Meet the University of Maryland Color Guard. They’re a group of 14 ladies and one gentleman who spin flags to add visual effects to the Mighty Sound of Maryland Marching Band.
You may be asking yourself, “What is color guard exactly?” Well, it is the art of spinning a flag, rifle, or sabre to add visual effects to a performance, usually associated with a marching band.
Imagine an audience of nearly 55,000 people every weekend. Imagine stepping out to the sound of a cannon and seeing thousands of screaming fans. A Mighty Sound of Maryland Color Guard member gets to experience this on a regular basis during the fall! The energy, the sounds, and the sights are overwhelming. Performing in Byrd Stadium for the first time can be a sensory overload. The amazing atmosphere of the stadium is one you won’t find anywhere else. But getting there isn’t easy.
Rewind two weeks. It’s 90 degrees, your feet hurt from marching for hours, and you’re covered in sweat. You’re clutching a five-and-a-half foot metal pole in your hand, and even though the weather is miserable, you keep your enthusiasm and smile. Why?
You’re surrounded by 250 people you call your family. You can feel your muscles ache, but your passion to spin aches more. That passion is fully realized when your feet hit that turf on game day.
A group can’t come together without excellent leadership and UMD’s Color Guard is no exception.
(PHOTO CREDIT KEN RUBIN)
Sophia Hull has been spinning for seven years. She is a junior environmental science and technology major. She is also a section leader of the UMD Color Guard. Section leaders lead routine practices and teach the guard work to the other members. To become a section leader, a student must apply for the position and demonstrate a high skill level for their specific instrument. This is Sophia’s second year as section leader.
“I like being in leadership because I enjoy helping others with their guard skills,” she said. “As a leader I also strive to create a positive attitude within our squad, promoting lasting friendships along with strong color guard skills.”
Color guard isn’t all fun and games. Sometimes, things can get tough. Sophia had an accident in high school that left her injured for months. She has since recovered, and smiles every time she spins.
Sophomore Kinesiology and dance double major, Amber Chabus is also a color guard section leader and has been spinning for six years. Amber says she took on a leadership position because she “wanted to help others while also improving myself in order to make the UMD guard the best it can be!” This is Amber’s second year in the UMD Color Guard, and her first year as section leader. While she says sometimes it’s hard to stay positive during long practices and bad weather, she remains a strong leader for the group. Her dance experience has benefited the guard and allows the group to grow as a whole.
Squad leaders help members find their places on the field to create the awesome formations you see on the field during halftime shows. At UMD, Nicole Honegger and Madi Sines have taken these roles with pride. These ladies help the guard members with marching fundamentals, on the field basics, and learning to read the drill, which are instructions that tell each member of the band their coordinates on the field.
Nicole, a junior civil engineering major, took a leadership position because she really loves marching. She has been doing color guard for six years. The second year squad leader notes the physical strain that band can sometimes put on her body. Despite this, Nicole has helped to improve the marching fundamentals of the guard. Forward marching, backward marching, you name it, Nicole can do it!
(PHOTO CREDIT: MUTT MERITT)
Junior history and secondary education double major Madi Sines is starting out fall 2015 taking on being a squad leader for the first time. She has been doing color guard for six years. Madi is always seen making silly faces and keeping the guard in high spirits on the field. She teaches the new marchers the techniques they need to know so that they can perform at their best on game day.
The Maryland Color Guard welcomed seven new members into their family, totaling them to 15. Many of the new members are freshmen. Some come from no marching or color guard experience. Kathryn Filipov, a sophomore psychology major, says despite being new at the sport, she loves how supportive her squad is.
“Even when we’re all exhausted and frustrated, we’re always looking out for each other,” she said. “We’re all each other’s biggest cheerleaders and it’s an amazing feeling to know that no matter what happens on the field, I’ll have fourteen of my favorite people in the world’s support. What more could you ask for in a squad than people who make you want to work harder because you want to make them proud?”
(The UMD Color Guard on Spirit Day!)
The UMD Color Guard has become tight-knit family. They spend time with each other outside of practice time and have created long-lasting friendships. This group practices more than 10 hours a week, and spends game day in the stands dancing with pom-poms and cheering on their team.
It hasn’t been easy, but doing the thing they love keeps these girls (and guy!) smiling every halftime show. So when you see a color guard member carrying their flag to class, say hi! Ask them about their upcoming show! And when you’re wearing your Terp gear head to toe on game day and you see the flags spinning on the field, cheer extra loud for this awesome group!