Derek Hough might be a two-time Emmy-winning pro dancer, but he didn’t always feel like a professional. 

Hough joined Dancing With the Stars as a guest instructor in season 4 before officially joining the cast in season 5. In a new interview for the podcast Whine Down With Jana Kramer, the 36-year-old performer admits to struggling when first starting out on the show. 

“In my earlier seasons I was nervous, you know, and I was uncertain. I was kind of faking it, to be honest with you,” Hough said. “I wasn’t really a teacher or choreographer. People used to say, ‘Oh, you’re a good choreographer,’ but I never really looked at myself in that way. That made me fearful and afraid.” 

Kramer, who competed as a contestant on season 23 of the show, asked Hough if there were any contestants he wished had gotten out of their heads to deliver a better performance. 

“I definitely would get more frustrated easier in my earlier seasons. For me, it’s not so much that I look back at my partners…. I think, ‘Man, I wish I knew then what I know now.’ And how I shifted my approach to teaching and coaching and I probably could have gotten more out of them with a better teaching approach,” he explained. 

Hough competed as a DWTS pro on 17 seasons of the hit ABC dancing competition and has won the mirrorball trophy six times. He’s now serving as a judge on DWTS.

In April, he opened up to ET about his plans for season 30.

“I want to be like, ‘Hey, this would have been great, but work on this little element. And this way it will change your whole performance,’ you know?” he said of his judging style. “Because that’s the thing — it’s the little changes that make big shifts. I always try to get that out there, because I really want them to do well. I’m always rooting for them. I’m rooting for everybody. I want everybody to go out there and do great.”

The new season of Dancing With the Stars will premiere Sept. 20 on ABC.

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