2015-Ian Luebbers, Award Winner

The following is a reprint of a December 2015 issue article: Ian Luebbers - Most Likely to Succeed Award



Ian Luebbers: Most Likely to Succeed 

Ian is one of those dancers with exceptional “natural ability” and this, coupled with a strong work ethic and excellent instruction at the Broesler School of Irish Dance, allowed him to quickly rise in the ranks of the competitive world.  Prior to high school, Ian won four Mid-Atlantic Regional Oireachtas titles, an NAFC Belt title, the North American and All Scotland titles along with second at the All Irelands and fifth at the Worlds. Why, then, did he walk away from Irish dance for four years? His story makes it clear that he is an amazing candidate for this year’s

“Most Likely to Succeed” designation. 

“At that age, (young teen), I didn’t have a healthy perspective on dancing. I felt a relentless pressure to succeed, and by the time I entered high school I was burned out”, Ian shares.

“So I stopped dancing and devoted myself to playing soccer. I attacked soccer with the drive and dedication that I had learned from Irish dancing. When I started high school, I had zero experience playing club soccer, but within two years I had been accepted by an elite club soccer team called Penn Fusion, and an Olympic Development Program (ODP) regional team. I travelled all over the east coast with my club team, and I got the chance to visit Barcelona with my ODP team to play the younger division teams of four professional Spanish soccer clubs. As I progressed in my soccer career, I realized that the most important things I had learned in Irish dancing were transferable to all areas of life. A growth mindset, the realization that success comes from work far more than from talent, was the reason that I progressed so rapidly in my soccer career. I knew that if I worked hard and I worked smart, it was only a matter of time before I became successful.” 

Ian was relentless in his drive to improve his game, and in his senior year he was named captain of his high school soccer team and recruited by many colleges. He chose Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota to play soccer. However, he missed Irish dancing and decided to make a comeback. He was excited for his regional championships, as he had enjoyed success four consecutive times prior to hanging up his dance shoes. Sadly, the harsh reality of the implications of his lengthy hiatus set in when he placed a disappointing fourth at the Mid-Atlantic regionals followed by 12th place at the Worlds. “I was heartbroken. But heartbreak is a wonderful fuel. And if I learned one thing from all my years of dancing and playing sports, it’s that successful people don’t achieve success overnight. They are the ones who show up and do the work, day in and day out. They strive for constant improvement. So I kept practicing. And eventually, I started to get better results.” Pushing forward, he made an incredible comeback, winning back-to-back regional championships and placing on the podium at the Worlds. Ian recognised the hard work it took to get back on the podium was more than worth it. 

Ian credits a mindset of continual growth for helping him in school as well where he hopes to graduate Summa Cum Laude with a degree in physics and a minor in math. He is currently “working on a publication on the Computational Astrophysics research that I conducted this past summer at UNC, where I used supercomputers to study supernova explosions colliding with our solar system. I will be attending a professional astronomy conference in January in Orlando, Florida to present my research. In addition, I taught myself Spanish and am currently learning Mandarin.” 


Ian will be studying at Oxford University for the Hilary and Trinity terms this spring, where he plans to explore physics classes and continue training and competing in Irish dancing on the other side of the Atlantic.

And what else does the future hold? “After I graduate, I plan to take a gap year and work or volunteer in a far off country. Then I will either find a job or apply to grad school, probably for physics, engineering or computer science. It seems highly likely that my career will involve science and technology. As for Irish Dancing, I have grown to deeply appreciate Irish music and culture. My great grandparents came over to the US from Ireland, and so Irish culture is an important part of our family. Since I was young, my family has always been involved in Irish festivals and events and we do countless performances throughout the year. I see myself choreographing material as well as teaching classes and/or doing workshops.” Ian plans to get his TC and possibly his ADCRG.

We believe Ian will most certainly succeed in reaching all his goals, and congratulate him as our 2015 Most Likely to Succeed.


UPDATE: In 2016 and 2017, Ian danced for the Broesler School, Mid-Atlantic Region and placed 4th at both World Championships. He subsequently transferred to Holly & Kavanagh in Dublin, Ireland and won the 2018 All Ireland and the 2018 World Championships, followed by placing 2nd at the 2019 Worlds. Sadly, on June 11th 2019, this vibrant and talented star of Irish Dancing passed away.


* Photo credit soccer shot: Ian Luebbers, photo credit A Fresh Focus Photography
* Photo credit  Worlds Ball: Paul Dargan  - pictured: Joanne Kavanagh TCRG, Ian Luebbers, and Niall Holly ADCRG

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