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What Is a High School Color Guard?

A high school color guard is a vibrant team that combines dance, theatrics, and precision to bring music to life visually, often performing alongside marching bands. They use flags, rifles, and sabres to create a stunning display of synchronized artistry. Intrigued? Discover how color guard enhances the spirit of school events and fosters teamwork. Ready to see them in action?
Donna Tinus
Donna Tinus

A high school color guard is usually a group that accompanies the high school marching band, or a drum and bugle corps. As a non-musical group, the color guard provides a colorful visual to complement the marching band, usually performing on a football field. The color guard members may twirl flags, rifles, sabres, or pom-poms as part of their performance, which is coordinated to the music of the marching band. Much like the marching bands they accompany, the high school color guard groups may have competitions.

The color guard's purpose is to add a visual interpretation of the music. The size of the high school color guard can vary, depending on the size of the school, allotted budget, or the talent available in the school. Color guards may be as small as a few members, or as large as 50 or more members. Some color guards will march and twirl an item, such as a rifle, while others may perform dances or gymnastic moves.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

Color guard members who twirl white rifles may dress in all white outfits, creating a similar look as the marching band. Often, color guards will twirl flags of various colors and sizes, adding synchronicity and color to the performance. They may vary the colors of the flags, depending on the type of music the band is playing. The flag color guard may use the same colors as the band, or they may use the school colors. The band often refers to the color guard as the guard, or the flag line.

While color guards used to be all-female groups, modern high school color guards have male and female participants. Often, the guard group will practice long hours to perfect the synchronization of spinning and tossing of the flags or rifles. The slightest mistake is often visible to the audience and judges and can ruin the performance and score.

High school color guard groups can compete in many competitions, including the Sport of the Arts contest sponsored by Winter Guard International. Founded in 1977, the organization standardized color guard and created skill levels. Groups compete in levels according to age, ability, and venues. Independent levels, scholastic levels, and middle school groups compete against each other. Winter Guard International's world championships are a series of events involving competitions over a three-day period.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the primary role of a high school color guard?

The primary role of a high school color guard is to enhance the visual aspect of a marching band performance. They use various equipment, such as flags, rifles, and sabres, to add color, drama, and expression to the music being played. Color guard members perform choreographed routines that are synchronized with the band's musical arrangements, often during football games, parades, and competitions.

How does one join a high school color guard?

To join a high school color guard, students typically go through an audition process where they demonstrate their ability to learn and perform choreography, as well as handle equipment like flags and mock rifles. Prior dance or gymnastics experience can be beneficial. Interested students should look for announcements about tryouts or contact the band director or color guard coach for information on how to get involved.

What skills are important for color guard members to develop?

Color guard members need to develop a range of skills to be successful. These include coordination, agility, and strength for handling equipment, as well as a sense of rhythm and musicality to stay in sync with the band. Additionally, teamwork and the ability to quickly learn complex routines are crucial. Many guards also incorporate dance, so flexibility and dance technique are often important as well.

Are there competitive opportunities for color guard participants?

Yes, there are competitive opportunities for color guard participants. Many high school color guards compete in regional and national competitions, such as those organized by Winter Guard International (WGI). These events allow color guards to showcase their skills, creativity, and hard work, and they are judged on various criteria including precision, technique, and overall effect.

What is the difference between a color guard and a winter guard?

The difference between a color guard and a winter guard lies in the season and venue of their performances. A color guard typically performs with a marching band on a football field during the fall. In contrast, a winter guard performs indoors during the winter months, often to recorded music, allowing for more elaborate and dance-oriented routines. Winter guard is considered a sport of the arts, focusing on more intricate performances.

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Discussion Comments


No! No! No! You spin. You never twirl!


I was in the high school color guard too, Talentryto. I enjoyed the precision of twirling the flag and marching so much that I joined the color guard when I went to college.


When I was in high school I did not have very much musical talent, so I decided to join the color guard. Not only did I have opportunities to get out on the field with the band during sporting events, but I also got to march in parades. I had a lot of fun without ever knowing how to read music!

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