I feel very qualified to write about this topic because I have been on both sides. In high school I marched piccolo for 3 years and then was drum major my senior year. And in college I marched piccolo for 1 year, then joined the flagline for the next three, the last of which I was captain. Your colorguard is part of the band as much as the trumpet section is a part of the band and understanding them and where they are coming from is very important. Here are six main points that I suggest to improve the relationship.
1. Understand Basic Terminology : A marching band director needs to be knowledgeable about basic flagline terminology. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard a director yell to a flagline, “clean it up flagline” or “you aren’t together”. As helpful as you think that might be you aren’t giving any help to your flagline. Clean what up? What isn’t together? A basic understanding will go a long way. Seek out the flagline routine writer or the captains of your line and ask them the basic things that you should know. Terms like plane, drop spin, and body work most likely will be mentioned. Learn what they are and use them when talking to your guard, they will be very appreciative.
2. Get a Good Routine Writer : Even the best flaglines can look horrible when performing boring routines. I have been to many festivals where I’ve seen flaglines with so much potential but they are stuck doing boring routines. It doesn’t have to be excrutiatingly hard to be interesting.
3. Be Careful When Writing Drill : Sometimes drill writers forget that along with the small little flagline girl comes a 5.5-6 foot metal flag pole that she is spinning all around her. If you value the lives of your band members (and their costly instruments) think about how much space you are giving each guard member. In general 2.5+ yards is a good distance between guard/band members. Writing drill with cross throughs, and tight sections is fine every now and then but make sure that the routine writer is very aware so that they can accomodate with the routine.
4. Be Considerate of Your Colorguard : When a band resets a drill set the band members move 5-10 yards normally and the colorguard is sprinting 50 yards back to their original spots. Nothing bothers the guard members more then the director/drum majors yelling, “come on guard, we’re waiting on you.” I know, because I’ve been on both sides. Be considerate that your flagline typically has a larger space to move than your band and allow them time to get back there. However, if they are dilly-dallying feel free to yell away!
5. The Guard Doesn’t Learn as Fast as the Band : Learning a flag routine is much more time consuming than learning music. Teaching a flag routine would be like teaching your band members as such…
“Okay, our first note is a G. This is how you play a G. Okay, everybody play a G together. Great! Now the next note is a B. This is how you play a B. Now let’s add that on to our first note the G. Sounds great, our third note is another G, we already know how to play that so from the beginning all three notes together…”
And so on. Flagline learns their routine in small chucks, occasionally we have a 16 count move that we know but for a large part of the time is teaching new things over and over again. So when your flagline is looking a little lost on the field for the first few weeks of rehearsals give them a break and extra time by themselves to really solidify the routines in their minds.
6. Start a Winterguard Program : Most good directors would be appalled if their instrumentalist put down their instruments in November and didn’t touch them again until August, yet that is what the colorguard members have to do if they aren’t provided with an opportunity to continue year round. If there isn’t already one in place, start a winterguard program. It can take a lot of work and a few years to get off the ground but it is worthwhile. If you are unfamiliar with winterguard, check out WGI’s (Winterguard International) website.
I hope this is of some use! Let me know of any other suggestions you might have.