Croakers Square

One of the most disturbing facet of a young person’s life these days is how little they actually seem to MOVE. Television, video games, social media—we’re not so old-fashioned around here as to think such things are evil. The problem is that they seem to have taken over kids’ lives.

Here’s a question: how is that in any way preparing them for the real world? Well, let’s be honest: some studies suggest that playing can slow aging, help you become a better decision maker, improve hand to eye coordination, and more. No less an authority than Psychology Today featured an article claiming video games can improve executive functioning: a person’s capability to allot mental resources (perception, attention, and so on) in ways that strengthen rapid, efficient decision-making skills.

We’re not denying any of that. We’re just saying Big. Deal.

All of that and more has been being accomplished by square dancing since long before Pong was even a gleam in Atari’s eye. Plus, it gets your butt up off the couch, helps work off those Skittles and Diet Pepsis, and puts you make friends you can actually talk to without a headset.

Modern American square dancing is every bit the mental and physical challenge of playing Halo or Call of Duty. It doesn’t just enhance hand to eye coordination, it boosts coordination, period—and without the need for bloodshed, either real or virtual.

There are no special skills needed to get started: essentially, you just have to know your right hand from your left. Everything else you can pick up along the way.

Moving in rhythm to the music keeps you physically fit, from strengthening your core to improving your balance and getting more oxygen to your heart and lungs. Learning dance steps and reacting quickly to the caller’s cues keeps you mentally on your toes.

Learning the basic steps is challenging but fun—sort of like figuring out that Endermen will attack if you look at them. Experienced square dance callers teach you the moves and the names of the calls, and you practice those moves until your brain starts doing it automatically—think of it as Googling a game walkthrough to learn how a move is done, then doing it over and over until your thumbs ache.

But square dance is more than you doing the moves: it’s also totally dependent on your partners. There are no lone wolves in square dancing. Your dance caller combines the various steps into a dance pattern, but it’s up to you and your teammates to interpret those calls as they’re made … then follow those calls along with everyone else. It’s not as easy as it looks … but it’s more satisfying in the end.

And remember, you’re doing all this in real time, set to music. Your team of dancers depends on you. There’s no “PAUSE” button here: you miss a step, it’s your job to get back in line with everyone else.

It’s dancing. It’s thinking. Perhaps more than anything, it is teamwork. And teamwork IS a skill kids need and will use throughout their lives. As one successful entrepreneur puts it, “Team members balance out each other’s weaknesses while sharing expertise and skills to make their peers stronger.” Square dancing pretty much embodies that idea.

Plus, you can do it even if the wifi network is down.

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