Ballroom dance competitions are a world unto themselves and there is a culture which takes awhile to figure out, when you are a newby. I have been doing comps for maybe 3 years and dance at an open level. And I am old; let's just leave it at that. Some things made no sense to me in the beginning, like uncontested single heats and the sometimes, seemingly random marks. For me, I went along with the pro-am flow until I realized it was important to understand that there are different reasons WHY people do competitions and to also figure out honestly why I dance. Otherwise, I would end up crying in the hotel room afterward, wondering why I spent so much money to be so miserable. Totally my own thoughts but I think first of all, people have different levels of intensity and resources in wanting to achieve these goals and some reasons are: To get exercise and have fun at a hobby and just do lots of dancing; to get dressed up and look gorgeous, to express their competitive nature and win, to socialize with a group of people with common interests, to perfect a skill and have it validated with improving scores. It took awhile for me to understand that my main, personal motivation was actually none of these but instead exploring the "craft" of dancing and the process of trying to dance at the highest level possible for my age and body for as long as possible. And to be honest, hopefully get some positive feedback (as well as endless corrections) from people who really know my dancing. I enjoy watching a rehearsal of pros more than the actual show and I just adore working in the studio. I could live in the studio and be perfectly happy. Once you figure out what it is you want, you can try to engineer your experience to match what it is that makes you happy. For me, based on my realistic resources, I do about 3 local comps a year. No real competition, but the prep and feedback is very useful to my dancing development. I am just about ready to do another national comp but I realize I have to pair it with coaching/clinics and maybe a showcase, so that if I get kicked out at the first round, I still feel the trip has been worth it in terms of my dancing development. I totally respect other people's motivations, but I am very happy now that I have sorted things out and am true to myself.