Creating a Season Handbook

| October 27, 2010 | 3 Comments

Each year I provide my students and parents with a team handbook that is an all-in-one, everything-you’d-ever-want-to-know resource for our team.  I thought it might be helpful to share what I include in my team handbook for those who are putting together their first handbooks this season, or for those looking to revamp an outdated version.

Why Create a Season Handbook?

  • All of the information parents/students need is in one handbook rather than dozens of forms or emails.
  • It’s easy to add to and update from year to year. No more searching for multiple handouts on your hard drive.  It’s all in one place.
  • Parents will appreciate and be impressed by your organizational skills, instilling even more confidence in you as a coach.
  • You will no longer have to answer the same questions year after year because you can include a section of frequently-asked-questions or a section on your competition circuit and judging in your handbook.
  • You can use a section on past accomplishments, achievements and show themes to provide a sense of “history” and consistency from one season to the next.

Formatting – Table of Contents

I think one of the most important tools in creating your handbook is a table of contents.  My handbook grew to over 20 pages in just a few years, not including the additional forms required by the school.  Some parents will sit and read the handbook cover to cover; these types of parents will love you and what they have learned about the team.

However, other parents will not want to read a 20-page handbook.  These parents will appreciate the table of contents and the time you will save them as they search for the specific information they need.  The table of contents will also help you to use the handbook during information meetings to quickly point meeting participants to the information you want to highlight.

In Microsoft Word you can easily add a table of contents which will format itself with page numbers as you build your document.  Look under “Insert: Index and Tables.”

My Handbook Headings

The sections I have in my season handbook are as follows:

A Letter from the Director (which I update every year)


  • What is Winter Guard
  • The History of Winter Guard at our school (I add a photo and paragraph about each season to each new year’s handbook).
  • Staff Bios

This Year’s Show

Team Selection/Auditions

Attendance Code


  • What to Expect at Rehearsals
  • Dress Code
  • Rules for Safety



  • Email
  • Our Webpage
  • Our Competition Circuit Webpage
  • Telephone

Membership Fees/Expenses and Fundraising

  • Championships Trip
  • Fundraising


  • This Year’s Performance Schedule
  • The Competition Circuits (AIA and WGI)
  • Judging
  • Students: What to Bring
  • Competition Day Procedures/Timeline
  • Field Trip conduct and Expectations
  • Competition Details for Parents

Just for Parents

  • Help Wanted!
  • The Parent’s Meeting
  • The Band Booster Organization
  • Supporting your Child at Performances

Frequently-Asked Questions

Required Forms/Documents

  • Commitment Form
  • Schedule Conflict Form (usually part of the Commitment Form)
  • Medical Form (required by school)
  • Field Trip Permission/Transportation Form (required by school)
  • Emergency Card (required by school)

Notes on a Few Sections

Communication – Our Competition Circuit Webpage:

I added this information because I had parents emailing individually every week asking what the competition schedule was.  Our schedules are always posted publicly on our circuit website so directing them to the circuit website saved me a lot of time in answering individual emails regarding when we go to warm-up, when we perform, when other favorite groups are scheduled to perform, etc.

Membership Fees/Expenses and Fundraising:

I am very detailed about fees and expenses.  When I began coaching I had a trusted parent explain that when hidden expenses crop up (like – “Oh! You guys need to buy black socks before next rehearsal!”) that parents start to feel nickel-and-dimed.  She recommended I present fees and all incidentals at the beginning of the season to head off resentment; I found that to be great advice.  I now include the fee and payment schedule, trip expenses and incidentals (which families are responsible for on their own – gloves, rehearsal attire, money for food at competitions, special undergarments, hair pieces, etc.).

Competitions and Performances: The Competition Circuit and Judging

These two subsections could be left out… but after my first four seasons of coaching winter guard I added them because I found that it is such a different experience from fall that parents were having a difficult time understanding the structure, classification and especially judging.  There were so many times where a parent would come out after a performance saying “You guys won!  I’m sure!!  No one dropped at all!” or something similar and I would realize I hadn’t fully educated them on how winter is adjudicated.  This led to frustration and disappointment among both parents and students when the results didn’t turn out they way they expected.

As a result, I have a full section explaining the structure of winter guard and the relationship between local circuits and WGI, as well as classifications.  I also have a full section on judging, explaining the five-judge system our circuit uses, what each caption generally looks at, the progression of scores throughout a season and how errors impact the overall scoring.  I usually only go over this at a parent volunteer meeting – not during our initial interest meeting.  I do explain judging to the students in great detail before our first show – going over sheets with them and expected scoring ranges for the beginning part of the season.

Competition Details for Parents

In this section I cover details like standard admission prices for competitions, policies for parents/siblings riding the school bus, procedures for taking a student home early from a competition, the length of a typical competition day and circuit video/photography policies.

Frequently-Asked Questions

My frequently-asked questions are:

  • Can I videotape the performances?
  • Why don’t we just buy the flags instead of make them?
  • Why aren’t we wearing school colors?
  • Are there other winter guards in our county?
  • What is the purpose of the floor cover?
  • Who do I write the check to?  (this is a BIG one…lol)
  • Where can I buy my own flag, saber or rifle?
  • Can I do winter guard and another sport?
  • What if I need to miss a competition?

You can probably tell from this article and this website that I’m a little wordy…  My handbook is long but that doesn’t mean yours needs to be.  There are sections you can skip and probably sections that could be combined.  I’m quite sure most people could cover what takes me 1 page to write in 1 paragraph…

But the important point is that creating a team handbook will help keep you organized.  It will serve as an important tool for new parents.  It will save you time in subsequent years in keeping track of important information and team documents.  And it will make a great first impression on new parents showing them you are organized, thoughtful and professional.  It’s a big task to put together the first year – but well will save you time in years to come.

I hope that sharing what I include in mine will make it easier for those of you creating your first team handbook this season!  If you already have a handbook and include something I’ve neglected please share it with our community!  Send your ideas to our team, and we’ll add it here or leave your ideas in the comments below.  Thanks for sharing!


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Category: Administrative, 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 (3)

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  1. Erik says:

    Great Article

  2. Mike says:

    It’s funny – I’ve been sitting here working on this exact same thing – I’ve only gotten thorough (what I think will be) my table of contents – thanks for the tips!

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