Scheduling Your Season and Creating Your Master Calendar

| May 29, 2007 | 1 Comment

This article contains tips, suggestions and organizational tools to help you create a yearly calendar both for your students and as a planning tool to help you organize the multitude of tasks coaches must complete.

Here’s what you will find.

  • The first section guides you through gathering all the important non-guard dates which might coincide with your schedule to help you establish a basic calendar and avoid as many major conflicts as possible.
  • The next section asks you to answer a variety of questions related to school rules and procedures which will help you in determining organizational deadlines, such as when field trip forms must be submitted for approval, as well as whether certain events or activities have school-mandated approval processes and timelines (i.e. how far in advance rooms/gyms must be reserved).
  • The third section discusses a variety of guard-related decisions that must be made including some you may not have thought about.
  • The final tool is a “check-list” of possible color guard events or coaching “to-do” items to help make sure nothing important is overlooked.

Establishing Your Base Calendar

The number one suggestion from experienced coaches regarding scheduling is to sit down before developing your season schedule and pencil in all of the other school-related dates which might impact your season in order to avoid as many major conflicts as possible.  Here is what two experienced coaches have to say:

“The most valuable lesson I learned when making the yearly calendar is to check the school board calendar FIRST.  Get all the days off for vacations, testing schedule, play dates, sport dates, dance dates etc.  It saves a ton of time in rescheduling when the kids come to you and say “We have finals this week and need to study.” or “A Whole group of us want to go see the play.” etc.  I work my schedule as best I can around what the school has planned first.  It just saves aggravation in the long run.”

-Liz Martin, Arundel High School Color Guards , Gambrills, Md

“When I taught McLean [H.S.] I would actually sit down with the academic calendar, the sports calendar, the performing arts calendar (luckily they combined orchestra, theater, dance & band for me).  I also kept in mind any activities any of the members were in (if possible) and I also wrote in which Jewish holidays to remember.  That wouldn’t necessarily mean I wouldn’t schedule a conflict, but at least then I know of conflicts in advance since many of my students weren’t always the best about giving much advanced notice.”

-Mary Ann Licamele, Former Director at McLean HS, McLean VA, current Assistant Director of the Act One Color Guard , Herndon, VA

This section will guide you towards finding the many, many dates that can impact a color guard season and to establishing a base calendar from which to begin building your master calendar.

STEP 1:  Find out all the major school, band and other fine arts events that are already scheduled so that you can avoid overlap.  Pencil them in on your blank calendar so that you will be aware of any major conflicts when setting your guard schedule.  These dates may include:

– Teacher Workdays prior to school

– Religious Holidays

– Any official student holidays from school (usually school calendars can be found at the school board or individual school website and they are often set quite far in advance).

– The Athletic Calendar

– The football game schedule (for fall)

– Try-outs Schedule (for both seasons)

– The Basketball game schedule (for winter)

– Pep Rallies (either in-school or after-school)

– Homecoming (Game/Parade/Dance)

– Other Homecoming Festivities

– Is there a spirit week your kids may be involved in?

– Are there “dress-up” days you may want your students to participate in?

– Will students need to miss rehearsals this week for class events?

– Awards Assemblies held in the Evening (honor rolls nights, honor society inductions etc.)

– SAT testing days (you’ll want to make sure there is at least one available if you have sophomores or older on your team and be direct with students EARLY on about which SAT they need to sign up for if they plan on taking one so that they can avoid a conflict).

– Band and Chorus Concerts (including honor bands)

– Band and Chorus Honor Ensemble Audition Days

– School Theatre Performance Dates and Audition Dates

– Spring Break

– The last day of school

– Midterm, Finals and Standardized Testing Dates

– Report Card Dates/End of Quarter Dates (these are times when kids might have big projects due or lots of tests/stress!)

– The Marching Band Season Calendar (as set forth by the band director)

– Band Events such as awards assemblies and fundraisers

– When does the activity bus leave if your school offers this service

– Middle School Commencement Activities

– 8th grade open house days where 8th graders might visit the high school (if your school offers this)

– Any dates or opportunities when you may be able to perform at the school (assemblies, basketball games, pep rallies, or fine arts events).

– Band Booster Meetings (if you have a booster program)

– Newsletter Deadlines (for announcing auditions or accomplishments) for both the high school and middle school

– If you are looking as far ahead as setting audition dates in the spring you’ll need to know whether your dates conflict with any 8th grade events at the middle school like spring concerts, class trips or commencement activities.

– Any major school dances, assemblies or events that might conflict with your season.

STEP 2: Your Personal Schedule

Now go through your own personal schedule and black out times and dates that will not work for you personally.

STEP 3: Tentatively Blocking Out Dates

Finally, go through the calendar and look at the dates you have gathered.  Consider whether there are any events that you know many students will be participating in or that many students will want to attend and decide whether you can give up those dates in advance (for example…if the school musical is running for four nights, can you block off at least one night that your students could attend if they wish, or can you give up rehearsal dates near the end of a quarter when students may have greater academic pressures or move rehearsals during those weeks to a Friday or Saturday when students won’t have to worry about homework?  If your school has a particularly large charity event (such as the Relay for Life) can you take that weekend off of rehearsal and perhaps encourage your students to get involved in other aspects of their school as a team-building effort?).  These types of date blackouts are completely up to the instructor’s discretion.  However, at least looking through the calendar with this type of focus may help to bring to mind possible conflicts that you may not have already anticipated.


A Few Questions to Answer

Find out school regulations regarding scheduling.

1.  Are there any rules for after-school practices held during or before midterms, finals or standardized testing dates?  (for example, in one VA school district you can not have any practices longer than 1-hour in length during midterms week).

2.  Are there any rules for holding rehearsals prior to the start of the school year?

3.  Are there any restrictions to what types of staff members must be present at rehearsals (for example, at one school I worked for, contractual band staff could not lead rehearsals unless an official county employee (i.e. the band director or guard sponsor) was present.

4.  Are there any restrictions to the dates, days of the week or number of hours during which you can hold practices?  (some states limit the number of hours that students can practice per week in sports or other extra-curricular activities).

5.  How far in advance do you have to submit permission forms for field trips or transportation requests?

6.  What is the procedure (who do you go to) for permission to use facilities (such as the gym or band room for rehearsal) and how far in advance does this need to be done?

7.  Are there any other activities that a large number of your students participate in that you will need to work around and what are they?  (for example, at some schools many of the winter guard performers are also in band or chorus so we have to make sure not to schedule a competition which conflicts with a music department event or we will be missing performers.  There have also been certain years where I have had a large number of students active in their church youth groups which mostly met on Wednesday evenings so I had to avoid rehearsals on those nights).

Determine Color Guard Dates and Deadlines

1.  AUDITIONS: For the majority of programs, the start of the winter guard season is somewhere in the beginning to mid-November or early December following the completion of the fall marching band season.  Many schools hold auditions (or sign-ups) for winter guard near the end of the fall marching band season (or after its completion).  A few have commitment dates earlier in the year or in the summer with “camp” rehearsals sprinkled in the midst of the marching season on “off” days.  Still others have winter guard as mandatory for all those involved in the fall program.  Most fall guards have auditions some time during the spring prior to the fall season (usually in April – June of that year) to allow for time to write drill.

At any rate, the earlier you can hold auditions, the sooner you can begin ordering uniforms and equipment, finalizing the budget, reserving hotel rooms (if necessary) and writing drill – even if you can’t begin holding regular practices immediately.  Depending on the show design, certain aspects of design are easier with more advanced notice including getting the drill written, ordering custom-made costumes (which can take 12 weeks) and sewing flags if you choose to sew your own.

When you choose a date it is important to try to schedule the auditions and clinics around other activities that might pose a scheduling conflict for students and reduce the number of potential performers that might attend.  Try to avoid conflicts with marching band practice, band, chorus, drama and awards events, athletic practices and any standardized testing or exam schedules for which students may need study time and may not be allowed to attend after-school activities.  If you are holding winter guard auditions early in the year but want to allow for students participating in fall sports and activites to auditions (many students participate in fall sports but not winter or spring sports) you may consider having the audition and clinics in the evening so that they won’t have to miss a practice or meeting for their current activity.  Many sports teams have attendance policies that would prohibit students from missing a practice to audition for your team even though the bulk of the seasons don’t overlap.  If you need to order costumes make sure to have auditions at least 14 – 16 weeks prior to your first scheduled competition to make sure you have time for taking measurements, placing orders and altering costumes upon arrival.

2.  AWARDS DINNERS: Consider giving yourself a minimum of 2 weeks between the end of a season and the awards dinner to allow for time to pull together any student awards, parent volunteer gifts and teh season video if you choose to produce one.  If you schedule the awards dinner ahead of time (on the master calendar) then you are more likely to have full attendance which is always nice!

3.  WORKDAYS: Depending on your show design, it may be necessary to paint your floor or to build/paint backdrops or props.  It may be helpful to schedule student/parent workdays into the master calendar when you will focus solely on completing these tasks.  Since a floor is so large there are limited spaces in which painting can be completed.  Usually this is limited to either a gym or cafeteria (or in some parts of the country a parking lot).  Drying usually takes at least overnight if not 48 hours.  If the school allows, it may be helpful to schedule these days over the summer or winter breaks from school when the school is empty and the students will have fewer outside commitments.  Of course, some families will be on vacation at this time but the convenience of getting the majority of the painting and building done in a couple of concentrated days might be worth it!  At any rate, your selection of weekends where you will have the available space AND the necessary amount of time may be limited so this may be one of the first dates you want to make sure to lock in with building reservations and your participating families.

4.  END-OF-SEASON FINAL REHEARSAL: It is often helpful to schedule an additional mandatory “meeting” after the final competition of the season.  At this time you can collect and inventory equipment, sign thank you cards and clean out the guard closet to ready for the next season.

5.  ACADEMIC ACTIVITIES: School is the most important part of a young person’s life and we as coaches must set the example that academics are important.  Parents will greatly appreciate this as well and will support you in the knowledge that you are working together towards what is best for their kids.  Look at the academic calendar and try to adjust your rehearsal schedule so that time is given for studying around midterms, finals, the ends of grading periods, and at least one SAT date per semester.  Also, let parents know well in advance when the open SAT dates are so that they can get their student signed up for that date.  Consider canceling all weeknight practices the week of midterms and finals or prior to standardized testing dates if the competitive level of your team allows for that.

6.  UNIFORM FITTINGS: Most custom costume supply companies require at least 12 weeks for delivery once uniforms have been ordered.  Several of the large companies shut down over the holidays further delaying their delivery times.  There are a few that can ship faster and almost all companies have limited “in-stock” options that ship within 1 – 2 weeks if you’re running behind on the schedule.  Regardless, try to take measurement early – perhaps even during auditions – so that you have them on hand whenever you are ready to place the order.

7.  COMPETITIONS: For the winter season, visit your circuit’s website (as well as the WGI website if you wish to take your students to compete in a WGI regional) to find out dates for competitions.  Each circuit varies in how early events are posted as well as the procedures for registering for competitions (including how many units are accepted or wait-listed).  Make sure to consider the distance to the competitions including how early your group will need to leave and how late you’ll be arriving home when determining which competitions are a good fit for your group.  Some groups choose to travel every weekend while others find it better to limit competitions to, at most, every other weekend (allowing for rehearsal time during the off weekends and to avoid burnout).  Those are decisions you will have to make based on your particular style and your particular level of student.  For fall, the competition schedule is usually determined by the band director so be sure to consult him/her.

8.  ADDITIONAL PERFORMANCE OPPORTUNITIES:  You might consider whether you want to provide your students with additional performance opportunities outside of the competition schedule.  Many groups have a “debut performance” for families and friends shortly before the first competition to allow students a chance to perform for an audience before heading in front of the judges.  Others schedule an “Encore” performance following their final competition as a way to let family, friends and the school community see their finished product and to have one last performance without the stress of the “results.”  Other possibilities might include performing for school pep rallies or for 8th grade recruitment nights.  Some guards even alter their shows to fit on a stage and perform for a band concert.  There are many opportunities to explore!

9.  SPECTATOR OPPORTUNITIES:  If you have a young team it may not be a bad idea to take the entire group to a competition early in the season as spectators only.  You may even choose a WGI regional if one is held close enough to your area, in order to allow student the chance to see a wide range of levels.  For marching band color guard look for a DCI or DCA show that might be held in your state.  This would be a chance for the newest students to see what a competition is all about and to get really excited about their activity through watching some other amazing performances!  If you can go to a competition that does not involve your local competitors it is even less stressful because you won’t end up with kids getting worried or upset about how they measure up.  However, seeing any competition early on is bound to result in increased motivation for the last few practices before their big debut!

10.  REHEARSALS: Scheduling your rehearsals is probably the trickiest part of all of your calendar-building.  It will largely be determined by your availability combined with rehearsal space availability.  You will need to sit down and estimate a “big-picture” timeline for auditions followed by initial fundamentals rehearsals, time needed to teach drill, time needed to teach routines and your own expectations for when you would like the show completed.  Count backwards from the date of the competition at which you want the show totally taught (for some groups this is the first competition, for others it is later in the season) and make sure to give yourself enough hours for training, teaching and review prior to this date.  After developing the calendar you’ll want to pencil in your own goals for each week to make sure you stay close to your initial estimations and don’t get side-tracked, ending up with a show still unfinished the week before championships!


HELPFUL HINT:  Add in reminder dates for yourself for preparing for each of the student events you schedule, such as when to hang audition posters, when to submit field trip requests, etc.  These types of reminders will help you to stay on-track and to take some of the stress off of trying to remember everything.  If it’s written on the calendar you’re sure not to forget something important!  These types of reminders are included in the checklist below.


Your Calendar Items Checklist!

FIRST, Make sure all school dates mentioned in the first section are on the calendar and then use the following checklist to make sure you haven’t missed any important calendar items.

– SAT dates (

– ACT dates (if they apply to your area) (

– Student Holidays off school

– Any circuit meeting dates or instructor training opportunities

– Any marching band dates the band director has established (or ifyou’re only planning winter guard, any Marching band dates that overlap with the start of winter season)

– Your deadline to determine show music/concept

– Your own deadline for submitting for copyright approval for the music (in some cases this could take up to three months so plan far enough in advance to have a back-up plan in case of rejection).

– Your own deadline for mapping out your show design

– your own deadline to finalize agreements with any guest instructors you may hire (drill writer, choreographers, assistants, etc.) and have them sign contracts).

– Secure approval for audition dates through band directors and administration (if necessary)

– Information Meeting date for students (if you schedule this in the evening you can also invite parents to attend)

– Audition & Skills Clinic Dates (or sign-up dates if you don’t hold auditions)

– Deadline to submit budget proposal to band director or band boosters or to finalize budget.

– Determine open weekends for competitions (avoiding conflicts with other school events).

– Deadline to submit membership and contest paperwork to competition circuits.

– Schedule any necessary fundraisers

– Deadline to Block hotel rooms if needed for any of the competitions (the earlier the better!)

– Your own target date for hanging up audition posters (try 2 weeks in advance of the audition).

– The date you would like to begin PA announcements for auditions (try 2 days the week before auditions and 2 days the week of auditions if your school will allow).

– Your own deadline for creating or updating your student information packet.

– Captain Audition Dates & Requirements (if you choose to have them) and then also mark a target date to begin announcing these auditions.

– When will you collect student contact information?

– When will you compile student contact info and distribute to members?

– When will you set up your email lists?

– Deadline to fill out and submit field trip permission forms and transportation requests.

– Date you will send out welcome emails/letters to all members and their parents

– try to find parent leads for uniforms and for flag sewing

– deadlines for school newsletters

– uniform and shoe fittings

– deadline to order uniforms

– target date to order shoes

– deadline to finalize t-shirt design and order t-shirts

– target date to finalize flag design and determine numbers of each flag

– deadline to order flag fabric (as soon as numbers are finalized) or order flags

– target date to finalize flag patterns and submit to sewing volunteers or flag supply company

– possible dates for “sewing parties” (set up for groups of parents to work with cutting and sewing) if you choose to take this route for saving money.

– deadline to write drill (or send numbers and music map to drill writer) as soon as numbers are finalized.

– date for parent information meeting (to solicit volunteers and allow new parents to ask questions) This should happen just after the start of rehearsals.

– final membership fees due date

– drill camp – can be done in one Friday evening, all day Saturday block of practices (for WG) or spread over several weeks of rehearsals depending on your preferred approach.

– Deadline to send drill to choreographers (or to begin writing routines yourself)

– Target Date to send out email or handout requesting parents to sign up for volunteer positions.

– Workdays (painting, building, sewing) if you are in charge of these events.

– Tme for uniform hemming and shoe fittings once they arrive.

– Choreography Camps (long rehearsals for learning large sections of show choreography)

– Competitions

– End-of-Season Banquet

– End-of-Season Check-out / Inventory Meeting

– Any non-competitive performance opportunities

– Midterms

– Weekly practices

– Any team-sponsored socials


From this master calendar you will be able to extract the performer-related dates and provide your students and their families with a complete, well-thought-out season calendar which is sure to help you avoid a lot of stress and conflict!  You can also ask students to provide you with a conflict form up front (at auditions) since you are giving them the dates for the entire season.  You are letting them know your dates up front, ask them to let you know if they see any major problems before the season gets underway.  Finally, you will have an amazing organizational tool to help you stay on top of the many tasks we face as color guard coaches every year!


It may take a long time to put together your first master calendar but there are a few things you can do to make it faster next time around!

1.  Create a file of web addresses (you can do this in MSWord or by using a “favorites” function through your email provider) for websites or school officials who you need to contact for school calendar information.  For example, for a school in Virginia we must consult the same basic websites each year as we begin gathering dates including the website for our circuit, the Virginia Band and Orchestra Director’s Association Website, the LCPS Website, the WGI website and both the high school and middle school websites.  By marking these addresses as favorites in my web service I am able to quickly jump to all the sites I need instead of searching for the addresses each year.  This saves significant time!

2.  Make note on your current calendar if certain activities needed more or less time so that you can properly adjust in future seasons.

3.  Save a copy of your old calendar to adjust for future years.  Many of the organizational deadlines you set for yourself will be similar from year to year and will only need to be adjusted slightly around changes in the school calendar.

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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.

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