you want. Further, in the world of competitive dancing, you will inevitably run into your coach out in public. Don’t burn bridges you may need to cross one day to get where you need to go.
4. Show em some love. Later, when you run into to your coach in public, go up and give them a hug and let them know you miss them and miss working with them. Your split with your guru can have a public impact that you aren’t even aware of. Keep in mind that their reputation is affected by the comings and goings of students. Let the world know that you parted ways amicably. Your being on good terms with them will show others you respect them and their work, which in turn protects their business, something you used to be a part of. They will appreciate your keeping things on good terms.
5. Never speak ill of a coach, even if they were horrific. It will only make you look bad. And if word gets around that you’re bad-mouthing someone in the industry, it could be detrimental to your long term success. Try to keep your opinions to yourself. If someone asks directly, you can always say the relationship just didn’t work for you. Don’t get into the details. Let them decide for themselves. If a guru really is a bad apple, others will figure it out soon enough.
The people in your life who give you a leg up on your dreams are a special lot, so kisses and hugs are appropriate ways to say goodbye.