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.
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.