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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 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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