When many people think of a high-school color guard, they think of the members spinning flags on the field with the band at halftime.
What they don’t often see, however, is the blood, sweat, tears and finances that go into the making of a successful color guard. They don’t see the countless hours spent practicing — both in the gymnasium and outside in the heat during band camp — or the celebration amongst teammates when someone achieves a new rifle toss.
Just take it from rising sophomore Emily Sadlier, who is heading into her second year as a color guard member.
“One thing my coach always says is it’s more than just spinning flags on a field,” Emily said. “You learn so many life lessons on how to manage time and responsibility and what it’s like to be a leader and part of a team.”
And, especially in the case of Windermere High’s color guard, most people haven’t seen the guard more than triple its size in just the two years it has existed. As with Windermere High — and the rest of Horizon West, in general — growing pains have been front and center in many topics of conversation.
“The biggest thing we struggle with is having equipment for the kids,” said James Couick, the color guard instructor at Windermere High. “Last year we grew so much (and) we got a lot of equipment donated to the program, but we’ve had to borrow from other organizations and we’ve had to be creative with how we do practice flags. We have show silks and practice flags, and you have to have both so the kids don't damage the silks. We’ve had to use show silks for practice sometimes and have had to sacrifice things.”
The guard has done the best it can with the equipment and resources it has, but the fact that the guard has grown from six members in the inaugural 2017 season to 31 members this fall brings its challenges.
“We’ve had a lot of growth in the performers — they worked hard, and we’ve had a supportive community and parents,” Couick said. “It grew tremendously, not only in size but in ability and commitment. A lot of kids grew to love the activity. We’ve done our best. It’s a lot about the equipment and the extra things that we constantly have to purchase. Last year we had enough for 15 to 20 kids, and we've had to double that. We have a lot of supportive parents and people in the community who help us, but it’s still hard to put that on them over and over again.”
In addition to color guard — which takes place during the band and football season — there is winter guard, the competitive season that ramps up after color guard is over for the year. This year, Windermere’s marching band and color guard will be competing in the Bands of America Orlando Regional Championship in October in order to compete at the BOA Grand Nationals in Indianapolis in November.
“We’re going ... there to put our name out there for Windermere High School and establish who we are and the growth we’ve made over the last two years now,” Couick said. “It's with a lot of wonderful, amazing and talented bands across the country, and we get to compete with some of the top bands in the country. It’s a great honor and experience for the kids to be able to go on that trip.”
Between participation fees, the need for more equipment and the travel costs associated with going to compete in Indianapolis, the color guard and the band need the community’s help.
It takes a village, but the Wolverines are banding together and hope the community will join them in their efforts to sew flags and get the necessary funds raised. Any support means the world to a program that, for many of the members, feels like family.
“My teammates are my best friends, basically,” Emily said. “They're more than just my teammates, they're my family. When we come to guard, we have that family aspect. I wouldn't trade it for the world.”