Who Are You Writing For?

| March 11, 2013 | 3 Comments

We’re now in the middle of the winter guard season and the competitive heat is on. Many instructors struggle with what to do with judge’s comments. You’ve probably been told that something in your show that you thought was great isn’t so great. Now you have to decide what to do.

We who judge like to think we have all the answers. But if you wait until next week, you’ll probably find another judge with a different answer. It can be maddening, but that’s what you get when you try to put an “objective” evaluation on a creative process. (Interestingly, in the “real world” people in various creative fields disagree ALL THE TIME and no one loses any sleep over it. It’s our own desire to create a definitive “best” that causes our troubles.) As the director/designer/instructor of your program, your job is to do what’s best for your students and the program. So, here are some things to consider:

1. How many judges are giving you the same feedback? NEVER make a change because of ONE person’s opinion (unless you agree). If you get similar comments from several people it may be worth taking a look at it.

2. Make sure you really understand what the concern is. If you don’t, you’re going to have a hard time deciding how to fix it.

3. How will the change affect your students’ performance? Is it something that will be easy to master? How will it impact the rest of your “to do” list and rehearsal schedule?

4. Do you have a BETTER idea. I’ve known groups to make changes week after week without any improvement because the changes weren’t better than what was there originally.

5. Will it matter? Do YOU think it will make the show noticeably better? Will you be rewarded numerically for your efforts (more points, higher placement)?

Sometimes instructors (especially younger or less experienced instructors) over-value the importance of the score and the judges’ opinions. Of course everyone wants to give themselves the best possible shot at competitive success, but you’re the one responsible for steering your program. No judge can tell you what’s best for your circumstances. They don’t know your students, your rehearsal schedule, etc. Even if you believe the feedback you’re getting is correct, it’s OK to make a different choice that’s better for your program.

At the end of the day, you’re primary responsibility is to your students. I would encourage you to make choices that give them the best chance of having a final performance that they feel great about. If they can perform with confidence and feel that they’ve fully mastered their show then the numbers won’t seem so important.

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Category: Adjudication, Choreography, Competition, Design, Drill & Staging, Ensemble Analysis, General, Instruction, Joe Paul: Ensemble Analysis, Performance, Regular Blog Features, Rehearsal Planning & Management, Teaching/Cleaning Routines

About the Author (Author Profile)

Joe Paul has had a long and varied engagement with the “marching arts” as a designer, instructor, director and judge. He was both a performing member and instructor for Avatar Winter Guard from Southern California and The Cavaliers Drum & Bugle Corps from Rosemont, IL. More recently he has taught a number of high school color guards, as well as Allusion Winter Guard from Thousand Oaks, CA. He has been a judge for the SCSBOA, WBA, WGASC, UWGA, WTCGA & CIPA. He is currently the drill writer for Valencia High School in Valencia, Ca, staging designer for the Chino High School Winter Guards and tour manager for The Cavaliers.

Joe holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Art from California State University, Northridge and lives and works in Los Angeles as a freelance graphic designer.

Comments (3)

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  1. Suzi Frame says:

    THANKS so much for this article. I ran in to this just this season:
    We only had two competitions. At the first one I received constructive criticism from the panel of judges on what could change or be fixed to make the show better. (we took first but was feeling like a lot needed to be fixed according to the judges)
    Then – with 2 weeks left to prepare and make some changes, we were hit with back to back snow storms. AAHH! I watched the video of their performance over and over..listened to the judges comments again. I decided that i would make the change that would best impact the show and help gain back points we lost, and then clean other sections that I already felt were just fine – but needed to be sharper and more in unison. If we had those practice days back (snowdays) I would have only cleaned more and had them run it again and again – still only making a big change at the end, because I felt that with only one more show it was not worth stressing the students out to reach for PERFECT in 2 weeks. If i changed all the things that the judges brought up i would have driven myself and the team CRAZY! I discussed this with the kids – asked them to work thru (discussion) what they felt was important to change and fix – they all agreed. It gave them an opportunity to look at the big picture and understand what their job was now…and helped them see where i was coming from AND have some ownership of their routine.
    We also had to re-build the momentum after several snow days so they would be pumped up about their show again.
    It worked – they were excited to go perform their routine with a renewed confidence and felt great about what we did change.
    (results – 3rd place, in a bigger group this time! BUT the best part was increasing our score!!) That is all I can ask – that they make improvements and feel success from their hard work!
    My winter season is a continued SKILL building session for the current FALL kids, and including 8th graders helps us recruit and grow our future fall season! It has been a learning experience for me as a newbie! :) Grateful for the articles here that help me learn!

    • Laurie P. says:

      I realize that you wrote this a while back, but I ran across it this morning and would love to hear more about what you do during the winter to continue building skills. Our guard program has been neglected, and I’m on year two of trying to build it back up. ANY advice would be appreciated. Thank you! Laurie

      • Joe says:

        I’m not exactly sure what you mean by “building skills”. Are you asking about improving the skills they already have or adding new skill to their repertoire? Either way, I guess, the process is pretty much the same.

        When I was teaching I would constantly assess how the students were handling what I gave them. What do they do well? Where do they struggle? When you see a weakness, try to identify what is causing the error(s). Is it a timing issue? Do they not understand the mechanics of the skill? Is it a body issue? Then, focus on that specifically (maybe separately from the skill you’re trying to improve).

        For example, if you find that inconsistencies in posture and body alignment are creating problems in the equipment, development movement exercises to improve the body. Then, reinforce those concepts when they pick up the equipment.

        When they reach a point where things are working pretty well across the board, it’s time to give them something more. You can introduce a completely new skill, or add another layer to something they already know.

        Building a program is an ongoing process. It happens year-round, not just in the winter. You want to pace things so that you’re utilizing all of your students skills, while giving them something new and different to challenge them, all while pacing the process so they max out at the end of each season.

        I hope that addresses your question. Feel free to write back if I can be of further help.

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