Monday, February 24, 2014

Defining the A Class...An Instructor's Perspective

A Class. What does it mean? The WGI manual would describe the class in the following terms: 
  • It’s the understanding and achievement of the tenets and principles in each caption
  • Layering of equipment on some body and some phrases done while traveling.
  • Staging choices will provide the performers with the opportunity to show growing comprehension of challenging spatial relationships, speed/method of moving and orientation
  • At the highest level of A Class, those whose students have mastered basic skills will be offered the opportunity to demonstrate some intermediate Open Class skills
The actual sheets that reference the criteria uses the following words to describe the A class:
  • Good
  • Greater Depth
  • Growing level
  • Usually
  • Some more mature approaches
  • Good knowledge of the fundamentals of design
  • Staging fully reflects the basic musical structure
  • Arrangement displays a successful blend of design
  • Adherence to style is good
  • Methods and techniques reflect a good degree of physical and mental development
But what is A class, really? Is A Class the words on the sheet or the make up of the guards in the class? On the surface, it would look as if A Class is for a winter guard getting their feet wet in the activity for the first time or a guard that sets its goals based on organizational needs or barriers such as money, facility, time, or membership commitment. A Class on the surface, is the perfect place for a guard who for example, is struggling with an inconsistent membership. It's the place where a new designer can explore the possibilities of their creativity and talent. It's the place where a technician can learn more about the training process, cleaning, and working hand in hand with their choreographer. 

The "A Class" is an enigma and always has been. When you listen to instructors talk in critique or over a glass of wine, they compare the words on the sheet to the practicality of its application. What does "good" mean? They look at the top guards in the class and say, "No one in A class should be doing an ensemble phrase that ends in a triple salchow." (insert post Olympic humor) The guards sitting in the potential medalist spot respond back by saying, "We just want to medal" and "We would never survive in Open," when the Open Class is just as confusing. The conversation is a virtual mathematical given every February. But what is it and why can't we define it?

At the 2013 World Championships, the Independent A Class finalists were made up of 3 guards who came from current world class colorguards; Onyx, Zydeco, and USF. Other colorguards in the class list their staff of well paid designers who coincidentally come from some of those world guards previously mentioned. Other units are off shoots of drum corps and universities. Many have sophisticated websites, staff's, and some with financial backing. In fact, there were only 4 teams in finals that I couldn't identify of having assets of either a staff with a sophisticated history in the activity or organizational backing of a strong non-profit structure. (It doesn't mean they didn't have it. I just couldn't find the information)

So what do we do with this information? The reality is that none of us would pay to see finals at WGI if the guards on Friday night were doing drop spins and three count tosses. We can't fault the judges. They score based on the presentation of the guards of the day. If the guards are pushing the skills and achieving those skills, then the judge has no choice but to credit them. WGI is also in a difficult spot, because no one wants to create a mandatory skills list. If we do that, then we are walking the slippery slope of some Olympic sports such as ice skating and gymnastics. They can promote those guards, but what happens when they can barely survive in Open and end up back in A Class a couple of years down the road? We see THAT scenario all too often. Finally, we can't fault the units. Each year they look at the finalists and try to determine which skill set will be the most beneficial in the next season. The guards look at the finalists and know they are competing against longstanding world class designers, so they ramp up the skills. This in turn creates problems at the local level with guards who are just "doing too much" without the training to achieve.

On the surface it looks like there is nothing we can do. This sport, just like all others evolves and grows. What World Class is today, will be A Class in 10 years. Each year training for guards becomes more and more sophisticated to compensate for the system. Some guards are now requiring cross fit training. They have hired professional fitness experts and dancers to train their guards. This costs money. Dues go up. Rehearsal times lengthen and without even realizing it we have crossed into the world of sport over art. 

Each year I hear people try to blame WGI. I can't however, figure out what WGI is supposed to do. Do you tell Onyx they can't bring out three colorguards and take up space in three classes? Of course not. It's called free enterprise and may the best man win. We use to have a promotion system based off of a number every weekend, but the "bump score" was eliminated, because of the subjectivity of show dynamics and the fact that the bump score didn't take into account a number of issues that created scenarios where a guard might throw the show to avoid the bump score. What we have now is an even more subjected system with promotion by committee. 

So what do we do? What is the answer? How do guards figure out how to write a show that is supposed to be based on basic to intermediate skills and still survive? I can't tell you how many times I've heard an instructor say, "I just want to medal in 'A Class' and move on." Ten years later they are still waiting for that medal. I suggest the following:
  • Start with education. Our education system for instructors is weak at best. Every sport I have researched has annual and sometimes semi-annual conferences. They have coach certification programs. They have money management, risk management, and board development classes they are a requirement to attend. Train the instructors how to read a recap. My God! Could we try to make that any more confusing for an instructor? Factor...don't factor...50/50 split...factor...don't factor. Why wouldn't they be confused? Teach them about how to work hand in hand with a judge at critique. 
  • Create dialog. Encourage dialog. Seek dialog. Don't shut dialog down. If the A Class beyond finals is a catch all for guards who are still trying to figure it out, then why wouldn't we want to elicit as much feedback possible? Why wouldn't we want to know what they are confused about and then...why wouldn't we do everything in our power to make them successful?
If the education and dialog truly existed, then we might just see an explosion of guards into Open Class and less guards falling out of World Class and into oblivion
  • Collect data and then share that data. If someone could really see that their dream of medaling at nationals is not and cannot be a whim that occurs randomly, then maybe they would see time as a tool that brings longterm success for their program. The evidence shows that finalists guards have years upon years of failure and success to their name. They have created organizations with a federal tax status and their instructional personnel are not fresh from the performance field. Show them that yes, there are outliers, but those outliers are rare in comparison to what really happens. 
To become a finalist in any class requires work that goes beyond good design and technique. It is pain staking organizational level work and steps cannot be missed or taken for granted. We don't always teach that and in fact, rarely have that conversation. Many people around the country have said that "A Class" is the cash cow for the activity, while the World Class gets all the perks. Being on staff at a program that has explored all realms of the classes, I can assure you that is not the case. I do however believe that there are decisions made to support the World guards that does not look at the consequences on the A and Open guards.  It's hard all over and the one constant that I keep coming back to is that without the three points made earlier of education, dialog, and data, then we will never build the cohesive understanding of the classes we are all so desperately wanting. 

This is a competitive activity/sport. It's expensive and the time spent on just one 5 minute show is absurd. So why wouldn't an instructor or director want to medal and medal now? In this 24/7 world of immediacy, it is really hard to slow down and say, "Wait! The world has changed and there are steps that are necessary to success and that success is pain painstakingly slow." We should stop and talk about what it is that's happening. I wonder the following. When we eliminated the age out rule in World Class, how did that decision filter into the other classes? If a guard has 60 kids show up to their auditions and half of those kids aren't kids, but 25 year old professional performers and the 18 year old who would have made the world class guard 10 years ago is put into the A guard, then how has that changed our current A class structure? Maybe it did and maybe it didn't?  When we instituted a policy where World Guards can march 40 members on the floor, did we create unintended consequences for A guards in the same area of the World units such as in Ohio? We can't possibly know without data. Maybe it's time we found out.

I'll end with this. Basic skills and intermediate skills are words we use to define the class and they are words that are similar to other sports that are subjective. In gymnastics for instance, a back handspring is considered a basic skill and the back handspring in isolation is done at the lowest levels. We all know that throwing a triple in second position, without anything following it, is a basic skill. So maybe, it's not skills we should be defining. Maybe we need to re-frame the dialog to not what you are doing, but what has it taken for you to get to this moment today and how can we move you forward?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Is Colorguard A Sport? A 6 Year Old's Perspective

Today  my 6 year old son had his very first little league baseball practice. It was a 2 hour practice that shockingly, was rather intense. Pitching, hitting, running, pitching, hitting, running, running, running, and more running. I was pleasantly surprised to see that persistent running was part of the practice schedule. My son Joshua, however...was not so pleasantly surprised. I think in his 6 year old mind he was thinking that he would put on a uniform, a cool looking cap, have a ball thrown at him and then MAGICALLY, he would hit a home run and be drafted to the majors. 

I watched as he was yelled at to run "along the fence line" and to "NOT CUT THROUGH THE FIELD."  I secretly laughed as he flailed his arms and through his head back as if he were running the last mile of the Boston Marathon. When it was his turn to practice batting, the coach wouldn't let him swing at the ball until he had the correct stance and correct bat angle. I watched as he became frustrated when all he wanted to do was swing the bat, but the coach kept telling him to wait until the stance was accurate. For two hours, twelve 6 year old's met on a field for what I would call, "A very intense basics block."

After practice, with an exhausted and worn out 6 year old in the back seat of my car, I asked him what he thought. 

"It was really fun, except for that running part. I don't like that at all!" With the emphasis I must add on " all."

I responded with the typical parental comeback...

"Well Josh, if you want to be good, then you have to learn to love the fundamentals. Running is a big part of baseball and staying in shape."

He seemed virtually unmoved by my attempt at a motivational speech and yet I couldn't just stop there. Just like with my colorguards, I found myself lecturing my son on the importance of basics and even resorted to saying that all sports require a strong understanding of fundamentals and athletes who strive to be in the best shape possible. I then compared colorguard to the sport of baseball as I said that colorgaurds run too and that's when all hell broke loose in my little red Toyota Corolla, where the ages long question of "sport or art" was finally resolved. 

"Mama...colorguard is NOT a sport." 

OH MY GOD! He did not just say that. My son. The child who made the WGI video at the ripe old age of one year old. The child whose due date for entrance to the world was on the night of World Finals. The child who has walked on the Dayton arena floor more than most performers in their entire careers, and the child whose first words were, "again." YET...he said it anyway. 

I refrained from pulling the car over and asking him to get out and walk and calmly asked him why colorguard wasn't a sport. He gave me six answers. It's amazing how at the age of 6, he was able to actually rationalize his answer. (Thank you ESPN) 

1.  "They don't wear helmets or caps." 
(I guess he missed the picture of me in my 1987 high school guard uniform with the teardrop hat and big bow tied to it)

2.  "It isn't in the Olympics."
He went on to rationalize that I teach "winter guard" and the winter Olympics is on and "winter guard" isn't in it. (Now...he has a point on this one. However, I would hardly classify Curling as a sport either. I mean...what is that!)

3.  "Daddy doesn't watch it on the t.v."
(Lies! Yes he does...when mama makes him watch the Fan Network)

4.  "The coaches yell in sports."
(Ummm...what! I do believe he's seen me instruct before regionals and nationals. Where does he think he learned the phrase, "Stop dropping now!")

5. "There are no umpires."
He was pretty emphatic about this one. I can see his point. From the viewpoint of a six year old, there isn't a guy wearing stripes running up and down the floor with the guard blowing a whistle every time a performer drops (although that would be kind of fun), however I promptly lectured him on the insights of judging and quickly set him straight.

(and this was my favorite)

6. "Because in colorguard girls cry." 
That's what he said. His exact words. "Because in colorguard girls cry." Of course my mind immediately jumped to Tom Hanks and the infamous line, "There's no crying in baseball." I of course asked him if crying was bad and he said, "you told the guard not to cry and to suck it up." Shit! I did say that didn't I? Now, I thought he had me on this one, until I thought of my brilliant, yet witty retort. I was not going to be out smarted by a 6 year old on his first day of baseball.

I thought about it for a minute and then gave him 6 good reasons that directly compared colorguard to baseball and in essence, proved once and for all that colorguard is truly a sport.

  • "In colorguard basics are everything. Just like in baseball, you aren't successful unless you have a good fundamental program behind you.Remember when the coach wouldn't let you hit the ball until your stance was correct? Well, we don't let the guard toss until they are taught the exact same thing."
  • "Guard kids run, too! You can't build stamina unless you run and without stamina you can't get through the show." I asked him how many rehearsals he has seen the performers run and his answer, "A lot." (There you go...I'm going to win this kid!)
  • "Because guards have referees too, we just call them judges and sometimes the judges can be meaner than NFL referees."
  • "Sometimes the boys cry in baseball and football, too. Remember how excited we got when Tim Tebow cried after the SEC Championship game?" 
  • "Because we practice more than you did today. How long do we practice Josh?" (He didn't answer as he knew I was winning)

and finally...

  • "Because dropping the rifle is the worst thing you can do. Now tell me Josh, what did the coach say today about the ball?"

 "He said that we better never give him an excuse for dropping the ball." 

"...and what else did he say?"

"He said that dropping the ball was bad and that he would yell at us if we dropped the ball."

"And what does mommy do when the rifle line drops?"

"You yell at them and make them do it again." 


Mommy! Check and Mate my friend!!

I asked him one last time if colorguard was a sport like baseball and his answer...

"Can we go to McDonald's for a Happy Meal?"

So there you have it. Colorguard is a sport as evidenced by the silenced 6 year old in the back seat of the Toyota and if you ever need to defend it to some troglodyte who refuses to believe that spinning a flag isn't as taxing, technical, competitive, exhausting, athletic, passionate, or aggressive as any other sport, then just ask my 6 year old to help you out, as I'm sure after today will never see colorguard the same again. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Words of a Performer: Her Struggles and Passion

This post is the first in a series of blog posts from performers to performers. This blog post is from Torie Lawton, a 19 year old, student at Lake Sumter State College. Current and first year member of Paradigm. In this post, she describes her first moments in colorguard and how it shaped and changed her life.

Growing up in my household I was always encouraged to stay involved with extracurricular activities, and with that being said...I always did. However, after trying almost every sport imaginable, I learned I wasn't the athletic type of girl. So for a while I stuck to the arts and crafts (hey it counts, right?) I'm not going to lie, I never really figured myself for the performing arts and when it came down to it, I was always the first one to get down and dirty with the guys.

What Started it All:

What really sparked my curiosity in color guard? Well simply put; my neighbor down the road. She babysat me for as long as I could remember, so walking home from school her house was always the first place I went. Almost everyday we would be outside as she practiced; sitting there mesmerized by the flag I was the one who always pushed her to keep going, simply because I loved watching.  Shortly after, I took a trip up north to visit family. Arriving at the airport that night my aunt took me to my first high school football game to watch my cousin perform at halftime. Needless to say, I was excited, especially when I saw how color guard was included in that night's list of events. It was from that point on I realized this was something I wanted to give a try.

A New Beginning:

High school is always the biggest transition. It’s a new place, new people, not to mention older people, and of course new standards. A teens worst fear in high school is not being able to find a place to fit in. For me, just like everyone else, that's where I stood. With the last couple weeks of middle school left it finally hit me; I'm talking a step towards bigger things. Lucky for me recruiting happened that last week before summer, and instantly it felt like colorguard was my "calling." 

The week of tryouts was INSANE! They had me trying things I never thought I could do, which of course included attempting to move my body in impossible ways (at least for me). Never in a week have I hit so many emotions, all of which varying from excitement to pure terror. When the day finally came to show the directors what we had learned I was confident, I mean come on why wouldn't I be? I got the routine going good and with my best friend by my side, what could go wrong?

"Attention: As we work through the list we will call you in one by one for your audition, we wish you the best of luck and we'll see you on the other side."

"The other side...what was this Heaven or Hell!"

Wait what!?!? One by one? Why can't we go in pairs...?  Suddenly panic mode set in. I was freaking out! No way was I about to go in there alone with a bunch of people I didn't know. Hasn’t anyone heard of the term stage fright? Well, come to find out...I had a huge case of that. One of the returning members saw what was going on and came over to reassure me and cheer me up. With her helping me through the routine before I got called the unimaginable happened...somehow she had managed to hit herself with a large amount of force while spinning the flag. Lets just say watching that happen totally made me forget about me being next in line, and more concerned about getting this chick to an ER. I was literally terrorized, and refused to believe that she would be ok. But what could I do? Everyone there was pushing me through the doors that lead to the next room. Standing there before the directors I was frozen in fear, only having the courage to answer the questions they had for me. Finally, the moment of truth....the audition piece.

With all honestly, I barely remember going through my audition that day. The most I remember was how I dropped my toss at the end, and that was it. I think I repressed the rest. Looking back at everything now, those first couple of weeks into guard were the greatest, it was the start of something new and a new season. I was meeting new people who I knew would be in my life for a while, and of course we were learning about our show!


Apocalypse.....When I hear that word only one thing comes to mind: FMBC State Finals.
Everyone always says your freshman year season is always your favorite out of any other year. Now I don't know about other people, but mine definitely was. Just in those couple of months, I had it all planned out. Color guard was going to be a huge part of my life for a good long while. Lets start at band camp, shall we?

Never in my life had I been up so early in the morning, at least during summer vacation. It was the first day and let me tell you; never did i believe anyone when they told me band camp would open up my eyes to reality. 7am to almost 9pm for two weeks; running around a field in the hot blazing sun kills! It was basically wake up in the morning, get to school, warm up/ working out, then setting drill, lunch break, sectionals, MORE drill, and then announcement before it was time to leave. After the first day or two, lets just say you have it down pat. Band Camp simply put isn’t made for the weak minded. IT'S NOT! 

Starting with a team of I want to say almost 30 girls; there were only 22 of us left after camp. Don’t get me wrong, throughout that year I wanted to quit almost a dozen times, but I never did. As the season progressed it slowed and started to take a turn and not the good kind either. It became more brutal for us. People were quitting left and right. Drill was changed almost every week. The team began fighting with one another and cliques formed. It was tough, almost one of the toughest years I’ve ever had. With that all going on and dealing with the director and staff during practices, I was slowly wearing thin. It felt like I was getting beat down, punished with the band for someone else’s mistake, yelled at for the wrong step, or moving the wrong way. One thing that stayed with me though throughout the season was what my captain that year told me during a camp;

 "Push through, practices will always suck but it's the performances that make it all worth it."
I never really understood what she meant, not until our first game. Excitement was in the air as we were all motivated right before halftime. If you had seen me before perform compared to after, you wouldn’t think I was the same person. Right before count off to the show my heart dropped to my stomach, they told us to pretend it was a rehearsal, to have fun with it. But how was I supposed to do that with bleachers full of people? But just like auditions a month or two prior, once the music started I was gone; lost in the music and everything around me. All I could think about was what came next and where I was going. And the next thing I know it's all over, holding there in my closing set I couldn't believe I had just done that! I felt amazing! I was full of adrenaline and ready to perform again. It was in that moment that I realized I would never look at practices the same way again. One way to prove that, was when it was time for us to perform at state. Throughout the season the entire band changed as a whole. We were more confident, braver, excited, and of course dedicated, you could see it in the way we all walked and presented ourselves. When it came down to what I thought was our last performance of the season I got off the field with the biggest smile I’ve ever had, I mean yeah I had some mess ups but the way I felt then and there couldn't be topped; at least that’s what I thought.

When retreat came around I sat anxiously waiting to hear the scores. Slowly they went through class by class and when it came down to us, all I wanted to know was...Did we make finals? As East Ridge was called as 3rd in our class, everyone erupted into cheers! We did it! We were staying for finals! That season taught me so much inside of band and out, and when we headed back to the busses all I personally could think about was "Wow I did it! I made it through the season." Performance that night tops any that I had ever had. Right beforewarm-up, our director Mr. Hart told us how this was our moment, no one else’s. He took us through our season and the hardships we faced, as well as our highlights; and when it came down to it, it was him that told us that this was it. It was our time to make the most of this performance, because that’s all that’s left and we had earned it! 

Watching everyone around me marching onto that field, was amazing. Simply put, we knew we had made it and nothing was going to tear us down. Regardless of placement that night, we were going to just make the most of "now" and have a blast with what we do. And that’s exactly what we did. The feeling at finals was priceless. You cant find it anywhere else. It's something you earn and experience with the people you're with and who work with you. Because in the end you're a part of something bigger than just a band or an extracurricular, or whatever you want to call it. At this point its more of a family, the people you grew with, and stuck with through everything good and bad. It's something that will never leave me, being at East Ridge for that year has taught me so much; and in that year alone I don't think I could have learned it anywhere else. East Ridge is a home to me and always will be.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Five "F's" for February

Beloved 2nd month of the New Year.

It's the month of Cupid's True Love, Singles Awareness, Groundhog's Day, and of Winter Guard Weirdness.

Yes. I said it . Weirdness. That lovely month of weirdness that is the speed bump of the guard season.

From August to December, every guard and staff is striving to create their masterpiece through training, design, trial and error.

January is the month of reveal and excitement! Premieres are everywhere and everything is new and exciting! It's full of so many firsts: first time wearing the new uniform, first performance, first judges comments, first nerves for the audience. January is my second favorite part of the season.

Then there is February. UGH!

March is even more preferable to February. March Madness is anticipated by the Techs and (usually) hated by the performers because it's the month of totally cleaning before AWESOME APRIL!!  If you like March or not, it is at least much anticipated as common, expected, and the necessary aspect of the season.

So we are back to February.

February is the place of options and questions that could make or break the season.

So - How do you make February count? You deal with the "F's"

The 5 "F's" for February:

1.) How much time did you spend looking at their "FEET"?

Yes. Feet. I am sure by now the tech staff has addressed at some level every check point of the show's hand and equipment placements. Everything may not be clean but it should, at some level, already have been addressed. But have you checked their feet?

Lower body contributions are a strong aspect of every show that are often overlooked until March and can cause major issues for performers at the early stage of the game. Established habits are hard to break once they have had MONTHS to make it so. But, have you every had a feature that, while standing still, was wonderful and in drill is a mess? And you just couldn't figure out why its not clean? More often than not, it is all about the hip placement and the "Fred Flintstone" shuffle under the feature.

There is A LOT to look at from the "feet" stand point so I'll just name a few. Are their weight shifted on the same foot properly? Are their feet turned out the same? Does the space of their 2nd position match across the floor? Are they in step or in  tempo with their music or are some member's feet moving faster or slower than the beat? Are they in first or third position? How are their feet - pointed or flexed - in their show style? Where is their hip placement that will effect their leap or jump? Passé or kupe' ?

All of these issues with body will effect the equipment book. By spending more time cleaning the lower body, the equipment book has a higher chance of achievement.

A great mantra to have is: clean the feet and the feature will follow!

2.) Too many "FACTORS"

Factors. Everyone has things going on in their lives: school, work, family, friends, grand events,  relationships, significant other's schedules, emergencies that cost more than expected, etc. Many of us are doing a juggling act to make it all fit into our busy lives and no one wants to drop the ball. February is the time of year that can make or break the season for Guards that have too many "factors"- Those last minute things that come up and get in the way of the process can cause a lot of anger, frustration, and bickering.

*That "multi-activities high school student" that has too much on their agenda and at one point had it all figured out and now some activity somewhere has changed its schedule and things are beginning to overlap....on rehearsal and show days.

*That high school Senior that is trying your staff's patience by either being lazy or pompous because of "Senior-itis". It's also that Senior that has all the solos in the show. So, now everyone is frustrated and the staff spends most of the rehearsals either encouraging that Senior to achieve or  threatening to take it all away instead of focusing on the show as a whole.

*That college professor that demands that you be at some class for some assignment on a Saturday or Sunday that wasn't on the syllabus before you signed up and can cause you to fail if you miss. Oh, and that just happens to fall on a major Regional competition.

*That teacher that gives you a hard time about missing those days in April even though you told them in January and you remind them in February because you see a test that's going on while you are away. While you are being proactive to plan ahead, they don't want to accommodate your situation. So you are stuck trying to figure out what to do about this test, this class, and your teammates.

*Your car breaks down and the money you planned on using to finish your dues is now pulling a new set of tires and a bunch of new parts under the hood. And the director is putting their foot down about bills that needs to be paid.

Factors stress out the staff as much as the performer. Individual members know that you need to keep outside factors outside, but stress is stress. Staff knows that if all the performers aren't there that the information given has to be repeated. The team knows that when everyone isn't there on the floor in rehearsals that it causes a huge rip in drill and timing. Guard is expensive! You must pay the bill!! But you also have to live life outside rehearsals. Factors effects everyone.

A helpful hint - Do your best to problem shoot, help suggest positive solutions, and support each other. We are a guard family - not enemies. Try not to add to the stress by being mad at "so-and-so" for something that could be purely out of their control. (I know, I know -  it's easier said than done. That's why its February.

3.) It's too "FUNCTIONAL"

Staff members do this-----The first judges' tapes are in and the staff listens anxiously to the judge hoping to avoid that one term. That term everyone hates to get on their tapes. Functional. Your drill is functional. The work is functional. All your hard work seems to go up in smoke when you hear functional. UGH!

So, if you heard it, now you have to fix it! Staff and/or directors listen to every judge's tape while taking detailed notes and are trying not to panic as you mentally try to figure out how to adjust everything they say to make sure the show is the best it can be and now by tape 4, the judge's comments contradict each other and you don't know what to do.

Take it one step at a time. Fix and adjust things as possible. Think it through and don't be irrational. Don't destroy your entire show in one rehearsal and freak yourself or your students out. Get advice from more experienced friends or staff members.  Don't be afraid to ask. The staff can learn as much as their students each year through consult and trial and error. Take it one step at a time and it will all work out.

4.) I'm starting to "FREAK OUT"

Members do this--- Staff members have their first judges' tapes and now changes are happening and possibly a lot of them. The season has show after show coming up and the pressure is on!

Depending on your class ranking and scores now, the competition is starting to heat up and as more local shows and Regionals are starting, anxiety rises. It is so important to achieve for yourself and your team and each staff sets the bar high because they believe in their students' abilities.

You as a member are at all the rehearsals doing your best and then the staff changes this and then that, and now this goes again, no go back to the old way. What am I doing again? How did this go? Why is she yelling at me? I don't know what I am doing!!!

Suddenly, you can't breath and you might want to cry.

Exhale. Relax. Focus. Take everything one step at a time. All you as members can do is trust in you and your staff listened to my #3 and do the things that you are trained to do. If you do your best every time and focus on doing that best job every time, things will fall into place properly. When you make a good game plan for yourself through rehearsal and  internal focus, nothing can get you down.

5.) Keep it "FUN"  

With everything stressful going on, it's easy to lose the joy of the sport and get lost in the mayhem. Guard is an outlet for creative flow and positive energy. Many people do this to escape "real life." Don't make your escape as stressful as what happens at work or at home.

Don't destroy the love for this amazing Sport of the Arts by getting overwhelmed by the "Feet", the "Factors, the "Functional", and the "Freak Out". Keep it "Fun".

This seems like a strange report card, huh? Well, at least these "F" words won't get you grounded!

Good luck in February! May you turn your "F's into "A's" and "B's"

"Achieve", "Amaze", "Aspire", "Believe" and "Breathe"