My Name is Noelle and I’m a Guardaholic

Colorguard is a sport in which you perform with a rifle, saber, or flag.

Photo by Noelle Walker

Colorguard is a sport in which you perform with a rifle, saber, or flag.

I’ve never found anything that I was sincerely passionate about aside from reading and writing. I’ve tried almost every sport imaginable; basketball, tennis, bowling, and I did played softball for years. I wouldn’t sign up for swimming because I never learned how to swim, and running wasn’t my thing. Nothing ever stuck. That was why it was unbelievable when I found a love for another sport: colorguard.

A few months into my 8th grade year, I had seen some flyers, and there had been announcements about “coming to a clinic to learn how to spin flags, sabers, and rifles,” but I completely ignored them. It sounded like something related to ROTC, which I wasn’t particularly interested in. But a couple days later, I was on Facebook wasting time, and I saw my friend saying something about the clinics, and how she loved them, so I decided to message her and ask about them. It turns out that it wasn’t related to ROTC at all, as a matter of fact, it sounded really cool.

What she said sounded somewhat convincing, so I decided to come to the clinic the following day to see if I liked it. Three girls came up to me and introduced themselves, and being the shy soul I was, I nodded, said my name, and hardy anything else. When the clinic actually started, some other new people split up with a veteran (someone who has been doing cologuard for more than a season) to learn a basic called ‘drop spins’ on flag. Let’s just say that I wasn’t the best at it. After about ten minutes of us learning those, we moved on to something more complicated: a routine.

With me hardly being able to do a simple drop-spin, a routine was a million times harder. I attempted to do what the instructor was teaching, but I just wasn’t getting it. Near tears, I tried to calm myself down.  When the clinic was finally over, I went to my car in frustration. I’d expected perfection my first time. It didn’t happen that way.

After losing a little bit of my frustration, instead of quitting, I convinced myself to go to one more clinic—then that would decide whether I would continue it or not. So the next time I went, I was the only new person who came back. And then what happened completely shocked me. Everything suddenly became so much easier. The routine she had been teaching the first day I came had been ‘an intermediate routine’– for someone who has actually done it before. So when she had taught me the beginner routine, everything seemed to flow—I loved it!

It was the second clinic that convinced me to sign up for fall
, but it wasn’t the thing that necessarily made me stay.  What made me stay was my second fall guard performance. The saying “The first time is always the hardest” is completely true. My first performance, I was over thinking everything, I messed up a lot, and I basically blanked out. It was the next performance which taught me not to overthink. I told myself that I knew what I was doing; that I’d been practicing for too many hours not to be able to get it. And as soon as the music started that second time, I got this feeling in me–something I had never felt before. It blossomed in my chest as I was performing. I actually knew what I was doing. And it felt perfect–like I belonged on that field. And thus, my real love of guard was born.

The first guard camp I had to prepare for the fall season was one week long, from 9am-3pm. It was hot, sweaty, and a little bit stressful. Every member stretched, did cardio, and strength training in the morning, and then we learned basics. Basics are simple things you do on a piece of equipment. After that, we would do something called tracking; where you would walk around a football field, track field, or the school while doing a basic and staying in step. That doesn’t sound too hard, but for someone who had hardly any strength, it was awful. But by the third day everything seemed somewhat easier and, sometimes, fun.

About a month after guard camp, we had band camp. That was where the guard and the marching band had camp together and started preparing for the halftime show. The routine we learned was something everybody did—not just different things for people at different stages. Band camp was two weeks long and from 8am-6pm–and it was about even more hot, sweaty, and stressful. Once you got used to it though, it wasn’t so bad.

I’m not going to lie, it’s tough. But once you get the hang of it and truly perform, all the blood, sweat, and tears are worth it.

This year was the first time we’ve had a winterguard season in years. We’ve never been able to do it before because there had never been enough people. Winterguard is just like fall guard, but indoors. You perform in competitions, and you perform on a mat. The mat has a design, or is just a solid color, that goes along with your show. Instead of performing a routine with the band, it’s with a song. For this year, we have three practices a week. Like with all things, it’s hard work, but it helps you put on a great performance for everyone to come see. Nothing ever comes easy; you have to work for it, and if it’s truly something you love and want to do, you’ll do it.

I love guard for more than just performing; I love the people in it. We know each other and we can be ourselves. After the countless hours and days we’ve spent practicing together, eventually we all went from all being strangers to being something more: family.

Even though I’ve only been in guard for about two years, it’s come to mean the world to me.

Guard is literally the best thing ever.