Cheater Tapes for Flags

| September 27, 2007 | 3 Comments

Many groups add tape markings to their flag poles to assist with uniform hand placement throughout the ensemble.  These tapes are so helpful in cleaning up routines that those new to the idea might exclaim in disbelief, “Hey! That must be cheating!”  Not to worry! “Cheater tapes” are perfectly legal and just may be the tool you need to clean up a messy routine.  This article describes how to determine the placement for your cheaters and gives sample placements used by the author for 5 1/2 through 7 foot flag poles.

Cheater tapes are used to define hand placement on the pole for your performers.  When teaching routine, instructors indicate where the hands should be placed relative to these tape markings.  Students no longer have to “eyeball it” or “guesstimate” when an instructor says, “Place your hand about 6 inches up from the bottom of the pole for this move.” or “The hands should split the pole in thirds for your toss prep.”  Instead, there will be tape markings dividing the pole into smaller chunks allowing the instructor and performers the security of knowing hands are “on the tape” or “splitting the tape” and the entire ensemble will look uniform.

Cheater tapes can be placed anywhere on the pole or even under the silk depending on the preference of the instructor or the demands of the equipment work.  If you know, for example, that you have written a particularly difficult skill which requires all students to hold the pole at a particular point for proper execution, you can add a cheater tape there.  If you know that you use a particular toss repeatedly add a tape mark to help with that as well.  It’s up to you and it’s perfectly okay to determine placement of your cheater tapes in the manner which will be most utilitarian for your purposes for a particular season.  As long as the tapes on every performer’s pole are the same throughout the ensemble, there is no “right” or “wrong.”

The diagram below shows where I usually place cheater tapes on a typical 6-foot practice pole for the purposes of training and fundamentals.  I have found, through browsing the net and talking with other instructors, that this set-up is relatively common for placement of the tapes, though certainly not the only option.  Below the diagram I explain why I choose these measurements.

cheater tapes diagram

* A 6-foot pole is 72″ (I have my students add the cheaters PRIOR to putting on the endcaps)

* My standard practice flag is designed to meet exactly 1/2 way down the pole or at 36″ from the end (this means the flag is actually 35″ down the casing to account for an approximately 1″ endcap at the top).

* The basic vertical toss that I teach my students requires them to “split the pole into thirds” for hand placement.  Dividing 72″ into thirds places my cheater for tosses at 24″ up from the bottom of the pole.  You can also add a cheater under the silk at 24″ down from the top of the pole (thanks to one of our readers for this anonymous tip!).  I have my teams use seamed practice flags (see our article on Trainer Flags for more information) which has a seam 1/3 into the silk for a quick visual for both students and staff.

* I then place another cheater halfway beween the top cheater and the bottom endcap.  This divides the bottom portion of the pole into thirds as well.  I often use this cheater for extensions, money hands grips, some variations of stirs or parallel tossing and many other skills.  I often ask my students to “split the tapes” (or place their hands between these two tapes) for other skills.  This combination gives me a nice set of reference points.

For poles of other lengths, following the reasoning above, tapes would be placed at the following measurements:

For 5 1/2 foot poles:

Total Length = 66″, Tab of silk at 33″,  Thirds (top cheater) at 22″ from end, Bottom Cheater at 11″ from bottom.

For 6 1/2 foot poles:

Total Length = 78″, Tab of silk at 39″, Thirds (top cheater) at 26″ from either end, Bottom Cheater at 13″ from bottom.

For 7 foot poles:

Total Length = 84″, Tab of Silk at 42″, Thirds (top cheater) at 28″, Bottom Cheater at 14″ from bottom.

For show flags, Darrick Betro of Perry Meridian HS in his article “Finishing Touches” suggests it may be a good choice, aesthetically, to make the cheater tapes the same color as your pole.  The performers will still be able to see and feel them, but they will be hidden from the audience and judges.  Betro also offers an alternative for placement of the tapes which he prefers with the oversized flags many of his groups utilize.  Instead of dividing the entire pole into thirds, he often chooses to measure the placement of the cheaters only on the exposed pole.  He measures from the tab to the end of the pole and splits that area into thirds to get his reference points.

If you are already using cheater tapes consider sharing your preferences below this article by leaving a comment.  If you aren’t yet using cheater tapes, give it a try!  You can start with the suggestions described here and then alter them to fit your specific needs as you get more comfortable with referring to them.  You will be surprised how much easier these additional reference points make cleaning routines!

Special Thanks to Darrick Betro of Perry Meridian High School and Center Grove High School for his contributions to this article.



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Category: "DIY", Equipment Management/Logistics, Equipment Technique, Instruction, Teaching/Cleaning Routines

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 (3)

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  1. David Wilson says:

    We do the four markings as above, but we put a single thin rubber band (the kind you buy by the bag for braiding hair) under the cheater tape. It makes it really easy to ‘feel’ the mark with the raised center seam on each cheater. We also match them to pole color, so that simply adds another reference point.

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