'Dancing' advice from former contestants

Hope Solo is no stranger to big moments.

When Team USA made its run to the championship game in the 2011 Women's World Cup, Solo was tasked with stopping every shot on goal -- no doubt, the most nerve-racking challenge she has ever faced.

Her next venture may cause just as much nail-biting.

Tonight, Solo will trade soccer cleats for dancing shoes when she makes her debut on Season 13 of "Dancing With the Stars," in front of millions of TV viewers.

Luckily, she won't have to have go Solo on the dance floor. She'll be guided by partner Maksim Chmerkovskiy. And Solo should also be comforted by the fact that athletes have fared well on the show: Sports figures have won six of the previous 12 titles.

We asked former contestants for advice they'd give on how to smoothly transition from all-star to belle of the ball.

Natalie Coughlin, Olympic swimmer
Season 9: Eliminated sixth

ABC/Adam Larkey

Natalie Coughlin and her partner Alec Mazo

Most challenging style of dance: The times my partner and I had the most tension were during the quickstep and the foxtrot. The body position in ballroom -- being bent over and turning your head -- was so awkward for me. That arch you need in your back was so difficult. My partner blamed me for his gray hairs during those weeks.

The one thing I wish I'd known before the show started: I wish I'd really understood the show. It's 50 percent viewers, 50 percent judges. I took it too seriously. I didn't show the audience how much fun my partner and I had. Though it's a competition, you need to be entertaining.

Biggest piece of advice: My biggest piece of advice for her is to take what has made her good in soccer -- her drive, intensity and work ethic -- and use that on the dance floor. Also, keep in mind it's a TV show. Working hard in practice makes for boring television. Have fun out there. Know when to work and know when to be a goofball and joke around. I loved "Dancing With the Stars." I had such a wonderful time. I hope she has half as much fun as I did.

Most challenging aspect of the show: The reality TV side of it. I would get so stubborn with some of the processes. If my partner and I were having a discussion, and the producers missed it or didn't have the right angle, they'd want you to re-enact the moment. There was one week where they made it seem like we were having a fight when we really weren't. That's what editing can do. I just wanted to dance and perform, but there is so much more that goes into it. It comes with the territory. But I guarantee that of all the reality shows out there, "Dancing With the Stars" is the most honest. It was one of the best experiences of my life, and I would do it again.

Most exciting part: Just meeting people that you would never run into. On my season, I met Tom DeLay and had conversations with him about politics. I also got to hang out with Kelly Osbourne. You meet all these people from different walks of life and you make a lot of friendships.

Burning a lot of calories on the show means: It's physically demanding, but not nearly as physically demanding as swimming and soccer. Her job is to work out, so she will be fine.

Additional advice: It's fun, and it doesn't last very long. Enjoy the entire process. When I got voted off, I was seriously depressed for three or four days. It wasn't a competitive thing. It was just that it was over. I had post-traumatic-being-eliminated-from-dancing disorder. You get to be competitive in something so different than anything you've ever known.

Kenny Mayne, ESPN personality
Season 2: Eliminated first

ABC/Adam Larkey

Kenny Mayne and his partner Andrea Hale

Most challenging style of dance: The cha-cha was rather difficult for me. It's the only one I did. I hate all the other dances equally, though I have never tried them.

The one thing I wish I'd known before the show started: That dancing ability was a requirement.

Biggest piece of advice: Put in more time than I did. Start with something small you can master. They give no credit for ambition, especially Bruno. The bastard.

Most challenging aspect of the show: Being on the show.

Most exciting part: The money helped pay down my house.

Burning a lot of calories on the show means: I didn't last long enough to burn calories. I think I gained weight.

Additional advice: Attempt to win the judges over in a subtle way. They thought incorrectly that I didn't care ... when I did. I made a bad first impression. Hope will win them over right away. I wish her good luck.

Kristi Yamaguchi, Olympic champion figure skater
Season 6: Champion

ABC/Kelsey McNeal

Kristi Yamaguchi and her partner Mark Ballas

Most challenging style of dance: The samba was a tough one for me -- lots of technique that is just too hard to pick up in four days.

The one thing I wish I'd known before the show started: I wasn't prepared for the emotional and mental stress. As the weeks go on, there is so much to learn and remember -- lots of mental stamina required.

Most challenging aspect of the show: Learning how to dance. And then it was being ready for live TV every Monday.

Most exciting part: Learning how to dance. I had an amazing teacher and partner in Mark Ballas.

Burning a lot of calories on the show means: For me, it was everything in moderation as always. As an athlete, I'm sure Hope knows how to gauge what she needs for energy and stamina. I did treat show days like game or competition days as far as diet is concerned.

Biggest piece of advice: The No. 1 thing is to have fun. Be open and go with the flow. If you take it too seriously and get too stressed out, you won't enjoy all it has to offer. Pace yourself, too!

How to become the champion: Stay healthy! Eat well, sleep as much as possible, and, since I work on the Faces of Influenza campaign, I'd say to get your flu shot! You need to be on top of your game and don't want the flu to interfere with your chances of winning.

Also, take the judges comments seriously. They are usually trying to be constructive and appreciate it when they see you trying to apply it. And again, have fun. If you're having fun, the audience will have fun right along with you.

Helio Castroneves, Indy 500 champion racer
Season 5: Champion

AP Photo/AJ Mast

Helio Castroneves and his partner Julianne Hough

Most challenging style of dance: For me, the jive was very physical. That was the toughest one. The rumba was hard also because it was so slow. When you're going slowly, the judges can see the mistakes more easily. But if she makes a mistake, she shouldn't change her facial expression. Just continue on as if nothing happened. No one will know she made a mistake.

The one thing I wish I'd known before the show started: How physical it would be. I thought dancing would be simple. Honestly, it was amazing exercise. I got leaner and lost two pounds. I discovered muscles I didn't know existed.

Most challenging aspect of the show: The one-inch heel I had to use for the Latin dance. I respect the women who have to dance in those six-inch heels. The hours, too. Practice is four hours a day the first three weeks and by the last week, it's up to 10 hours a day.

Most exciting part: The fans. You are in front of 20 to 25 million people every Monday and Tuesday. For me, I thought it was cool to see my friends getting together and having parties and voting. People start telling you, "I love your dance." For me, the fans were awesome. Today, I'm one of the biggest fans of the show.

Burning a lot of calories on the show means: She should drink a lot of water. She should also try to breathe when she's dancing because it's nerve-racking when you get in front of millions of people, but she should just go for it. The athlete mentality will help her block out all the distractions.

Biggest piece of advice: She's going to have the time of her life. Have fun and enjoy it. Don't try and become a pro dancer. Those dancers are born with their talent.

How to become the champion: Follow the advice of her partner.


Hines Ward and his partner Kym Johnson

Hines Ward, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver
Season 12: Champion

Most exciting part of being on the show: The exposure that the television show brought to me. It was something that was totally out of my element, and I wanted to try it out. I don't live life worrying about what people tell me I can and can't do. I just wanted to try it and prove everybody wrong.

Most challenging style of dance: They are all tough. There was never an easy dance. I'd never danced a day in my life, so they were all tough.

Biggest piece of advice: She's paired up with Maks, so she will do well. Maks will push her to her limit. She's an athlete. She will be fine.

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