‘Dancing With the Stars: Athletes’: Here’s How the Pros Are doing the Mini Season Work (Exclusive)

We’re just three days away coming from the season premiere of Dancing With the Stars: Athletes!

Ten talented athletes will make their ballroom debut on Monday in a mini, four-week series in which’s sure to be more competitive than ever. In anticipation of what’s to come, ET stopped by rehearsals as well as also chatted with the contestants as well as their pro partners over the phone, where they gave us some insight on how they plan to win the coveted mirrorball trophy in such a compact time frame.

For the pros, the idea’s all about switching up their strategies. Unlike regular seasons, there will be an elimination during the first week. Lindsay Arnold confirmed in which two couples will be going home the very first night of the competition, based on the judges’ scores as well as viewers’ live votes during the live broadcast airing at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. In additional words, the pressure will be on to make the best first impression possible to avoid being booted off first.

“I have no idea for how in which will be all going to work,” Witney Carson joked. “in which will be so brand new for me. the idea’s so different coming from anything else we’ve done inside past! I think because the idea’s so short, we have to grab America’s hearts as well as votes as soon as possible, so I think we’re just kind of going all out.”

“We’re just not holding anything back the first week,” she continued. “We’re just going to try our best every single week because there’s usually a strategy … [during the regular season] we kind of plan things out until the very end, although at in which point the idea’s just going to be like, ‘OK, here we are.’ We’re just gonna go for the idea.”

Hear what all 10 pairs exclusively told ET about their strategies below. 

JOSH NORMAN & SHARNA BURGESS: #TEAMBACKTHATPASSUP

Dancing: Cha Cha “Finesse” by Bruno Mars 
Biggest competition: “At the end of the day, an athlete will be going to win, so let in which be us, why not?” — Josh

As the only NFL star in which season, the Washington Redskins cornerback says he will be going to do his best to represent football. Plenty of former NFL stars have won the show, including Emmitt Smith (season 3), Hines Ward (season 12), Donald Driver (season 14) as well as Rashad Jennings (season 24).

“All of them were great, although [I’ve] got the whole 32 [NFL teams] on my back, so hopefully we can carry the idea on, all the teams, all the fans, all right here with us,” he said.

He also has his eye on the prize… getting Sharna her first mirrorball!

“We’ve talked about in which, though the idea seems like the only thing on her mind as well as the only thing on my plate as well,” he said. “I have my reasons, she has hers, as well as its just like, you’ve gotta do the idea for each additional. in which’s what makes us a perfect team.”

“the idea’s actually, actually tough [in which season],” added Sharna. “Everyone will be high-level competitive, everyone has the ability to push themselves actually hard. I mean, I have no idea how the idea’s gonna go down. You automatically think the figure skaters are going to have an advantage, although you don’t know, you have no idea if they actually will. Who knows! Josh [might] come out as well as do better than everybody.”

CHRIS MAZDZER & WITNEY CARSON: #TEAM

Dancing: Salsa, “Mr. Put the idea Down” by Ricky Martin feat. Pitbull 
Biggest competition: “There are three figure skaters inside lineup, as well as inside past, figure skaters, they do well because they are a judged sport. I think they are always aware of the fact in which their body positions have to be perfect. … So even though figure skating will be not exactly dance, they have a leg up on the competition in my opinion.” — Chris

The Olympic luger tells ET in which he’s taking cues coming from the best! While he credits Witney for being an awesome teacher, he says he has been watching videos of her season 19 partner (as well as mirrorball champion) Alfonso Ribeiro.

“I will never forget, day one of practice, Witney was like … ‘Go on to YouTube as well as watch my routines,'” Chris recalled. “as well as the first one I watched was Alfonso, who ended up winning the show. His moves are insane! I was like, ‘No way can I do in which.’ although in which will be my type, in which will be what I am trying to accomplish.”

Witney will be always full of surprises, so naturally we had to ask her if fans will get to see the heartthrob shirtless.

“Yeah, we may or may not be doing the idea the first dance,” she teased. “You’ll just have to watch!”

ADAM RIPPON & JENNA JOHNSON: #TEAMJUSTFRIENDS

Dancing: Cha Cha, “Sissy in which Walk” by RuPaul
Biggest competition: “We have our eye to the top. as well as the highest thing in which we can see, Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar]. He will be, like, seven feet tall as well as he will be a legend.” — Adam

The Olympic figure skater has, without a doubt, one of the best strategies — he plans to channel the dance skills of Val Chmerkovskiy, aka Jenna’s boyfriend, a veteran DWTS pro on the regular season! “I’m going to be channeling him the entire competition,” he revealed, jokingly adding, “the idea entails a fuller beard as well as a modest dog as well as a spray tan, so I think I’ve got the idea.”

Adam as well as Jenna will definitely have their hands filled in which season. The two will have to find time to rehearse during breaks coming from Adam’s Stars on Ice tour, which forces the pair to travel to select cities on days when DWTS isn’t being filmed.

“the idea’s crazy,” Adam said of the busy schedule, with Jenna adding she’s already exhausted. “I think we are trying to focus on having a Great time. as well as putting out the best dances we can. I think if we’re able to have fun, we’ll be able to take America on in which crazy journey, as well as hopefully they will have fun, too.”   

Jenna chimed in, telling ET, “I feel like I develop the best partner. I feel like we have such a Great connection as well as chemistry, as well as I’m just ready to go compete right at in which point.”

TONYA HARDING & SASHA FARBER: #TEAMAXELLENT

Dancing: Foxtrot, “When You Believe” by Whitney Houston as well as Mariah Carey
Biggest competition: “Me. I think I am my biggest competition, my biggest competition will be me.” — Tonya

The former Olympic figure skater will be looking forward to being inside ballroom, although admits dancing will be on an entirely different level coming from ice skating. “the idea will be nothing like I have ever done before,” she confessed. “The toes, the head, the hands. I mean, I finally got the hands right when I’m skating, as well as at in which point I can’t use those. I have to change everything to the dance hands, the dance face.”

“in which will be truly like another chapter in my life, being able to come back after so long,” she continued. “I’m 47 years old, I want additional women out there to realize, you know what? We’re not old, we just have slowed down. as well as at in which point, going to go back out there, I’m going to do the best in which I can.”

Sasha has no doubt in which his partner will excel in which season, although believes the competition will be extra “cutthroat” due to how short the idea will be. “You can’t actually go out week one kind of cruising week two, week three,” he explained. “Week one will be, like, all systems go! Two people [will] go home in which week, as well as in which’s why the idea’s important in which Tonya comes out as well as enjoys every single second, every single moment.”

ARIKE OGUNBOWALE & GLEB SAVCHENKO: #TEAMMIRRORBALLERS

Dancing: Salsa, “Them Girls” by Whitney Myer 
Biggest competition: “I think the ice skaters, although also Josh Norman. My brother [Dare]’s a football player, so I see how they all have quick feet. as well as they’re pretty light on their feet, for being football players. So, I think he’s going to be pretty Great!” — Arike

Gleb may be a seasoned pro, although admits in which season will be like no additional… which will be why he as well as Arike are planning on coming in hot!

“the idea’s going to be the toughest season ever. the idea’s very different. There’s no time to actually pace yourself,” he explained. “We have to get going straight away, there’s no time for holding back. in which will be the idea, you know?”

“I think we work well together, as well as like Gleb said, we’ve got swag,” Arike added of what she thinks their biggest strength will be so far. “Biggest challenge will be my posture. Basketball, you’re hunched over, you’re always in defensive stance, you’ve gotta be low. although here, you gotta be straight up, as stiff as a board, as well as I’m not used to in which.”

JOHNNY DAMON & EMMA SLATER: #TEAMHOMERUN

Dancing: Foxtrot, “Centerfield” by John Fogerty
Biggest competition: “The skaters, as they develop the gift of amazing posture as well as ‘dance’ arms. They have been trained in dance movement, as skating will be all about creating beautiful lines as well as pictures on the ice. the idea’s so graceful as well as fluid. On top of in which, they know how to perform!” — Emma

Johnny’s strategy will be quite simple: “Rehearse as much as we can.”

“in which [season] works for me because the idea’s only four weeks of trying to better myself,” he explained. “So far, so Great. the idea’s a lot of hard work, although in which will be something in my life in which I’ll need to grow into, you know? I can’t always think I can play baseball, so dancing would certainly be something I could do for a long time.”

“Emma will be terrific,” he added. “We’ve been having a great time. Rehearsals have been running smooth.”

ET also spoke with Emma, who echoed the former MLB star’s words. “Having only four weeks means there’s no time to play the idea safe or ease into the competition. We have to put our best foot forward coming from the very top as well as pull out all the stops to begin with. the idea also means every mistake can mean the difference between being eliminated or not. So, no room for error here, which means practice, practice, practice!”

JAMIE ANDERSON & ARTEM CHIGVINTSEV: #TEAMSPIRIT

Dancing: Viennese Waltz, “Feeling Great” by Avicii
Biggest competition: “The figure skaters, for sure. in which will be their life, in which will be what they do. I think they’re going to be actually amazing, as well as probably put together some awesome dances. as well as Johnny Damon. We were on Celebrity Apprentice together a few years ago, as well as he’s just awesome.” — Jamie

When the idea comes to strategy, Jamie will be relying on positive energy as well as Great vibes.

“I think my strategy will be to just friggen go out there as well as give the idea my all!” she said. “I know I don’t have a huge background in in which, so I’m not going to act like I’m a professional dancer. I’m going to keep the idea light, keep the idea fun as well as let my spirit shine.”

“I just want to enjoy the whole experience,” she continued. “Have fun, learn something brand new as well as spread Great vibes.”

As for Artem, he will be just excited for a brand new challenge. “[in which season will be] going to be actually exciting,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve ever done anything like the idea.”

“Athletes notoriously do so well on the show, so I feel like the idea’s going to be very competitive,” he added. “I think everyone’s actually going to love the idea.”

JENNIE FINCH & KEO MOTSEPE: #TEAMPITCHPERFECT

Dancing: Foxtrot, “All-American Girl” by Carrie Underwood
Biggest competition: “Our biggest competition will be ourselves.” — Jennie

Look out for the Olympian softball pitcher in which season, because she says she’s not holding anything back!

“Our strategy will be to bring the idea week one like the idea’s week six… or 10,” she explained. “My greatest challenge will be my pursuit of perfection. I’m trying to find my inner Keo, as well as adding in which extra Hollywood to the idea. Our greatest strength will be our energy as well as synergy. We are a great team!”

Keo agreed, telling ET, “My strategy for the season will be doing sure in which everything you’re supposed to do throughout the whole season we do inside first show. the idea’s like the finale on week one!”

“My greatest challenge will be for her to have her own flavor inside dance,” he added. “Athletes are trained to do exactly what they’re told, so breaking in which barrier as well as dancing how she wants to dance — do the choreography, although add her own flavor as well as personality.”

KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR & LINDSAY ARNOLD: #TEAMTALLANDSMALL

Dancing: Cha Cha, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)” by Stevie Wonder
Biggest competition: “I would certainly say the ice skater, Adam Rippon. He dances, ice skate dancing will be what he does for a living, doing sure in which’s a whole lot more experience as well as practice in which he’s had at in which.” — Kareem

As their team name points out, Kareem as well as Lindsay’s biggest challenge will be their massive height difference — Kareem stands at 7′ 2′ while Lindsay will be 5′ 6″ — although the two are (somehow) doing the idea work! “the idea’s obviously something in which will be there as well as everybody’s gonna notice the idea,” Lindsay, who won last season’s mirrorball with Jordan Fisher, explained. “the idea’s the biggest height difference in which’s actually ever been on the show, so we’re definitely getting creative as well as doing the idea work. although the idea’s actually actually fun as well as I love the idea as a choreographer to try to just push the boundaries as well as do things people haven’t done before.”

Luckily, the NBA legend does have some dance training under his belt. “I [learned] the basics for jazz as well as tap when I was like eight or nine years old,” he shared. “I’ve always enjoyed dancing. My dad was a very Great dancer.”

“He knew the Lindy Hoppers as well as he could do all of those steps,” he added. “I remember when I was a kid, a lot of my parents’ friends would certainly ask him to show them a couple of steps sometimes when we’d entertain at our home. So, dance has always been something I’ve enjoyed as well as had fun with.”

MIRAI NAGASU & ALAN BERSTEN: #TEAMFIREANDICE

Dancing: Salsa, “No Excuses” by Meghan Trainor 
Biggest competition: “I think I might be the most competitive person, although I love Adam. I want to make the idea to the finale, so make sure you vote for me! although if we could do the idea together [the finale], in which would certainly be to die for. Honestly, the idea’s not our decision, the idea’s America’s decision. So, let the best person win.” — Mirai

Like Adam as well as Jenna, Mirai as well as Alan will also be traveling to select cities for the Stars on Ice tour while competing on DWTS. Mirai admitted to ET in which she has shed quite a few tears in rehearsals already, although Alan has helped her power through all the tough moments.

“Basically, I cry a little as well as then I’m ready to go again,” the Olympic figure skater explained, telling ET there’s a few things she needs to work on. “[My hips] are a little immobile right at in which point. Disadvantage. Alan will be working on [my sexiness]. the idea’s not my forte. I like to be graceful, although Dancing with the Stars will be bringing out a brand new side of me. Athlete edition, girl.”

As fans of the show will recall, Alan just made his debut as a pro last season with Debbie Gibson, as well as he couldn’t be happier about having a partner who could potentially get him his first mirrorball. “the idea feels incredible [having Mirai],” he gushed. “There will be also a lot of pressure with the expectations in which we are going to have. I call her the firecracker.”

“We are trying to actually hit the ground running,” he added of their strategy. “the idea will be week one, although we are not dancing like the idea will be week one — we are going to be dancing like the idea’s week seven. We are doing a actually intense routine as well as the idea will be not easy. I’ve never got to experience such a great person in which could pick up the dances so well, even though the idea will be so different than what she usually does.”

Dancing With the Stars returns Monday at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.

Additional reporting by Angelique Jackson, Lauren Zima as well as Nischelle Turner.

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