A Sport of the Arts: Heritage’s Colorguard

By: Twumasi Duah-Mensah

Sport (noun): an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.

 

Surely, colorguard fits this definition.

 

Colorguard combines the use of flags, sabers, mock rifles, and other equipment, as well as dance and other interpretive movement.“When a part of the marching band (in the fall), our job is to interpret the meaning of the music and be a visual aid for people to understand it better,” says Yasmine Hernandez, a sophomore guard member.

 

“It’s a very unique kind of performance that expresses stories and emotions differently than anything else,” says co-captain and senior Vincenza McEvoy.

 

Unlike other sports, there are neither playoffs nor point accumulation. At colorguard competitions, teams are awarded in their particular class. In the fall, class is determined by school size; in the winter, class is determined by skill. There is one champion at every competition based on placing (1st, 2nd, etc.).

 

In the fall, there is no championship competition, but in the winter, there is the regional Atlantic Indoor Association (AIA) Championship. To qualify for the AIA championship, a team must compete at a certain amount of smaller competitions. Teams use these smaller competitions to improve for the championship meet.

 

Colorguard begins in the fall and winterguard in the winter. Tryouts for colorguard begin in May, while tryouts for winterguard begin in November (both boys and girls can try out). See coaches Overton (not the gym teacher) and Teague in the 2600s hall for more information.

 

The good news? Most don’t have any experience in guard (short for colorguard) before first trying it out. “Some [students] don’t have any experience going into it,” says freshman guard member Kate Nickolson. “We learn from our peers and instructors during tryouts and as the season progresses.” Some experience in dancing is recommended.

 

The bad news? It can be roooooooooooooouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuggggggh.

 

Think of trying to toss a flag in the air and catch it perfectly. Repeat that. Over and over. Think of spinning to fast music or tossing a prop while moving. Repeat that. Over and over. Think of trying to perfect this for eight competitions. Repeat that. Over and over. Think of suffering several bruises all over your body just from practice. Repeat that. Over and over. Think of unexpectedly suffering an asthma attack at a competition. Think of twisting your ankle from stepping on a flag on accident. Think of performing in the cold. Outside. No coaches. And almost half of your team is missing.

 

W E L C O M E  T O C O L O R G U A R D.

 

“I think students underestimate how much time and effort goes into guard,” said sophomore guard member Nevaeh Harris. “You [can’t] just pick up a flag and instantly be a master at it. It really takes a lot of skill.”

 

Don’t worry, though. It can certainly be very enjoyable and a growing experience. As mentioned before, most don’t have any experience going into it. Still, our guard (the only guard worth watching) has won several awards, including two first-place awards, one second-place award, one fourth-place award, and a fifth-place finish at the AIA championship.

 

But the truly important parts are the relationships the students build between each other.

 

And the bonds between the 20 girls are unbreakable.

 

“We’re a big group of lots of different kinds of people, so [others] shouldn’t be scared about not fitting in,” stated McEvoy.

 

Even when performing at their worst, the girls find something to cherish for a lifetime.

 

At the freezing playoff game I referenced earlier, there were no coaches, so the two co-captains, McEvoy and Karen Mumma were in charge. “Because it was so cold and we were missing a lot of people,” recalls Mumma, “It was one of our worst performances. But as an ensemble, we had such a strong connection, and you could feel the love and happiness in that performance.”

 

McEvoy, when asked why she loves guard, says that “you make friends that become your family.” That’s pretty intense if you ask me. “it really taught me a lot about who I am,” she elaborated.

 

“I used to be really shy and didn’t talk to anyone,” explained Hernandez, “and guard has really helped me break out of my shell, learn how to be confident in myself, and be a strong leader that can help anyone that needs it.”

 

Remember those hard moves I was talking about? Imagine trying to do that and more. Alone. At a competition. Repeat that. For another competition. And another. That was the scenario blessed upon Yasmine Hernandez.

 

“Everyone was counting on me to do a good job,” she explained, “and I had not warmed up well, so I was really nervous that I would drop it.”

 

McEvoy, however…well, I’ll let what she said speak for itself.

 

“Yasmine has a really huge solo toss, and she stresses about it like crazy. But I always know she’ll do fine because she’s amazing. So we were at Wakefield, and she always get super anxious there because she used to do guard there in middle school, so people know her and she doesn’t want to look bad.

 

So she was having major anxiety and I felt so bad and worried for her. During the performance, I knew her toss was coming up, and I face the back when she catches it so that I wasn’t sure what would happen.

 

But then the crowd broke out in cheers, and they were screaming and going crazy, and I was so happy.

 

It’s really cool to perform together and feel the connection we all have while being on the floor. It really shows how much we want each other to do well no matter if we have drama during practices and stuff.

 

I love knowing that I’m surrounded by girls that support and love each other.”

 

Poetic. It feels like that “Band Geeks” episode of Spongebob (if you know, you know).

 

One more thing to end this article. One guard member, Maddy Hall, posted on Instagram about her experience with Colorguard. I think it does more justice to describing colorguard than I ever could. Her account is private, so I will retell most parts of the post here. A thanks to Hall for giving me permission to do so. Thanks to all guard members and coaches who gave their time to answer my questions. And thank you, the reader, for reading this article.

 

“Colorguard has been the most eye-opening and life-changing experience that I  have ever been a part of. I vowed that I would never go into the bandroom, but now, that’s where I spend all my time.

 

Karen Mumma made me go to auditions my sophomore year. I had no clue what I was doing, and I sucked, but I thank her with all of my heart for giving me something I will always treasure.

 

Just with a blink of an eye, it’s over. We performed our show for the last time last night (April 16th): the last time I will ever get to perform with the Heritage guard.

 

Colorguard definitely was not easy, and it left scars, bruises, and two sprained feet/ankles for me. But most importantly, it left me with the best memories I have yet and with the best of friends I know I can always rely on. I have 19 other girls who mean the whole world to me and always have my back no matter what happens.

 

I can’t tell you the number of times I left practice barely being able to walk or the ridiculous band camp days and summer camps in the sun and in the heat. But oh, what I would give to have two more seasons.

 

One more season under the Friday night lights with the marching band and on the football field.

 

One more season with my girls in a gym showing what we’ve worked on for months and hoping people love it as much as we do.

 

No matter how ugly some of those uniforms were, we always managed to crack jokes and put up with them. As the season progressed, I started to really soak up all of the little things because they start to get fewer.

 

I don’t know where I would be today without the Heritage guard. I was blessed with some of the most amazing and life-changing instructors. Yeah, they were tough sometimes, but that’s what made us good.

 

I am so proud to say that I was a part of something so many judge and so many look down upon just because it’s not a typical sport. But to me and the other 19 of us, it’s our whole world, and nobody gets it until you perform that first time in front of hundreds surrounded by your best friends.

 

Thank you Heritage guard for all unending memories, laughs, tears, jam sessions, “the guard wobble,” and everything that makes this guard what it is. ❤”

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