Feb. 12, 2013
By Ryan Syrkus
In most cases, a sports team would go out to dinner together or maybe even go bowling as a team bonding experience, yet the Florida State softball team has found a new way to bond: dancing.
Under the guidance of Strength and Speed Coach Caitlin Quinn, the team has become more accustomed to dancing as a form of working out. Quinn had started dancing at the age of three and continued as she grew older, even being a part of the dance program at Springfield College. When Quinn joined FSU softball in 2007, she made a promise around Halloween saying that if the team arrived to practice dressed up, they all would have a fun workout. The workout in mind was to learn a new dance.
Coach Quinn has been implementing this idea as a tradition ever since it kicked off six years ago.
More recently, the team had wanted to find new ways to bond, even going as far as a flash mob during halftime of the Florida State-Maryland men’s basketball game last year. For this year’s edition of team bonding, everyone, coaches included, got together to perform a Michael Jackson themed dance during the Florida State-Duke men’s basketball game on Feb. 2, choreographed by Quinn.
“Last year, I really didn’t want [the dance] to distract them from practicing,” said Quinn. “Probably two-thirds of the team were really involved and about a third were like, `heck no. I don’t want to do this’ but were thrown in at the last meet. This year, the coaches were behind it full force. It pushed those kids to really learn and get out there and feel the vibe. It was a total team involvement this year compared to last year.”
Even early in the season, it appears the team is closer with group activities such as this one.
“Dance is something completely different than softball,” sophomore Erika Hoffner said. “It’s nice to be able to get off the field and hang out with your teammates doing something that you’re not doing all the time. Being able to leave practice and just go and dance is something we don’t get to do very often. Since most of us are very busy with our school work, and our class times, and everything else, it’s nice to be able to get off the field and hang out with your team in different ways. [We want to] turn that strength off the field into a bond on the field.”
Buoyed by the Jackson hits of “Beat It,” “Man in the Mirror,” and “Thriller,” the team took the court to perform in front of an announced crowd of 12,100, the ladies lined up nervous and out of their element, which was exactly what the coaches wanted.
“You can be really secure out on the field doing what you’re good at,” Quinn said. “True confidence comes from being able to get through an uncomfortable situation with a certain amount of grace. I pushed a bunch of the kids on the team through that point since they’re not dancers, they’re softball players. It’s fun for me to be able to see them kind of teach and support each other and laugh and get embarrassed and be okay with that. I think it’s just good practice for those types of situations when you’re not comfortable.”
Not only does this team strive to do well on the field, they aim just as high with their goals off the field. As one of the goals with the dance, they are trying to get national attention with the Ellen Show or ESPN.
“They have big dreams and aren’t afraid to say it out loud,” said Quinn. “I think Coach [Alameda] really tries to make the connection between the stuff we do off the field. They want to get on Ellen, they just love Ellen. One of our players, who is now a senior, has been talking about getting on Ellen since she was a freshman. The more people have heard it [the more] it’s become more of everyone’s goal now where it just started out with just Morgan Bullock. They say they want to be in the Super Regionals and you can say that all you want, but trying to get the team to realize the amount of work that goes into that. You have to be able to perform when asked to perform.”
With this fun way of teaching lessons, Quinn was able to get through to the players and break them out of their shells.
“I enjoyed going out there and doing it,” Hoffner added. “I used to get severe stage fright having to perform or speak in front of anybody. This had to do with when I was in orchestra throughout elementary school and middle school or having to do a presentation. Last year and this year, doing the dancing, I wasn’t nervous at all. It was something different I’ve never done before and the whole concept was just really fun for me.”