Practice Flags: The TRAINER Series

| February 6, 2007 | 1 Comment

For years, performing ensembles have utilized “cheater” tapes on poles to assist performers with uniform hand-placement for training basic skills and cleaning routines.  These points of reference are invaluable to developing a clean, uniform appearance.

Why not use this same concept in creating your practice silks?  The TRAINER series practice flag is designed so that instructors can use the carefully placed seams to help students recognize proper hand-placement “in-the-silk” for skills such as drop stops and vertical tosses.  I came up with the idea of adding seams to my practice flags to help my beginner performers so that they no longer have to “eyeball” where to place their hand when I give them a reference point such as “half-way up the silk” or “split the pole into thirds.”  With a seam to mark proper placement, repetition is more consistent and muscle memory of correct hand-placement occurs faster.  The performer is able to take on more individual responsibility for checking their own hand-placement and will need to rely less on the “eye” of the instructor to insure they are correct.  It also makes a quick scan of the group even faster in checking for uniformity of hand placement during fundamentals block.

The diagrams in this article show the basic construction of this type of practice flag as well as several options for the use of color.


The diagram below shows the basic design of the flag indicating the purpose and placement for each of the seams on the finished silk.  There is a seam 1/3 of the way from the top of the pole which helps “split the pole into thirds” for skills such as a basic vertical toss.  Another seam is placed half-way up the silk for drop stops and other moves that call for hand placement which bisects the silk.  The finished dimensions of this practice flag are set at 35″ x 47″ which is appropriate for a 6-foot pole and accounts for the 1″ pole cap so that the silk, if taped on correctly, should end at exactly half-way down the pole.  The diagram also shows common placement for cheater tape on the pole.  I often have my students tape one in white and one in black for faster identification.

basic design of the trainer practice flag

The next three illustrations show options for the use of color in your practice flags.  Some instructors prefer a single, traditional solid color flag.  For this flag you can simply add seams to the silk which will blend in and probably not be seen from a distance – but will still allow students to check their own hand placement.  Other options include using color both to provide ease of reference in instructional situations as well as the possibility of having the practice flag double as a “school-colors” parade flag.  Finally, you could use this same concept in designing your show flags as well!  Simply draw out a design that involves seam placement at 1/3 and 1/2 way up the silk on the casing edge of the flag and go crazy with all the options available for making the design fit your show!  I’ve used these practice flags at two schools this past fall and winter and I have been extremely happy with the results – especially with the shift in responsibility from myself to the performer in checking hand-placement and the ease at which I can quickly glance down the line and see that everyone has got it!

(*note – when constructing these the casing needs to be reinforced (interfacing works well) in order to avoid problems with fraying at the seams due to stress placed on the seams by the repetitive nature of fundamentals rehearsals)

one color trainer flag

2 color trainer flag

3 color trainer flag

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Category: "DIY"

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.

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