Our Non-Competitive Winter Guard – Another Alternative

| November 29, 2012 | 6 Comments

With the strained economy, many schools, families, and yes, band programs, are tightening budgets.  Winter Guard is a popular activity in the larger schools in Ohio. However, the program I took over 6 years ago is part of a smaller school with a smaller budget and winter guard is an activity that is largely unknown in our community.

​When I first took over, the key was to rebuild the Guard program from the ground up.  After two years of successful fall seasons the next logical step was to start a winter program. After looking deep into the funding that is required for a successful competitive Winter Guard I came to the conclusion that interest was slim and money was even slimmer. I had to come up with another idea to continue the growth in our program.

School Spirit and Fundraising

I began with making it a student funded activity. I decided to keep the girls I currently had in Fall Guard on through Winter and we would be a new type of spirit organization for the high school. We would perform at basketball games and facilitate a bake sale at each game to raise money for new equipment.

We started practices the last week of November (giving the kids some time between State Finals and Winter Guard to rest and rejuvenate). We practiced three times a week and came up with a routine that consisted of flag, hip hop dance and some tricks for the crowd to “ooooo & awww” at.  It was well received by the audience and was a really positive experience for students and families. The cost was virtually free because we used our uniforms from fall guard and flags we already had in our closet.

After two very successful seasons with our non-competitive Winter Guard, I wanted to find ways to make our numbers grow. We were sitting at about 9-10 girls each year and numbers just weren’t sufficient for our competitive fall season. I wanted to use Winter Guard as a tool for recruitment.

Stepping it Up for Recruitment

In the fall of 2011, I decided to eliminate tryouts and add 8th graders to the Winter Guard. With this being non-competitive, I saw no reason why we needed to hold auditions.  The key was to make it fun for the new members. We put up flyers all over the high school and middle school stating “no experience necessary”. We made announcements at both the high school and middle school each day for a week and a half. This was enough to double our numbers.

With double the numbers we now needed double the uniforms so we had to charge a participation fee.  I ordered through Dancewear Solutions (very affordable) and we purchased some black capris, a cute “hip hop” tank top and a black flat bill hat. The girls could wear whatever tennis shoes they wanted and most borrowed practice flags that we had available. The total cost per member came to around $70 per person. We performed at 5 basketball games and also raised $1,000 in funds from the bake sales which went toward equipment for our fall season.

Seeing the Results

Fifteen members continued to Fall Marching Season.  With the boost in numbers and the additional off-season training we saw great improvements on the field.  We received Best Auxiliary in our class at all our competitions this year. We also surpassed our best overall score twice, received Top Guard at one of the competitions (beating out schools quadruple our size) and finished out the season with two superior ratings (the highest rating you can get in the OMEA circuit).

Winter Guard is a great tool for any school. Whether you are competitive or not, students are always looking for outlets to keep busy and be involved, and the opportunity for off-season training pays off when fall season comes back around.  The key is to keep them interested and not burn them out.  Our version of Winter Guard is a fun and cost-effective alternative that works great for us and might be an option for programs that aren’t yet able or ready to make the leap into a competitive winter season.

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Category: Administrative, Fundraising/Budgets, Instruction, Non-Competitive Performances, Performance, Professional Development, Professional Development, Recruitment/Auditions, Team Management, Teambuilding

About the Author (Author Profile)

Britt Tisdale has been working with Liberty Union High School in Baltimore, Ohio for the past 6 years, coaching Color Guard and Winter Guard, as well as directing musicals for the school. Britt has been involved with Color Guard for over 10 years. On top of coaching and choreography for the guard program at Liberty Union, Britt works full time for Hilton Hotels and Resorts as an Executive Meetings Manager. Working days as a Meeting Planner and evenings and weekends with music students. Music has always been a passion of hers.

Comments (6)

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  1. Sue Cechal says:

    YES! Thank you, not all of us can afford winter guard competition. Our school also does basketball games–first one tomorrow. It is a great performance opportunity that improves confidence and doesn’t allow the guard to “hide” behind the tuba player. The basketball crowd enjoys it, the administrators appreciate another opportunity to showcase kids. Our guard also perform to the live band, which differentiates them from our dance squad (thank heavens!)

  2. olatutu akinyelure says:

    I like the information u shared. my daughter is 5 and in a neighbor hood drum/drill corp. she just started learning majorette stuff. I encourage her to march cause i marched. so now im coaching her corps color guard. we are growing too. just need to get more organized and get the girls more training.

  3. Emma says:

    I really like what you did with incorporating 8th graders. I am in a similar situation this being my first year coaching at a small private school. For marching season I had only four students! As of right now I am 2 weeks into the Winterguard season and have been given the disappointing news that because 2 of my students will be unable to participate I will have to rethink my entire season. I am hoping to find more encouraging posts like this to figure out what to do next.

  4. eatsleepspineverything says:

    I love this site! Great posts that are very helpful. Another great idea for a non-competitive guard is to do a school sponsored showcase. As an instructor of a guard from a school with very little funds, performing your full show and some solos and duets for an audience can be a ton of fun for the kids. Charging a five dollar admission brings in a little bit of money too (anything helps, right?). Just put up flyers all over the school and make sure all the band and guard parents know about it.

  5. S. Harris says:

    I love this article. Very informative and reinforcement for what we are trying to build at our school. The one problem is I am not a colorguard or dance teacher. I took on the task because we did not have anyone else nor do we have the money. It is going well but as well as we would like. We are trying to build momentum and keep the students we already do have. Any tips for choreographing?

    • One tip that jumps to mind would be to plan out your routines – have you seen our article on music mapping? Search “Music Map” on this website. Then determine through mapping out your counts what the “feature” moments will be. Make that choreography the most interesting and challenging. One “mistake” new instructors tend to make it that they want EVERY count to be difficult or complex… but then beginner students may become overwhelmed trying to learn it all and instructors overwhelmed trying to clean it all. Instead, choreograph feature moments with more complexity, interest and layers and traveling or “in-between” moments can be less complex and easier to clean/learn. That’s a good place to start. If you have no dance/colorguard experience you might consider reaching out to try to find a choreographer to work with and learn along side that person. If that’s not an option then involving the students in choreography with your oversight/direction may be a great way to develop their skills as well as provide them a sense of ownership. Best of luck!

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