The Pre-Season Winter Guard Parent/Student Interest Meeting

| October 20, 2010 | 1 Comment

We see questions on the forum every year from instructors who are holding their first winter guard interest meeting.  So, I thought I would share my experience.  Like all things guard, different things work for different people, but here’s what worked for me.

I set the meeting for one week prior to winter auditions and asked both students and parents to attend.  This time frame is long enough for families to make final decisions, but not so long that they may forget to return commitment forms and get side-tracked.  I actively advertised both the interest meeting and audition dates two weeks in advance of the interest meeting, but promoted it to fall guard members and their parents throughout the marching season to generate interest.

I had several goals in mind for this meeting.  These goals included:

  • Set a reasonable time limit
  • Demonstrate professionalism
  • Introduce the concept of winter guard
  • Excite parents and students about the activity
  • Be honest about the commitment
  • Distribute required forms and handbook

Set a Reasonable Time Limit

This is important because, right off the bat, it demonstrates to parents that you value their time.  In a sport that is time-consuming it’s important to show families that you make an effort to keep things as on-schedule as possible. I found that one hour was typically the longest I ever needed, so I scheduled an hour, with a personal goal to finish early.

Make sure you print an agenda.  This is perhaps the most valuable way of keeping yourself to a time limit.  It was also the first way to tackle my second goal – demonstrate professionalism.

Demonstrate Professionalism

Once again: print an agenda.  My agenda forced me to think through the meeting before arriving and plan out a good flow so things made sense moving smoothly from one topic to another, ensuring I stayed within my time limit.  It also helped me avoid the, “Oh!  I forgot to say!” scenario happening over and over… or even worse… getting home and realizing I forgot to mention something critical.

It’s valuable to pass out the agenda to the families present, so they can follow along and refresh their memories of topics covered – especially if they have questions about particular areas at the end of the meeting.

An agenda keeps you organized.  It keeps you on time.  And it demonstrates to parents that you put in that little extra effort, which shows professionalism and maturity.  These are very important qualities they are looking for in their children’s coaches.

Dress for success!  I know it sounds silly (and I’m not recommending wearing a business suit to the meeting), but if you have a staff polo shirt, wear it. If you don’t have a staff polo, then choose something neat and pulled together. I choose not  to wear my season t-shirts because they come across too sloppy for a first impression.  Avoid sloppy… avoid sweats… avoid t-shirts… At least this was my personal choice.

Introduce the Concept of Winter Guard and Excite Parents & Students About the Activity

These two goals go hand in hand.  I touched on the fact that winter and fall are totally different concepts and then jumped into a video.  I showed our team’s previous season’s performance so parents could understand the level at which we competed.  If this is the first year your school is sponsoring a winter guard team, or if you don’t have a recording of a previous season, try to find a video of a guard which performs at a level similar to your group.

I pointed out things that are foreign to new families, including where we perform, the floor coverings, the theatricality, and the length of the season.  I made a point of showing the “set-up,” which featured parents pulling out our floor cover.  I mentioned how we greatly value parent participation on show day.

I also required all returning members to attend the interest meeting so they would be available for prospective members to talk to. Often, I had one or two give insight into what the winter season is all about.  Hearing it from a performer is way more “real” than hearing it from the coaches in many cases.

Sometimes I would show the performance of a national level guard so families had a preview of the activity as a whole.  I often left this video for the end of the meeting and let it play for those who wanted to stay and watch. This also provided time for parents to talk to me individually or ask questions.

Be “real” about the Commitment and Distribute the Required Forms and Handouts

This is probably my most important point: don’t sugarcoat anything!  Be honest about this major commitment you’re asking families to make.  Be honest about the benefits and fun, but also about the time, money, and hard work that it requires.

The last thing you want is for a family to sign up and later realize they are in over their heads.  I keep saying a family signs up rather than a student signs up because I truly believe this activity requires a full family commitment.  With the crazy schedules, the long rehearsal hours, the volunteer efforts needed, and the LONG season, it’s really important to have both student and parent commitment.

If you’re not upfront about the level of commitment, you may find yourself losing members mid-season because it was more than they or their parents bargained for.  Anyone who has had to rewrite drill to write out a hole will tell you that is not a good situation to be in…  

Here are some of the points I cover in order to “keep it real”:

  • Season costs including fees, uniforms, travel, etc.
  • Fundraising requirements (if any)
  • Rehearsal schedule (including mentioning that missing a rehearsal has a negative impact on the show/team and is strongly discouraged except in case of illness. I also handed out a conflict form so any pre-existing conflicts could be declared.)
  • Competition day schedule – letting them know it’s an ALL day event
  • Balancing schoolwork with guard

I cover most of these points (and more!) in a season handbook and take a brief moment during the meeting to direct parent/student attention to those sections of the handbook which address team policies in more detail.  I made sure that parents understood why I brought up these things; to let them know that while guard is fun and totally worth it, I understand it is a family commitment. I want to make sure they are prepared before the season starts.  They appreciate this gesture.

Ask a guard parent to speak:  I also asked one team parent from the year prior to stand up and talk about what winter guard means to their family – both the positive parts and the new things they had to get used to.  This is an important opportunity for prospective parents to feel support from an experienced guard parent.

SO…

This is how I ran my  pre-season information meetings.  Later this week I will share a sample agenda and outline for my information handbook so check back if those would be helpful for you!  

We would love to hear other ideas for pre-season info meetings.  Please send in your ideas or leave your ideas in the comments below. Thanks for sharing!

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Category: Administrative, Recruitment/Auditions, Team Management, Volunteer 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 (1)

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  1. Bekah says:

    Thank you so much! Your article has helped me with organizing a Pre-Season Winter Guard Parent/Student Interest Meeting.

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