Salsa for Athletes

Testimonial from University of Maryland Head-Coach, Missy Meharg:

"Competing with American, James Madison, Princeton, Syracuse and a talented post-eligibility team of our seniors is a solid opportunity to see our players' development since January. The women have been working hard on their technical skills. After a fun-filled segment of 'hockey salsa' with dance instructor Barbara Bernstein, our deception and balance has improved."



Research has shown that dance instruction improves the following skills which are all important as well in athletics:

  • Agility
  • Coordination & Timing
  • Rapid Changes of Direction
  • Muscle Isolations (legs versus arms)
  • Fexibility
  • Team-Building/Spirit

(And there is no dance that's more fun than Salsa!!)

Director Barb Bernstein has developed sport-specific dance activities and drills for a fun cross training program for athletes! She can also construct exercises to address particular issues the coach wants his/her team to work on.

All-male teams do Salsa footwork drills (solo dancing like tap dancing). All-female or mixed gender teams blend footwork with partnership moves. In both cases, the dance practice is great fun, and it translates to improvements on the playing field.

For more details and to discuss a program for your team contact! 


Articles on How Dance Improves Athletic Skills

1.  Simple Things You Can Do To Be a Better Athlete: Part I; A Blog For The Ever Improving Ballplayer, posted by Franco on March 14, 2011.

Item #2 states: "While dancing can be fun, it also will help your footwork, coordination and balance, which are all positives on the ball field. It is usually fairly easy to find free or cheap dance lessons no matter where you live.  I prefer salsa dancing, but there are plenty of other types of ball room dancing that are great."


2. Fancy Footwork; Baltimore Sun, by Consella Lee, Sun Staff Writer, Jan. 18, 1995.

"You might expect male high school athletes spinning and twirling their way through dancing lessons to hear some teasing from their classmates. But not at Glen Burnie High School…The dance for athletes class (is) the brainchild of Dianne Rosso, the dance teacher at the high school.  Dancing lessons help athletes improve their agility, flexibility, coordination, stamina and footwork on the playing field, said Ms. Rosso, who started the class last fall with 12 boys and four girls.

"The footwork is particularly helpful for soccer and football players," she said.  Meanwhile, others have become interested in her dance for athletes class, she said, and many stop by while class is going on to see what it's all about. "This has become a phenomenon here. Kids come by here every day and look in the room. I've got a lot of guys saying, 'I'll be there next semester," said Ms. Rosso. "In my 23 years of teaching, I've never seen anything like this. It's like a fever."


3.  How Does Dance Class Make One A Better Athlete?;, by Janet Renee,Feb. 29, 2012.

"Taking a dance class can improve your athleticism by increasing your balance, flexibility and endurance -- desirable attributes for many sports. Dancing promotes lean muscles, agility and helps develop a strong foundation that you can apply to the sports you participate in. Taking a dance class can help you become strong, faster and more powerful."


4. Why Football Players Dance So Well; Blogs: Play Better, by Pete Williams, October 14, 2008.

"(Warren Sapp), the athletes' performance coach who has worked with NFL pros such as Brett Favre, Matt Hasselbeck, and Deuce McAllister, believes…moves on the football field translate well to the dance hall. 

"With any elite NFL lineman I've worked with, their feet are their number one asset," Croner says. "So when you look at the game and how it's played, it's all leverage, the right positioning and moving the feet to get into position. You have to be strong and physical in football, but the guys who really excel are the ones who move efficiently.  When you talk dance moves, it's the same thing. "

Croner says the stop-and-go nature of football emulates dance movements. The acceleration and deceleration of dancing comes natural to football players, as it also would to soccer players and basketball veterans.  “What people miss about football is that it’s not just based on speed,” Croner said. “Everything is based on accelerating and decelerating, starting and stopping. It’s not like a running back gets the handoff and runs straight through. He has to change direction. The same is true with wide receivers. It’s all about stopping and changing direction and being able to control your body so you can move efficiently.”

Effective dancing requires a strong pillar, mobility and stability. But the key is lateral movement, much like with football."  


5.  "Cognitive Benefits of Creative Dance To Athletes," by Sara Ipatenco, Jan. 25, 2012 in 

This article says that not only is dance a good workout, but it sharpens mental acuity and helps athletes on the field.  Creative dancing requires making quick decisions about the next movements according to Stanford University which is important as well in sports.  Dancing with a partner, in particular, improves awareness of what is happening around you and forces the dancer to pay close attention, also skills that help in sports.  The article quotes a 2010 study in "Front Aging Neuroscience" journal that found that dancing forces several parts of the brain to work together which helps people learn new things. This in turn makes it easier to learn new techniques for playing sports.


6.  "Music in Sport and Exercise: An Update on Research and Application," By Costas Karageorghis and David-Lee Priest in The Sport Journal, published by the United Staes Sports Academy, ISSN: 1543-9518.

This article cites scholarly research on the effects of doing exercises to music, and the conclusions are strong and hard-hitting.  The body's physiological processes were found to react to music's rhythm and the lyrics had an impact on emotions.  The result was that music and imagery enhance muscular endurance.   Two time gold medalist Dame Kelly Homes is quoted as using songs like "Kiilling Me Softely" in her pre-event routine at the Athens Games in 2004.  Scientific studies are cited that showed music helping people learn motor skills too.  And research has been shown to "promote flow states."  There is so much powerful information on how music helps with physical effort in this article, and research cited, it is worth reading in full…