After countless days spent at practices, dance camps and competitions, Melody Gossard is stepping down as the coach of the Brookings-Harbor High School Bear Delights dance team.

Gossard will finish the current school year before leaving the team in the hands of an as-yet-to-be-named coach.

Gossard began coaching the team 13 years ago. A former aerobics instructor, she was approached by the dance team to coach them after their original coach was unable to complete the season.

I thought I can do this for a year. 12 years later , Gossard said.

Last year, a second activity was in need of Gossards assistance: cheerleading. The dance team and the cheerleaders combined to make a single team.

They didnt have a coach for it, and Id hate to see an activity dropped. I dont have a clue about cheerleading, but were learning together, Gossard said.

As the team coach, Gossard is not only responsible for being at the practices and leading the team, she also does a lot of behind the scenes work.

She makes most of the costumes, choreographs the routines, chooses the music and makes sure the girls know the routines.

There are very few minutes in a day when Im not thinking about dance team, Gossard said.

Gossard decided to leave the team because she wants more free time to be with her children. She has a daughter in college and Gossard said she almost never gets to see her. She also wants to be able to visit her last child, who is a senior this year, at college next year.

That child, Tiffiny Gossard, 17, is the captain of the dance team. She has been on the team since she was a freshman, but was preparing for it long before that.

At 4, she began taking classes at the Dance Art Studio in Crescent City. She studied tap, ballet, jazz dancing, acrobatics and hip hop.

Since I started dancing, I decided I wanted to be on the team, she said. Ive grown up around it.

As the captain of the team this year, Tiffinys life has revolved even more around dance.

I spend a lot more time working on dance team. Im always doing choreography, working on technique.

Dance team is not just for fun. Its like my life, she said.

Tiffiny was chosen as captain because of her dance abilities and attitude.

Its from the coaches by what you can bring to the team in technique, choreography and positive attitude, she said.

The captain of the team is also required to have a grade point average of at least 3.0.

Tiffiny has no specific goals for the team this year in her role as captain.

I think weve already accomplished everything because everyone is so close, she said. Thats what I look forward to. Placing at state is a bonus to working with a great team.

Although she enjoys the team, some parts of it can be difficult.

I have bad hips. It hurts, but I just keep going, she said.

And she hopes to keep going all the way to the United Spirit Association Team. At a dance camp last summer, she was one of 12 girls out of the more than 400 who attended the camp to receive an application for the team.

The team tours around the U.S. performing at various venues.

For the Gossards, this year is the end of the dance team, but for one set of girls, its just the beginning.

Of the teams 21 members, six are freshman who are just starting out.

Their dance team careers began with tryouts in May. The tryouts last one week. The girls learn a try-out dance for three days and then perform it in groups of four on the fourth day.

We dont look for perfection. We expect that to happen later, Melody said.

The girls are chosen for their rhythm, technique and workability. Melody said that most of the girls who make the team are workable in terms of dance movement and technique.

She said she has never had to remove a girl from the team after she was chosen. The girl will usually remove herself.

It gets so hard for them, its not fun anymore, Melody said.

In addition to having dance skills, the girls must also maintain good grades to be a part of the team.

There is no specific number for the team, but I like to keep it within what I have for uniforms, Melody said.

For the six freshman on the team, the dream began long before May tryouts.

Since I did the Bear Delights camp kindergarten through seventh grade it was my dream to be on the dance team, said Danielle Short, 14.

The team hosts local dance camps throughout the year where it teaches children dance skills.

All of the freshman on the team shared Shorts dream and they all were members of Azalea Middle Schools dance team, but they are finding that the high school team is different.

This is so much harder. Its a lot more challenging, but its more fun, said Nicole Nowlin, 14.

I didnt know about the exercises that we do, said Lindsey Davis, 14.

I thought we would just be dancing, Nowlin added.

The girls are required to do pushups and other exercises, and they run several miles before state competitions.

Although all the girls have dancing skills, they sometimes find a move difficult.

I hate the leaps, said Jessica Wood, 14. Jaris the only one who can do the leaps.

Jari is Jaralee Miller, 15, who said she got on the dance team by showing a lot of attitude and getting into the moves.

The girls have a chance to get into the moves from August to March, the typical dance team season. However, they also attend dance camps and exhibitions throughout the summer months.

During the regular season, they perform at all the home football games and most of the basketball games. They start their competitive season in November or December and they must finish in the 72nd percentile in those competitions to be invited to state. They usually attend four competitions.

The team knows several routines, which are choreographed by Melody and Tiffiny but may have input from team members.

It ends up being a team effort, Melody said.

The home dance routines are approximately two minutes long and are performed to music selected by Melody, Tiffiny or suggested by one of the team members.

The routine performed at state is about six minutes and requires a lot of time to learn.

We probably work 10 hours to learn (the routine), Melody said.

All routines are learned in two parts: the foot movements and then the arm movements. After that, Melody cleans the routines, which involves making sure the girls have their arm and foot placement correct.

Half of the team learns the routines at one time, while the other half watches and offers advice and comment.

The state routines have caused some trouble for the team in years past. Last years routine had the girls in dark costumes and make-up to Explore the Darkness. The routine was supposed to show the darker issues youth have to deal with today, but there were people who didnt understand that.

They didnt realize we were in deep thought about it. They thought we were devil worshippers. We were talking about the nightmare of todays youth, said Melody.

Despite that difficulty, the team still managed to take fifth place at the state competition.

With state competitions and every day practice, dance team is conducted like any high school sport. But there is debate over whether the activity is a sport even among the dance team members.

I dont think dance is a sport. Dance team is more like a sport, but dancing is more like an art, said Tiffiny. I would almost rather people call it an art than a sport.

I think we work just as hard (as the sports teams), said freshman Kristina Weichers.

I dont think we do, Nowlin said.

Melody said it is interesting to see how the audience reacts when the team performs at games. She said many people come to the games to watch the dance team.

Over half the spectators leave when were done dancing, she said.

The team will next perform at the Oct. 11 home football game between Brookings-Harbor and Bandon. The game starts at 7 p.m. and the team performs at half-time.