All Summer One Sport: Winterguard

What is winterguard?

This question has puzzled me ever since I started at Sport Calgary and saw Encorps Winterguard sign up for All Sport One Day. After watching a series of videos, I became intrigued by the combination of dance, with the manipulation of flags, sabers, and rifles. I was not sure how I would do, as I have the memory of a goldfish. Nonetheless, I would head to Monterey Park Community Association to get my winterguard on.

When I first walked into the gymnasium, one thing that struck me were the flags laying on the floor. I was expecting a small flag the size of a cereal box, not a full-sized flag. Having never held a flag before, I was surprised how lightweight they were. I gave the flag a little wave before I met with Rebecca Goble, one of the lead instructors with Encorps. As we sat down it was clear how passionate about winterguard she was. Being part of this club has allowed her to continue in the guard community.

Winterguard can be split in two groups, marching band and guard groups. The two main categories of this sport are colour guard, which runs year-round and is performed primarily outdoors and winteguard, which, as the name implies, runs from September to March. Think of it like hockey, which has ball hockey in the summer.

So, what do they spin?

In winterguard there are three main props: rifles (wooden), flags and sabers. While this is not the main part of the sport, it is the most recognizable aspect. During warm up, Rebecca showed me some tips on how to spin the flag without it falling. This was the hardest part of the sport for me to master. Everything needed to flow perfectly in order not to mess up the next move.

How did it go?

Now you understand what the sport is, let’s talk about what I thought of it. We progressed fairly quickly from the initial warm-up, to a three-and-a-half-minute long routine. It started slowly with some basic turns and progressed to spins in mere minutes. The first toss went alright, I caught the pole right away and quickly moved to the next technique. However, when I went back to try it again, it didn’t turn out so smooth.

Within seconds of trying the spin again, the flag left my hands. Thankfully the 12-year-old girl beside me had fast reflexes because the pole and flag went flying half-a-foot from her face. She laughed and said, “Don’t worry we’ve all taken a flag to the face.” With this in mind, I continued my journey to become the next big thing in winterguard.

It may have taken me a few more tries, but by the end of the rehearsal I was ready to perform. To my relief there was one parent there who had graciously offered to film my newfound winterguard skills. I only dropped the flag once during the show, a vast improvement from where I started just 45 minutes prior.

So, what did I think of winterguard now that I had tried it out?

I think Rebecca put it best when she said, “Winterguard takes the flexibility of a gymnastic, the coordination of a dancer and the spatial awareness of a marching band to succeed.” It was clear for me to see the different transferable skills in each of the participants. Everyone has a skill that makes them a fit for this sport.

Check out some of my other recent All Summer One Sport adventures:

1) Sledge Hockey (Para Ice Hockey)

2) Pickleball

3) Flying Trapeze

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