Spinning for a camera

Virtual competitions present new challenges for winter guard

Story by Emma Allen, staff writer

Every season is different for any sport. A team changes, people graduate, new people join. This year has come with an unprecedented change for several competing entities, including this year’s varsity winter guard. As with every season, this one had its ups and downs, but they were wildly different from any previous year. 

For each competition, the guard must record their show and submit it at or before noon four days prior to the actual competition date. The videos of the other performances will be then available to watch, but no matter how hard they try, nothing will be quite the same as a normal competition. 

“I miss interacting with new people. I miss being able to see new faces and actually being able to watch the shows in person, rather than having to watch it over video,” senior AnneMarie Vasquez said. “I’ve been doing [normal competitions] for three years already and not being able to do it your last year is hard.”

For Vasquez, who has been in guard since her freshman year, virtual competitions don’t fill the hole where a regular competition should have been. For others, it’s more about what they never had the chance to experience. 

“I [am] very regretful that I didn’t join in an earlier year because I [missed] out on all the competition [experiences],” senior Charli Hueter said. “[Performing] can be a special feeling, and the fact that I never got to experience going to another school, [meeting] other guards, getting to watch them perform and then having them watch me perform makes me very sad.” 

Hueter auditioned for the guard her senior year, and consequently, she will never be exposed to the full guard process. Her situation is similar to that of senior Macy Sloan, who joined the winter guard for last year’s season, which was cut short due to the pandemic. 

“I’m kind of sad because it feels like I didn’t get to have the real winter guard experience,” Sloan said. “I don’t really know what I’m missing, so that’s good, but I’m happy with what I got. It’s still fun.”

Besides all of the emotional reasons why virtual competitions have taken a toll on the guard, there are some very real effects on performance. There are no rules against recording as many times as possible, which had both good and bad results.

“Knowing that you have a second try makes you feel less like you have to do your very best the first time,” junior Aubrey Egger said. “You [are still aware] you have to do your best, but the nerves don’t make you do better [anymore], they make you do worse because you know you can do it again.”

Even with all of the challenges that virtual competitions come with, there is one thing that comes as an advantage. The in-person competitions were almost always near Dallas, which is quite the drive on the average school bus.

“Sometimes having to drive a long way put us in a bind for time,” guard instructor Brandon Sams said. “We [often] had to rush quite a bit, so being here in our own facility [means we] can take time setting up and [we] don’t have to worry about time restrictions that we had in person to keep the schedule.”

Despite this, the season has still been a bit of a letdown for many members of the guard. The challenges were too numerous and all at once that it was difficult to overcome. There may even be something good to be said about the adrenaline from rushing around at a competition. However, the winter guard has stayed strong, fighting through the challenges and performing their hearts out to “Beautiful Things” by Jordan Smith. All in all, Sams said it best.

“The worst part is there’s not been any validation for what we’ve done as far as audience response,” Sams said. “It’s like watching ‘Hamilton’ on video. You don’t get the same emotion from the performer[s]. Each performance is special and individual because different things happen. That’s what we don’t get from [virtual competitions].”