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West Virginia University graduates publish mindset training textbook for dancers

Dancers often face the same difficulties in their training and performance as athletes: physical and mental barriers, including nerves, anxiety and self-doubt. While coaches and instructors work with their students through physical challenges, internal barriers can be tougher to overcome.

West Virginia University College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences alumnae Ashley Cranney (2016) and Chelsea Wooding (2014) have first-hand experience with these challenges. The book, “Every Count Matters: Mindset Training for Dancers,” utilizes their background in competitive dance and mental performance to reach dancers of all styles and skill levels.

Ashley Cranney, PhD, Sport and Exercise Psychology, originally from Pocatello, Idaho, currently serves as an adjunct instructor at WVU. Chelsea Wooding, PhD, Sport and Exercise Psychology, a Long Beach, Calif. native, is an associate faculty assistant professor at National University. Both are Certified Mental Performance Consultants through the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. 

Cranney and Wooding became close friends while in graduate school at WVU. Drawing from their own dance training experience, they were aware of dancers' struggle with physical and mental difficulties. Their new book pairs the authors’ unique dance experience and sport psychology training to help dancers work through challenges in what is considered both a sport and art form.

“We hope that in writing “Every Count Matters,” we can help dancers translate the parts of sport psychology, performance psychology and other related fields that can aid them in a more comprehensive, useful way,” Cranney said.

Both authors credit Drs. Jack Watson, CPASS interim dean, and Sam Zizzi, CPASS associate dean for research, as mentors at WVU. Cranney and Wooding say that Watson and Zizzi challenged and influenced them to pursue various perspectives and approaches in their work and to explore beyond their comfort zones, a viewpoint the authors hope to expand within readers.

Cranney and Wooding consider Dr. Ed Etzel as an important mentor during their time at WVU. Etzel served as supervisor within their applied work and thus played a significant role as they developed as practitioners.

“By adjusting our mindsets, we can live a more fulfilling life. Whether we are performing in our daily relationships, work, sport, school or anything else, mindset training helps us to develop more adaptive ways to relate to success, failure, fear and change to improve our experiences,” said Cranney.

“To performers and athletes interested in mindset training, try to set down assumptions and expectations. Mindset training is just like physical training – it will take time and energy and is not something you try once and never have to do again,” said Wooding.

“Use what you value to experiment, be willing to try and fail, and know what you stand for,” Cranney added.

“My main hope is that this book helps people learn about the field of sport and performance psychology and how mindset training might help them in their dance training,” Wooding said.

Every Count Matters” was released by FiT Publishing, a part of WVU College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences and is currently available for purchase online at

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