10 Ideas for Recruitment: Scholastic Color Guards

| January 30, 2007 | 1 Comment

recruitment poster 1

Recruiting new performers can be one of the toughest challenges facing a color guard program.  Whether the program is well-established or brand new, instructors and student leaders must find ways to get the word out about auditions, educate prospective performers about the activity and build a strong foundation of members.  While some programs are lucky enough to have dozens of kids audition each season with enough talent to populate two nationally competitive units, most of us struggle for just a few more kids to join us each year.  Many instructors think of recruitment as something that occurs over a 2 – 3 week time frame before the start of each season.  The truth is, you can do things throughout the year to recruit new members and create awareness for your team.  This article lists 10 ideas for stepping up your recruitment efforts this year!

1.  Establish a Postive Team Image

The most important aspect of any recruitment effort seems to have very little to do with recruitment on the surface, but the work you do to build your team every day creates the team identity and personality that will either attract or scare away potential newcomers!  Every decision you make from the uniforms and music you choose to your rehearsal schedule to how you handle training, discipline and student leadership will shape your team image.  Potential members will be looking at all of these factors when trying to decide if your team is a good fit for them.  The way your current members and staff conduct themselves and behave outside of rehearsal will also have an impact on whether non-members will want to join this peer group.  Working towards establishing a positive team image throughout the school will be the fundamental way that you will attract new members.  Instill in your current membership a sense of respect for others.  Let them know that they are representing the team at all times – even when not in uniform.  Create a rehearsal environment that is supportive and positive, which allows for growth, development and a sense of family, but which does not rely on yelling as a primary method of motivation.  Publicize successes throughout the school.  Make sure that the current performers are proud of their team.  They will be your best asset for recruitment!  Recruitment begins LONG before the auditions are announced!  And nothing is better for recruitment efforts than happy members!

 2.  Attention-Getting Recruitment Posters!

Your recruitment posters may be the primary way that you will get the word out about the actual audition dates.  Unfortunately, most school hallways are littered with dozens of posters taped to the walls announcing tryouts for teams or campaigns for student leaders.  Students quickly learn to ignore them!  In order to draw attention, your posters need to have something different!

Consider making the posters an interesting shape or size.  Make sure they look professional, rather than scribbled with marker.  Make them colorful and don’t include TOO much information, just enough to get them into the information meeting.  Below are examples of posters used at a Northern Virginia High School which showed a great improvement over past posters in terms of effectiveness.  This particular school requires that the vice principal approves all posters and that they are only allowed to hang a maximum of 20 posters throughout the school, so they have to make sure that the posters they hang draw attention!  They usually choose about 4 or 5 photos from past seasons and make a variety of posters by enlarging the photos to a legal size piece of paper and using it as the background for the audition information.  In this way, potential newcomers can see performers in action, the paper is larger than most of the posters hung by other organizations and the color photo draws attention.

Purple Flag Poster


tommy poster

Some great places to hang flyers:

Above Water Fountains

Gym Locker Rooms

The Lunchroom (especially on walls kids see as they are waiting in line)

On team-members’ lockers

3.  School & Community Performances

Of course, an important part of the recruitment effort is educating potential members about the activity.  Many students have never heard of winter guard or color guard which is an added challenge compared to more well-known activities like cheerleading, dance team or volleyball.  Nothing serves to better introduce a new student to winter guard or fall color guard than a live performance.  If you have the opportunity, try to arrange a performance at the feeder middle school(s).  If that is out of the question, consider hosting a competition at the high school or even just having a home performance (perhaps coupled with a reception) and heavily publicize the event in both the high school and feeder schools.  If you can get younger students into the stands, chances are, they’ll be impressed!  Even better, they might talk about it with their friends who didn’t attend and you might end up with a LOT of new performers!  Also, have information available about auditions or camps during the exhibition or competition, perhaps as part of the printed program.

 4. Lunchroom Videos and Personal Invitations

If you don’t have an opportunity to do a live performance for the students at the school (either the high school OR middle school you are recruiting from) it is not a bad idea to set up an information table with a videotaped performance during lunches.  Have flyers to hand out and consider using a few current performers to walk around the cafeteria, hand out flyers and direct attention to the video.

If you are a teacher at the school you have an added advantage because you already have students outside of the color guard program who know you and like you (presumably!).  Nothing is more effective a recruiting tool than personally asking someone to consider trying out.  Coming from you or from a current team member, the personal invitation to audition is sure to bring in more members than any other effort!

 5. Utilizing School Publications and The Morning Announcements

You can utilize various school publications and the morning announcements at your school throughout the year to create awareness about your team, their accomplishments and audition dates.

Yearbook: Talk with the yearbook teacher to make sure that winter guard and fall color guard photos are included in the yearbook.  You may even be able to negotiate a full spread depending on how established your team is.

School Newspaper: Talk with the school newspaper advisor to see if they might be interested in printing an article about your team or some of its members.  They are often looking for ideas for interesting stories.

School Newsletters: Many schools send home a school newsletter each month either through the school or through the Parent-Teacher Association.  Find out what the deadlines for article submission are and make sure to submit your team’s achievements as well as audition dates, times and locations.  Many parents read these newsletters and may mention it to their children.  Also, in many areas the middle school will allow high school activities to submit announcements through their newsletter as well.  Look into whether your feeder schools have a newsletter.  Get the word out to the middle school community!

P.A. Announcement System: Every time your team experiences success have it announced on the school announcements to create awareness for the existence and success of the team (and it also makes your current performers feel really great!).  Also, make sure to start making daily announcements about auditions at least one week prior to the information meeting if your school will allow.  If your school has video announcements contact the teacher in charge and find out if you can submit a video clib of a performance.  This would REALLY draw attention!  If you’re recruiting from a middle school don’t forget to contact them about making announcements for you as well!

 6. Websites

Websites are becoming more and more mainstream in schools across the nation and many school systems are making great strides in creating websites that teachers can edit themselves.  Check with your school to see if they have a webpage you can use for your team.  In Loudoun County, Virginia each school has it’s own website and each teacher gets rights to edit their own page.  Coaches there only have to sit through a very quick training session (and get permission through their own school principal) in order to create a team webpage.

Other schools don’t yet have this sort of technology but there are many places you can go on the web to create a low-cost or even free webpage for your team.  Just make sure to check with the school administration first about any existing policies they have.  Many schools have strict guidelines about posting photos or student names or about creating “unofficial” school webpages.  It’s best to make sure you aren’t overstepping any boundaries.

 7. Classroom Presentations & Special Recruitment Events

Another way to get the word out is to target a few subject classrooms (such as PE, Chorus or Art) and ask those teachers if they can spare 10 minutes during one class period for you (or a student leader) to come in, show a video of a performance, hand out your flyer and allow for a few questions.  If the teacher has more time available you could also take along a few pieces of equipment that students could see up close.  Often, many of the students outside of the band program don’t even know the activity exists. 

Several of the marching bands in Loudoun County, Virginia also host what they call “8th grade night” at one of their home football games.  They coordinate this with the middle school band director.  Essentially, the 8th graders learn one marching band tune during their band class.  Then they come over as a group field trip to participate in game festivities.  Usually there is a combined pizza dinner where middle-schoolers have a chance to meet the high-schoolers for their particular instrument.  Then there is a quick lesson on how to do a simple marching step.  The 8th graders march into the stadium with the high-schoolers and perform the National Anthem.  Then they sit with their section in the stands to play pep tunes AND get to know the high school kids.  Finally, at the end of the high school halftime performance the 8th graders join them on the field for a stand-still performance of the tune they have been practicing.  The color guard can also recruit during this type of event if the middle school will allow a few after-school seminars prior to the evening.

Discuss with the middle or high school band director whether it might be possible to take some 8th graders along on a field trip to see a competition.  If you can find a teacher sponsor at the middle school this might be an amazing recruitment opportunity!

8. The Information Meeting

It can be very beneficial to hold an information meeting prior to the official start of auditions (if you are holding an audition).  Students who aren’t sure if they are up to the challenge are more likely to attend a sit-down information meeting than to jump right into a situation where they will have to hold equipment and might “mess up.”  The information meeting is a safe place for these more nervous individuals where they can meet the older students and the staff – see that your staff aren’t “too scary,” and watch a video performance or student demonstration.  You can also hand out scheduling information and outline your expectations so that you don’t end up with students joining the team and then quitting several weeks in when they realize it was more commitment than they thought.  Consider holding this meeting in the evening so that parents can attend if your team requires a great deal of parent volunteerism or support.  Also, this meeting allows you to hand out medical forms so that they can be handed in the first day of auditions “just in case!”

9. Hands-On Clinic

Once you have established the date that you MUST begin your season, consider scheduling 3 to 5 hands-on clinics or “open gym” dates where prospective members can come and try out the activity without having to make a commitment.  Often, it isn’t until they have equipment in their hand that they realize, “Hey!  I CAN do this!  And it’s kinda fun!”  Keep these clinics upbeat and fun – but make sure they are similar enough to your normal rehearsal style that kids aren’t surprised when actual rehearsals begin (for example…don’t make the clinics totally informal and fun if you run a very serious and focused ship during regular season…balance it out).

A school in North Carolina holds an all-day color guard clinic once a year as a fundraiser and recruitment tool.  They actually invite students as young as 3rd grade to attend the event! Several schools in Virginia joined together to create a one-week summer basics camp which they also open to rising 7th and 8th graders as another way of allowing new performers to try out the activity before they get to the time where they have to make the commitment.

10. Scheduling

One final thing to consider if you are having trouble recruiting new members is to examine why they are not signing up.  If you have done everything above, you have a successful team with a positive image, you put out the word – but you just don’t have the numbers, perhaps it’s a scheduling problem.  Try to figure out if there is another way to arrange your rehearsal schedule which might allow more students to participate.  If you held rehearsals in the mornings before school so that kids could also participate in after school sports or drama would that help you get some initial numbers to establish the team?  Consider moving rehearsals to only after-school rehearsals, or only evening rehearsals.  Perhaps decrease the number of rehearsal hours per week (within reason).  It’s something to definitely consider if recruitment is your main goal and you’ve tried everything else!

Ultimately, recruitment is part of any team activity.  Without members we simply do not exist!  But if you start to look at recruitment as an integrated part of your program rather than a 2 – 3 week yearly task, not only will you start to find it easier to get new members but you will build a stronger and more solid team through your efforts at building your team identity and positive team image throughout the community.  Best of Luck!





Category: Recruitment/Auditions, Team Management

About the Author (Author Profile)

Catina Anderson is the founder/editor of the Colorguard Educators blog. Color guard has been part of her life for almost 25 years. She began coaching in 1994 and worked with the Broad Run High School color guard in Northern VA from 1998 until 2010. She has also written for Halftime Magazine and served on the Executive Board of the Atlantic Indoor Association. A former teacher, she enjoys sharing what she has learned and hopes to encourage others to share as well. Together we can create even more positive experiences for performers and help to collectively strengthen marching arts activities worldwide.

Comments (1)

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  1. Amber Benway says:

    Thank you for this advice! This really helped. I have the honor of being captain next year and I needed ideas to get others involved. :)

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