Flawlessly executing complex routines at school events and sweeping countless competitions, the dance team is one of the shining stars of Paly’s athletics program. However, overlooked and underpaid is the driving force behind the team’s success — the coach.
In previous years, dance and cheer were grouped under one title — Spirit Squad — and the two groups were paid for only one team in Category C, the same salary group as assistant coaches, frosh/soph and junior varsity (JV) coaches and weight room supervisors. This year, both the varsity and JV cheer coaches moved up salary categories to A and B, respectively, but varsity dance coach Alanna Williamson was left behind in Category C.
Varsity coaches, as well as the robotics and debate coaches, are sorted into Category A and B. While there are undoubtedly many variables that are factored into this decision, such as team size and the number of games or competitions, the dance team actually competes more than cheer does, yet the coach is still paid significantly less. Until a transparent formula for determining which coaches qualify for which category is created, the varsity dance coach should at least be paid fairly compared to other varsity sports.
“I am valued the same as a JV coach or an assistant coach when I’m really doing the same amount of work as my cheer counterpart, and they’ll both be getting paid more than me. It’s especially frustrating because we’re really one team. Cheer and dance do so much together, and we’re one big family, so it’s kind of frustrating to feel like one part of the squad isn’t valued.”
It’s demeaning for a varsity coach, one who dedicates several hours weekly to managing and instructing the team, to receive the same pay as a JV, assistant or frosh/soph coach. By paying the dance coach significantly less than other varsity coaches, the Board of Education and Athletic Steering Committee convey the message that they consider dance to be less legitimate than other varsity sports. While Athletic Director Therren Wilburn-Sudduth told The Campanile that he thinks all coaches should be paid more for their time and efforts, the Committee should start byraising the dance coach salary to an equitable level.
“I coach physically with them 10-12 hours per week depending on whether we have a game or not and all of the extra work — choreographing, ordering things, signing them up for whatever,” Williamson said. “It’s like having an extra job. It’s about 20 percent of my time doing this work, and it’s really frustrating because right now, there is no set formula for how anybody gets into what category they’re in.”
While the dance coach salary could be raised if dance were to become a California Interscholastic Foundation (CIF) sport, becoming a member could compromise the team’s current successful management methods.
“There is a little bit less support as a non-CIF sport, and we don’t really want to become a CIF sport because it doesn’t make sense with what the current structure for dance competitions are like in the high school setting,” Williamson said. “If we were to become a CIF sport, it would put a lot of regulations on us, so we don’t necessarily want that, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be treated just the same.”
Ultimately, devaluing the work of dance coaches sends the message that the coach and the team are not appreciated for their varsity-level efforts and dedication.
“My worry is that because the coaching position is at the JV and assistant level, the girls feel like they’re not valued as varsity athletes. Dance has a history of not feeling valued as athletes in general, in the country, on campus.”
If we are to truly support our district’s athletes equally, we must acknowledge and honor the efforts of the dance team — beginning by paying the dance coach fairly.