Skip to Content

What does being in color guard mean?

Being part of a color guard is an exciting opportunity for many high school and college students. Color guard adds visual elements through flags, banners, rifles, sabres, and dance to marching band performances. It requires dedication, teamwork, and artistic expression. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore what being in color guard entails and the rewards it can provide.

An Introduction to Color Guard

Color guard, also known as flag corps, is a synchronized performance group that adds visual elements to marching band or drum corps performances. Using specialized equipment like flags, rifles, and sabres along with dance movements, color guard interprets the music and creates a visually appealing display.

The origins of color guard date back to military units that carried flags and banners to signal troops on the battlefield. This tradition continued with drum corps units and marching bands. Modern color guard emerged in the 1950s and 1960s as an adjunct to marching band. Today, it is an athletic and artistic competitive activity in its own right.

Color guard teams consist of between 2 and 30 members. They perform choreographed routines during field shows, parades, competitions, football games, and other events. Color guard is its own competitive circuit, but also complements marching band performances. Members use equipment work and dance to visually interpret the music.

Responsibilities of Color Guard Members

Being part of a color guard team requires dedication, athleticism, and artistry. Here are some of the key responsibilities and skills needed:

  • Attend all practices, camps, competitions, and performances
  • Learn and memorize routines for equipment work and dance
  • Use flags, rifles, sabres, and other props appropriately and safely
  • Move in time with the music and other team members
  • Project expression and emotionality through performance
  • Maintain proper posture, extensions, timing, and technique
  • Wear coordinated costumes and apply appropriate makeup
  • Be attentive to instructions from coaches and captains
  • Help load/unload trucks and set up equipment for performances
  • Maintain equipment like flags and poles

In summary, color guard members commit to perfecting routines, expressing the musical interpretation, performing in synchronization, and presenting a polished, artistic product for audiences. It requires athleticism, grace, stamina, teamwork, and creativity.

Time Commitment

Participating in color guard requires a significant time commitment. Teams generally follow this schedule:

  • Pre-season Camps: 1-2 week intense camp before school starts
  • After School Practices: 4-6 days per week for several hours
  • Football Game Performances: Weekly or biweekly
  • Competitions: 6-10 Saturday competitions
  • Parades: Memorial Day, July 4th, and other holidays

In total, a color guard member may spend 15-20 hours per week training, rehearsing, and performing. Competitions often involve travel time as well. The team also becomes like a second family through this intensive experience.

Time of Year Time Commitment
Summer Pre-Season Camp 40+ hours over 1-2 weeks
In-Season 12-20 hours per week
Football Games 3-5 hours each performance
Competitions 8-12 hours on competition days

As shown, color guard requires a dedication of several hours multiple days per week. Members must learn to balance these commitments with academics, jobs, family life, and other activities.


Participating in color guard requires a financial commitment for equipment, costumes, travel, and more. Here are some of the typical costs associated with being on a color guard:

  • Equipment and Costumes: Members must purchase specialty equipment like flags, rifles, sabres, and performance-quality mock weapons. Costumes specifically fit to individuals are required. These expenses may total $500-1000 per year.
  • Competition Fees: Entering competitions costs $30-75 per event per performer entered. With 6-10 competitions, this can cost $200-750.
  • Travel: Teams often travel for out-of-state competitions, which includes transportation, hotels, and dining costs. Each trip may cost $200-400 per member.
  • Camp Fees: Specialized camps and clinics cost each member $250-500 for the intensive training.
  • Choreo and Music: Creating and recording custom routines costs $1000s and is divided among members.
  • Corps Dues: Many teams charge $200-500 in annual dues to cover general costs.

In total, being part of color guard may cost $1000-3000 per year per member depending on the intensity of the schedule. Many members hold fundraisers or find sponsors to help offset these substantial costs.

Types of Equipment

Color guard members use specialized equipment to create visual displays. The most common equipment types include:

Equipment Description
Flags Silks in vibrant colors swirled in choreographed patterns
Rifles Lightweight mock rifles with glossy finish spun and tossed
Sabres Curved blades flipped and manipulated
Props Items like hoops, balls, ribbons, etc. used as visual aids
Backdrops Portable backdrops and frames moved into formations

The variety of equipment allows for innovative visual displays. Members rigorously train for mastery, synchronization, and seamless handling of their assigned equipment.

Key Skills Developed

Participating in color guard builds many lifelong skills. Here are some of the key skills members develop:

  • Athleticism: Equipment handling requires strength, stamina, flexibility, and dexterity.
  • Artistry: Expression of music and developing stage presence.
  • Leadership: Veteran members guide and mentor new recruits.
  • Teamwork: Precision synchronization requires trusting and cooperating with others.
  • Commitment: Dedication to intensive training and performances.
  • Confidence: Learning poise and grace under pressure during performances.
  • Responsibility: Juggling color guard commitments with school, work, family, etc.
  • Time Management: Making efficient use of limited practice and training time.
  • Competitiveness: Motivation to keep improving and besting competition.

The challenging skills required make participating in color guard an impactful personal growth experience. Members emerge with talent, grit, maturity, and memories that will last a lifetime.


Color guard teams have assigned roles for each member to ensure smooth operations:

Role Responsibilities
Performers Execute choreographed routine during performances
Captain(s) Choreograph routines, run rehearsals, and provide direction
Manager(s) Coordinate logistics like travel, uniforms, budget
Prop Master Transport and set up backdrops and large props
Armorer Maintain and transport sabres and rifles

Some members serve dual roles, but each position provides an important supporting function. Cooperation between roles ensures the color guard runs effectively as a team.

Benefits of Participating

Participating in color guard provides many enriching benefits beyond performing at football games and competitions. Here are some of the top advantages of being part of a color guard:

  • Bonding Experience: The intensive commitment creates life-long bonds and friendships.
  • Personal Growth: Members gain confidence, leadership skills, competitive spirit, and responsibility.
  • Resume Builder: Participation shows dedication, teamwork, time management, and other desirable skills.
  • Staying Active: Great physical exercise through athletic training, conditioning, and performances.
  • Opportunities to Travel: Color guard travels regionally and nationally for out-of-state competitions and clinics.
  • Creative Outlet: Channeling expression and artistry through innovative routines.
  • Scholarships: Stellar color guard participation can lead to university scholarship opportunities.

The remarkable benefits both during participation and after graduation make committing to color guard a worthwhile endeavor for any motivated high school or college student.


Color guard provides an artistic, athletic, and enriching experience for participants. Members commit to intensive training,ynchronized performances, and demonstrating poise under pressure. Though the time commitments, costs, and responsibilities are substantial, the experience builds skills, confidence, competition, and bonds that last a lifetime. If you are interested in joining color guard, be prepared to work hard, contribute to the team, and grow both physically and mentally. The music, motion, and visual spectacle make all the effort worthwhile.