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11 Cool Things You Didn’t Know About Winter Guard

11 Cool Things You Didn’t Know About Winter Guard

The term “winter guard” may sound like a protective coating that you might put on your car or other objects that must withstand the cold, snowy weather.

In fact, it is a sport and it’s growing fast in popularity. While mostly popular in the U.S., it is gradually spreading to other countries, and competitions at the local, state, regional, national and international levels happen regularly.

For those who are not familiar with the sport, here are some pretty cool facts.

1. Winter Guard is Color Guard on Steroids

We’ve all watched color guards at high school football games. They are a part of the marching band and do cool, synchronous maneuvers with their flags. It’s a nice addition to the bands and provides color and pizazz.

Winter guard is about 10 steps up from that band color guard. It is practiced and performed in a gymnasium and has become a combination of dance, cheerleading, and equipment maneuvers all in one.

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2. There is an International Winter Guard Organization (WGI)

Even though this sport began in the U.S., it has traveled to Europe, the Far East, and even Africa. International competition does occur, and just like with any sport, working up to those involves winning at local, regional and national competitions in a team’s own country. WGI is the organization that teams join in order to participate in the important competitions.

3. There are Usually Multiple Coaches and a Team Captain

Because Winter Guard involves dance and equipment maneuvers, there are at least two coaches – a choreographer for the dance moves and an equipment coach, who trains team members in the handling of the equipment – flags, rifles, and sabers being the most common. A third gymnast coach may also be involved because the highly skilled teams use many of the gymnastic movements that we see in a contemporary cheerleading squad. Team captains are senior members of the teams who lead the exercises and routines.

4. Staging is Common For Winter Guard

Winter Guard teams bring lots of creativity to their performances. They may have backdrops and props other than their personal equipment. Most all of them have colorful tarps which are spread on the floor and designed to meld with the “theme” of the performance. It’s almost like a set design for a scene in a play.

5. Timing is Critical

During competitions, teams have a total of nine minutes to get “on” and “off.” The “set-up” and “take-down” generally take up four minutes, and the routine is limited to five minutes. For this five minutes of show-time, teams practice for months and months.

6. Equipment Varies

When Winter Guard began, it was a take-off of color guards on the field. Most teams began with flags. In fact, in the U.S., the WGI originally required American flags as the only equipment. That has changed a lot. Now flags of all sorts of colors and designs are used, usually to support a “theme” for the performance. Rifles and sabers are also now used, sometimes in combinations with flags.

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Rifles are wooden and pretty lightweight, because they are often thrown in the air or among team members. The same goes for sabers. They have dull blades and tips and are usually decorated to support a theme as well.

7. Is It Grueling? Yes!

People often look at Winter Guard performances and see them as pretty “lightweight.” After all, it’s not as if these performers are in a 10-minute rigorous gymnastic routine or playing ice hockey. They are dancing, swirling and throwing equipment around. What performance observers do not understand is that every movement is a precise one, with the use of muscles that must be flexible and solid. This often requires strenuous workouts before a participant is ever ready to begin learning a performance routine.

There is also a mental aspect to a solid performance. Winter Guard requires deep focus and a commitment to excellence, two skills that will certainly translate to success in other areas of life.

8. Precision is Everything

If you have ever watched a synchronized swimming event, you understand precision. Every movement by every team member has to be absolutely flawless in both timing and the movement itself. Now consider that the precision involves not only body movements but the manipulation of pieces of equipment too.

Flags may be a variety of sizes. Some have poles as long as 6-feet with flags just as long. Smaller flags, called “swings” have shorter poles made of plastic for easy tossing and spinning.

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As already said, rifles are wooden, often hollowed out for ease of throwing, and sabers are of light metals or plastics.

When these pieces of equipment are tossed or spun, they must be precise throughout the entire team. As you can imagine, this requires mental focus and physical agility.

9. Dance Performances Are Amazing

Almost any type of dance can be incorporated into Winter guard routines – ballet, jazz, modern, etc. Music is chosen to “fit” the type of dance and the routine’s theme. Everything from “hip-hop” to classical may be used. This is why a choreographer is usually required.

The cool part of Winter Guard compared to Color Guard is that music is chosen and pre-recorded in advance instead of being played by the marching band. This opens up much more creative possibilities to mix and match the tunes. You can add spoken words, create mash-ups or blend in some cool sounding noises.

10. There are Actually Divisions for Competitions

Most people are familiar with divisions for major sports teams. In high school and college, divisions are based on the size of the school, and competition is with other schools within the same division. In Winter Guard, divisions are based upon whether a team is from a school or is an independent group. School divisions are based on school size, like other sports. Independent groups are divided by skill levels as judged from previous competitions. A new team, for example, will be judged in the “Beginner” division, and so on.

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Judging is based on four categories – precision, creativity, horizontal orchestration, and overall talent. In WGI competitions, there are three places awarded. First place winners move on to the next level of competition and ultimately to the World Championships, where 350 teams will compete.

11. Winter Guard is a Combination of Art and Athletic Skill

There are few athletic competitions that combine skills of ability and the art of musical/dramatic performance. The ones that typically come to mind are skating, synchronized swimming, and gymnastics. All three of these are now Olympic events. When we think about the fact that ping pong is also an Olympic event, it stands to reason that Winter Guard should be a candidate for this prestigious competition. People are working on it.

The bottom line is this: Winter Guard is a little-known sport right now. But its participants and coaches are dedicated individuals. As it spreads globally, there is every reason to believe that it will become far more recognized than it is today. And for the participants? Even if they never move beyond their teen years in this sport, they will have gained many “soft skills” that future employers will find valuable.

Featured photo credit: John Simon via flickr.com

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Last Updated on September 10, 2019

7 Morning Rituals to Empower Your Day And Change Your Life

7 Morning Rituals to Empower Your Day And Change Your Life

Most of your reality is not a given. It is shaped by your expectations, beliefs and thoughts you have formed about it. A big chunk of these beliefs and expectations are encoded into habits you integrate in your daily life.

Yes, some of these habits are formed unconsciously and can be counter-productive or limiting but conversely, you can consciously form positive habits that will transform and empower your life significantly.

This is a powerful point of departure that more and more people are becoming aware of. The most common trait of highly successful people is the recognition of the power they have in co-creating their reality through changing the way they think, believe or expect their reality to be.

One of the most effective ways of changing our belief patterns is through practising and maintaining daily rituals. Ancient traditions had clearly understood the power of rituals in reinforcing habits and changing the way we see and create our reality a long, long time ago.

Once again, if you look into the life history of any highly successful individual, you will find some form of ritual in their daily routine. Some of these rituals may seem banal or eccentric but don’t be deceived by appearances. Rituals are one of the most effective self-empowering tools freely available at the practitioner’s disposal – that is, you!

Below are some the easiest yet life-changing morning rituals you can do every day. Of course, you can have your own afternoon or bed-time rituals but morning rituals are extremely effective in empowering your day since they help you charge yourself before it all starts.

1. Gratitude

Feeling gratitude and appreciation for those little signs and moments of joy happening in your life is probably one of the most overlooked or underestimated rituals. It is a perfect morning ritual to start your day on a very positive key.

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The real power of gratitude is that it makes you pick out and focus on what is working in your life – what is in tune with your being as a whole. It is selectively positive. It reinforces happiness and positivity by shedding light on those awesome things, small or big, that grace your everyday living.

Quite often, we just pick out the pain points, the problems, the bottle necks, whatever it is that is not working in our life and causing friction, anxiety and unhappiness. This is like constantly rewriting the script of your life with a negative or tragic overtone. Your subconscious mind follows faithfully that script you write whether it is a negative or positive one.

So feeling gratitude is undoubtedly an immensely empowering ritual. Start your day by being thankful for those positive things that happened the previous day or throughout the week. It could be something really petty and small. It doesn’t matter. You might be grateful for an unexpected visit from an old friend, a beautiful encounter with a kind stranger, a new opportunity or whatever it is that shines your way. Do it every morning and see what happens during the day.

Gratitude-Quotes

    2. Writing Down Your Most Important Tasks

    This is a very practical ritual. Start your day by identifying and writing down from one to three of the most important tasks you need to complete during that day. These tasks are ones which support important long term goals that are aligned to your purpose, passion or general direction in life.

    For example, if writing a book or building an online community are important long term goals which are aligned to your personal growth, then an important task for the day might be finishing off a particular page or two of the book or coming up with fresh content ideas for the online community.

    What is important with this ritual is that you identify these tasks and complete them as early in the day as possible. Of course, you will have other tasks apart from the ones you will write down but, these are tasks which can be tackled later or batched up and carried out in one go.

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    Writing down your most important tasks in the morning helps you focus your day and life according to what is essential. It helps you prioritize and manage your time better. As a result, you simplify your life by applying your focus and energy on what really counts for your overall life progress.

    3. Affirm Your Goals in Writing or Drawing

    This is similar to the previous idea but different in its application and purpose. Writing down your most important tasks of the day is a way to have a concrete structure of action to follow. Affirming your goals, on the other hand, is a very powerful way of crystallizing your vision and goals in life into your everyday mental space.

    Writing down or doodling your goals on a piece of paper helps you externalize those goals by giving them form. In return, they are reflected back in your subconscious mind and thus, reinforcing them and integrating them more wholly.

    An example of this would be writing down “I am achieving greater success in my career” or “I am becoming healthier and stronger through my exercise.” Notice the present tense being used as a way to tell yourself you are in the process already. Remember the life script we subconsciously follow? You are basically modifying the script to be applied now in the present.

    Drawing or doodling can be equally, or even more, effective  (if you are more of a visual person) as it summarizes a graphical representation of your goals. For example, if your goal is to build a new house or live in another country, you can draw the house or draw things that symbolise the country you want to live in.

    write down goals

      4. Practice Qi Gong Exercises

      According to Chinese philosophy, Qi (pronounced ‘Chee’) means the life force or energy inherent in all things;[1] and Qi Gong is the practice to cultivate and circulate that energy in your body. This may sound esoteric or complicated but actually, Qi Gong is really a set of simple exercises aimed at increasing your health and vitality.

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      There are numerous forms and practices available for free through the online media. As a morning ritual, I recommend following these simple exercises by Qi Gong master Lee Holden:

      5. Drink Hot Water with Lemon

      Simply add a slice of lemon in a glass of hot water and drink one every morning. This is a very simple ritual I follow faithfully every morning.

      Apart from being a good source of vitamin C and a great way of flushing out toxins in the morning, it balances and maintains the PH levels in the body, reduces pain and inflammation in joints and knees and helps nourishing brain and nerve cells. Here are some more benefits of drinking hot water with lemon.

      6. Rise Earlier

      The practical advantages of waking up early are obvious.

      For example, you gain more time for doing exercise such as walking, cycling or Qi Gong as suggested above. You gain more time to be with yourself to reflect, meditate or, more importantly, carry out the other morning rituals.

      So rising early can be seen as a foundation for all the other morning rituals. Many, like myself, find that they are more productive in the early hours of the day.

      Also, various studies have shown that there are many other benefits from waking up an hour or two earlier in the morning. Sleeping early and waking up early helps the body attune with the earth’s circadian rhythms thus, promoting more restorative sleep. Other curious results from such studies show, for instance, that early risers tend to be more optimistic and can anticipate and solve problems more efficiently than the norm.[2]

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      7. Listen to Uplifting Music

      Uplifting music can have a direct impact on our mood, especially in the morning. It charges us emotionally and tunes us into a more positive outlook of the day ahead.

      Most people wake up to music or listen to music as they commute to work. Very often, however, they tune in to a radio or randomly pick a playlist from their device. Being more selective and conscious of the music you listen to in the morning can have a great impact on your day and life in general.

      It’s funny how we try to choose music according to our mood. For example if you are feeling down or disappointed by something, you are more prone to listen to music that reflects that mood – for instance blues, sad songs or downtempo music. This has the effect of reinforcing that mood. What you need to do is the exact opposite and retune your mood by listening to music that beats to a different tune than that mood.

      Try to listen to more uplifting music in the morning even if, or especially if, your mood does not dictate so.

      More About Energetic Habits & Rituals

      Featured photo credit: Carli Jeen via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Live Science: What Is Qi Gong
      [2] Harvard Business Review: Defend Your Research: The Early Bird Really Does Get the Worm

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