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Establishing Yourself In A Competitive Industry: Tips From An NBA And NFL Pro Cheerleader


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by GeNienne Samuels, CEO of Sideline Prep

In varying degrees, every person has dealt with obstacles.  After all, you can’t reach the “highs” without the “lows.” Some obstacles occur alongside others during the journey to achieve the goals we’ve set for ourselves. It can be difficult to push through tough times to keep going to reach the finish line. Whether it’s studying to get into an educational program, pushing to become a leader in your field, or working to beat out other businesses in the industry, there will always be competition. However, how we approach these obstacles at hand has the most impact on our success.

The world of dance and cheerleading is fiercely competitive and can be an intimidating environment. From my own experiences as a professional cheerleader for the Washington Wizards and Washington Football Team (formerly the Redskins), as well as being an In-Game & In-Arena host, TV host, anchor, motivational speaker, and building my own consulting business, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to succeed in ambitious pursuits. Understanding how to thrive in these high-pressure situations fueled me to start my own pro-level preparatory academy, Sideline Prep. My coaches and I encourage and educate up-and-coming professional dancers on how to nail their auditions and have a strong skill set to manage whatever life throws at them.

This article will share some of the most helpful tips that I’ve learned and things I wish I knew when I first started my career. Learning these best practices for outstanding performances will help you keep a positive, forward momentum to be able to establish yourself in a competitive industry.

Strengthen Your Internal Compass

Everyone has an internal guidance system that helps us decipher opportunities and life experiences. Your emotions and mental state is the foundation of this system. When working to establish yourself as a leader, influencer, and/or top performer in a competitive industry, it is essential to make sure your mind is clear, your systems are balanced, and you have clear intentions for your direction, or else you could easily get knocked off course by the first “no.”

At Sideline Prep, to get our dancers prepared for the professional world, we focus on building mental fortitude to be able to handle any situation that comes their way. Utilizing internal motivating techniques and establishing your “why” can ultimately be the difference between having the discipline and consistency to show up for yourself and making it happen versus not enjoying the journey and failing to reach your goal.  Your “why” has to be stronger than the excuses you make, and your thoughts have to be supportive of you stepping out of your comfort zone. Resilience training, which helps improve mental fortitude, helps our Lovelies and Gents feel more secure in their abilities to succeed on and off the sidelines. 

Being mentally tough can be a game-changer, guiding you to reach your ultimate goal. It’s incredibly impactful hearing testimonies from our clients; from recent college graduates to moms to men and women, working multiple jobs to make ends meet; who shifted their confidence by first focusing on your mental and emotional well-being first. They are ultimately proving to themselves and their families that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.

Taking Manageable Steps

As we’re preparing to do something outside of our comfort zone, our motivation and having a strong “why” can be a driving force while making it easier to discern the right opportunities for positive growth. I always encourage our Lovelies and Gents to write down their goals, along with actionable steps and due dates, so that they can keep them at the forefront of the mind. Posting them or putting those intentional goals where you can see them daily as visual reminders helps us stay on track. 

Sometimes, repeating affirmations doesn’t feel like enough when our goals seem out of reach. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has been quoted with the saying, “The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them. If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.” So repeat those affirmations, while also seeing it, feeling it, and believing it’s possible because it is!

On the flip side, affirmations and a goal work plan aren’t always enough.  Stepping out of your comfort zone can be scary… ultimately causing you to stop taking action altogether.  To avoid getting overwhelmed, first recognize that your brain is just trying to keep you safe and comfortable. That’s your brian’s job! It’s normal. Next, focus on the next smallest step you can take toward your goal. I always suggest breaking down how you will reach your goals and finding a person or community to help hold you accountable. You don’t want to focus on the big, overarching goal because it can be intimidating if you don’t know quite yet how to reach it. Breaking it down into manageable, bite-sized pieces and making deadlines for yourself will help you achieve your goals more efficiently.

Controlling the Competition 

Entering into any industry, we know that there will always be others working toward similar goals. Rather than comparing someone else’s successes or failures to your own (which I call “Compare-itis”), it’s essential to recognize that the only “real” competition is yourself, and how you handle the ups and downs that come with positive forward progress.  

I learned early on that, I have the choice every single day to either go with the flow or seize the day. Knowing that only past versions of myself are my real competition, working to be a better me keeps my vision focused and supportive of others. I strive to be better today than I was yesterday by taking small, consistent action daily. The only way to get to where you want to be is to have faith in yourself and take action by putting one foot in front of the other. At Sideline Prep, this mindset is personified.

But keeping it real, it’s hard not to look to the right or left, wondering how to “beat out” or “outshine” others who are going for the same thing you want. This is where reframing comes in.  Instead of looking at them as “competition,” figure out what you can “borrow” from them or support them. What can you learn from them to make you better? What can you bring to the table that they can’t?  But at the end of the day, your focus should be on you. That’s the only thing you can control.

We understand that “sharing is caring,” and it would be a disservice to aspiring professional dancers, performers, and dreamers to not take everything I have learned in over 20 years of experience and pass it onto the next generation. This is true for any industry as we understand that obstacles are present; however, we chose to focus on the idea that setbacks are only setups for comebacks! You got this!


GeNienne Samuels

GeNienne Samuels is the President/CEO and Co-Founders of Sideline Prep, as well as a TV host/anchor, motivational speaker, entrepreneur, and professional cheerleader alumni of the NFL and NBA. She recently retired as a Wizard Girl for the NBA’s Washington Wizards to take on the role as the In-Arena Host for the Washington Wizards. As a Wizard Girl, she was named Captain after her rookie season and was awarded Most Valuable Wizard Girl two years in a row.