I Do Color Guard – The Sport No One Knows Exists

“Yeah, I’m in the marching band.”

“Oh, cool! What instrument do you play?”

“I’m actually in the color guard!”

*blank stare*

I could not even begin to count the number of times I’ve had this exact conversation. Even when I try to describe the activity, I’m met with the same blank stare or an awkward attempt at trying to make it seem like they understand what I’m talking about. It’s gotten to the point where I just automatically explain what color guard is as soon as I say I do it.

I understand the confusion – marching band and color guard isn’t a very prominent part of New England culture. I’ve actually met a few people who know what color guard is and stopped me when I started to define it. Usually, they were from a state in the South or Midwest, where the marching band is a significant part of their high school and college traditions, and some of their friends actually did guard.

The Boston University Color Guard spinning flags alongside the marching band during their fall 2017 show, “Take Me Out to Fenway.” 

Photo Credit: Mitch Davidowitz

For those of you who don’t know, color guard is an activity in which performers use flags, nonfunctioning rifles, sabers, and dance to visually interpret the music of a marching band. Like the band practices their music, the color guard learns choreographed routines and works to perfect their technique. They perform with the marching band at football games, competitions – whatever kind of events the band does.

I grew up with color guard. My two older siblings, five and eight years older than me, both were in the color guard of our town’s high school marching band and served as color guard captains. As young as the age of seven, I accompanied my parents to all of their regional marching band competitions. I watched in awe as they commanded the audience’s attention with their synchronized spinning and lofty tosses.

For a long time, I knew I wanted to be a part of the color guard in high school. So, I joined as soon as I could in eighth grade. But, what I got out of it was so much more than I expected. First and foremost, it gave me a solid set of friends for my four years of high school. My high school color guard was a sisterhood; we participated in traditions, and even though we spanned different grades and had different interests outside of color guard, we supported each other in and out of marching band.

Color guard also forced me out of my comfort zone. I remember the first time I stepped out onto the field for a competition. I could feel my heart beating in my chest and my mind racing to remember all of the flag work. In color guard, we don’t just go do our choreography on the field – we perform. With our heads held high and our faces beaming for the entire 10-minute show, we exude confidence. Gradually, through my high school and college marching band experiences, that face of confidence became true and my stage fright was left on the sideline.

Me with the seniors of the Oliver Ames Marching Band holding up our banner and trophy after winning Massachusetts State Champs at the USBands 2016 New England State Championships

Photo Credit: Robin Kallfelz

When it was time for me to apply to colleges, the fact that Boston University has a marching band with a color guard was definitely a major plus. In high school, the marching band was like a second family for me, so I hoped to find the same experience in college and keep doing something I love. Especially at a large school like BU, I sought a smaller community through doing color guard.

Since joining the BU Marching Band, I have not only found countless amazing, genuine friends, but I have also greatly improved my craft and skill. I thought I was having fun before – high school Ally should see me now!

Me with one of my best friends, dressed in uniform, about to go on at a show during our fall 2019 season

Photo Credit: Kaitlyn Riggio

I never excelled at sports growing up. I was never the fastest runner or best dancer. But, color guard makes me feel limitless. I love how it keeps me active and I get to express my creativity. I’m a performer at heart, and in marching band we constantly challenge ourselves to get better and to make our show more entertaining.

Color guard has taught me so many things, especially how to work in a team. Color guard isn’t about who can throw their tosses the highest. We work together to make sure we dance and spin in sync and pick each other up (and our flags) when we drop. And in high school, I appreciated the competitive aspect of it and the feeling of winning with a team.

Me with some other members of the BU Color Guard, waiting on the sideline to go on for a show during our fall 2019 season

Photo Credit: Mitch Davidowitz

My time in color guard has also made me grow as a leader. I was fortunate to be selected to be the color guard captain for my senior year of high school, and now in my junior year of college. Leading a group of people in an activity that I love is one of the things in life that makes me happiest.

With my eighth season doing color guard coming to a close, I’ve been reflecting on my marching band experience. Although I still have to explain what it is to nearly every person I meet, I’m proud that I do color guard. That feeling I get when I march onto a football field alongside my team, flag tucked into my arm, stadium lights illuminating my face and the crowd cheering for us, is unlike any other feeling in the world. If you don’t know what color guard is, you’re missing out. Consider coming to one of the BU Marching Band shows next season!

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