Frazee head dance coach Ta Fett recently announced her retirement after 24 years leading the Frazee Fly Girls.
Under Fett’s direction and big picture coaching style, the Fly Girls transformed from what began as a school activity into state tournament mainstays. The team has three state championships, two in jazz, one in kick. Fett’s jazz teams were state finalists 11 times; kick made the final cut to six teams at state six times.
Out of college, Fett planned to use her coaching degree to lead softball teams, but her daughters Kiala and Kendal changed that.
“I had two little girls who loved to dance,” said Fett.
Fett started Frazee’s program in a noncompetitive format. The team danced at Hornet football and basketball games and were more performance-based for a decade.
Both daughters graduated from Frazee high in that time and Fett was up for a change.
She had a strong theatre background and was directing the school musicals. A change in gymnastics opened the door to competitive dance. With gymnastics electing to co-op, Frazee needed a replacement girls sport to stay in line with Title IX eligibility.
Fett began with little knowledge of kick routines and was looking for avenues to create a competitive program.
“I ended up with a group of girls who were skilled and helped me make up routines,” she said. “I would watch college routines on ESPN and I literally called colleges and said, ‘hey, I’m from a small town in Minnesota and we don’t compete, can I use your routine?’”
Those colleges allowed her to use routines and sent her music and with that, Frazee went from a halftime show to the big show in a hurry.
“I’m a very optimistic person and a firm believer that you can convince kids that they can win,” Fett said.
The first regular season of competitive dance was winless leading up to the section meet.
“I can honestly remember where I was standing in the gym when I turned around to the girls and said, ‘All you have to do at sections is get third and we’ll go to state. I know you can do that.’ I will never forget. They announced us third and I turned around. ‘We did it.’”
Fett not only convinced her teams they could win that night, her teams have qualified at least one or both jazz and high kick to state every year since.
“There are always more teams that are more talented than you,” she said. “If you can convince kids that they have it within themselves; it is about the mind game. I think that is the strength that I have.”
Belief and caring as a group have become ingrained keys to Frazee’s annual success.
“If you can get kids to care and they have to know that you really care too and that you’re invested and giving 110 percent,” said Fett. “If you can convince them of that you can go all the way.”
Fett also put her trust in others to aid in creating a successful program. Those people are her niece Kelsey Hoff, both daughters Kiala and Kendal, and assistants Becca Gray, Taylor Bachmann, Caitlin Breitenfeldt, among others who were part of the program.
“What these girls have done these last five, six years is so above my skill level,” Fett said.
The Fly girls made the jump from state placing to titles beginning with a jazz championship in 2016 and a state sweep of jazz and kick in 2018.
“I’m a big picture person,” said Fett. “I can organize and see things visually. First, you have to have a piece of music and a vision and a story to tell. There has to be a story, otherwise it’s just girls moving to music.”
Fett always came up with the big plan and her assistants excelled in filling in the details.
“I love collaborating with people who are artistic and have a vision,” she said. “I have had great assistant coaches. They were amazing. This would have never had happened without them.”
All of Fett’s assistants danced for her and know how much better of a head coach she has become.
“It was a huge learning curve for me,” said Fett. “If you can’t look at what you’re doing and realize there are things you can change and tweek every year, you shouldn’t be coaching.”
Making changes was how Frazee’s first state title came about. The jazz team did not qualify for state in 2015, the same year Kelsey was going to quit coaching.
Upon not making the top three, Fett could hear a few sniffles behind her.
“There is no crying,” she said. “That’s my rule.”
Kelsey was sad Frazee did not qualify in jazz her last season coaching.
“You cry with joy in sports,” said Fett, before convincing Kelsey to come back for one last season.
“We talked a lot about what to do because we had a really strong group,” said Fett. “I told her, ‘we’re taking all 12 of them all the way.’ That’s not easy. I just kept trusting. We’re asking them to trust us. We need to trust them.”
Both 2016 Fly Girls teams were young, but strong.
“There was just something about our jazz team,” said Fett. “I just had that feeling. This group can do it.”
The Fly Girls went from not even getting to state in jazz to winning the program’s first title. Frazee’s kick team was the Class A runners-up.
“It was a magical year,” said Fett. “Sometimes it’s just the right chemistry. It’s never easy; I look back every year and wish I would have done something differently. Even the winning years, there are always things to improve on.”
The first month of retirement has been spent getting accustomed to having only one job for the first time in the past 30 years. Gone are planning camps, scheduling auditions, next season, listening to music. There is no break; it’s a year-round job for a head coach.
Only after her announcement did she realize her impact on dancers and the community.
“You never know where your influence begins or ends,” she said. “You think you don’t have any impact on a kid but they loved it and it meant something to them. You have to remember that when you’re coaching kids. It’s not always the best dancer that has the biggest impact. It’s some kid that came out, stumbled along the way, and just loved dancing. That’s what high school sports are all about.”