Color guard endures gruelling practices to perfect performance

Alana Amaya | Staff Writer

Like other sports, the color guard involves long practices, intense competitions, and risk of injury.

Everyone knows what the cheerleaders are, what the marching band is, and they can even tell you what the dance team is, but few people can tell you what the color guard is. To the novice fan, they’re a bunch of kids swirling around flags in tight suits–but they are a lot more than that. When sports, art, and performance collide, one can find the color guard. They’re a group of performers who endure grueling hours of practice and have the bumps and bruises to show for it. 

Senior Guard Captain Emily Murphy said she believes the color guard is a visual sport that adds a colorful aspect to the marching band. 

“The color guard is the visual representation of the music,” Murphy said. “When the band plays their music, we can hear it, but we’re supposed to be there for those who cannot hear the music or will not hear it on video. We’re supposed to project the music through our bodies and add a little bit of interest to the show. Color guard adds a fun element of danger and more of an artistic quality to a very music-heavy sport.”

The members of the color guard put in hours of practice perfecting their routine and focusing on every aspect of their performance. Junior color guard member Jayre Rodriguez said she appreciates the amount of practice because it allows the team to be better prepared for high-level competitions. 

“We work more when we are close to competition and we usually always go over the show in small parts and look at every little detail the band does,” Rodriguez said. “I feel like practicing this much makes us better, but at the same time it tires us out. Sometimes it’s hard to push until the end of practice when it’s more important because we are doing full runs of the show when we are tired.”

All the hard work comes with a price. Sophomore color guard member Caroline Wilkinson is living proof that guard can be hazardous to your health. During a recent practice, Wilkinson took a shot to the face that caused a massive black eye she’s still recovering from. 

If you don’t have the right skills, then you could be injured… I got hit with a rifle and got five stitches above my left eye.

Jayre Rodriguez, Junoir

“I think that when people think of sports that have padding, they think of football or lacrosse; people don’t think that in color guard you can get seriously hurt,” Wilkinson said. “But with how much physical exercise you do in the guard, there have been so many people that have passed out. We get concussions; we get hit all the time. Not just guard members, but the band members also get hit by guard equipment, and it’s just physically draining.”

The members of the color guard risk their safety every practice, in which they toss metal flag poles above their heads. Rodriguez even suffered a concussion after being hit in the head with a rifle. 

“A lot of girls do get hit,” Rodriguez said. “If you don’t have the right skills, then you could get injured, like me. I got hit with a rifle; I got five stitches right above my eye. [The rifle] hit my temple, so I had a minor concussion. The equipment you spin is very dangerous, so you really have to keep your skills intact and make sure that you’re watching everything.”

Several sports require padding. Football, hockey, lacrosse, and soccer athletes wear padding to protect their bodies, but performers in the color guard go without padding so it doesn’t interfere with their performance. Instead, they rely on thorough training and cautious execution. 

“The reason why we don’t have any padding other than our gloves is because if we did, they wouldn’t look good with costumes and it would be too bulky,” Rodriguez said. 

The color guard makes their precise moves look easy, but often overlooked is the constant motion and movement which wouldn’t be possible without constant conditioning. 

“When I have talked to some of my friends about guard they don’t really think that it is that hard,” Wilkinson said. “People think that we just spin flags around and chuck rifles in the air, but it is a lot harder than you think. Running around the field while doing choreography with no breaks for 11-12 minutes is really physically draining.”

Like all successful teams, it takes perseverance to be successful, and the color guard is no different. Even though the intense practices can leave the members physically drained, they are willing to push through to deliver colorful performances. 

“I’ve seen people super tired, barely able to make it through; I’ve seen people just exhausted,” Murphy said. “But I’ve also seen that even when we’re tired, even when we may not want to be there, it really is the element of dedication that really does define the color guard. I’ve seen people push through almost anything, working hard through what seems to be incredibly difficult situations and I think that is just really impressive to me.”

Photos by Mia Sweitzer and Alana Amaya.