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Why do students keep quitting my color guard?

It's the beginning of winter guard season!

You've done recruitment, held your auditions, written your warm-ups, selected flags and costumes, and you are ready to put a beautiful show on the floor.

Then you have a student tell you that they can't do color guard this season.

Well, that's fine. You've only invested maybe two audition rehearsals and five minutes in a staff meeting on this kid so far this season, never mind that they are a third year veteran member, at least they quit early enough that you don't have to fill a hole in the show drill.

Then, a couple of practices later, after you've announced the staff's selections for weapon line, you have ANOTHER student quit. It doesn't seem to matter if they are earning points and selling fundraisers and even signing contracts, it just keeps happening.

How long can this go on into the season? What are you doing wrong?

The truth is that it can continue to go on indefinitely until you have a core set of dedicated students who believe in what the team is trying to accomplish. Just because students are quitting doesn't necessarily mean you are doing anything wrong, although it's always good to evaluate your techniques in each step of the process, it just means that the students weren't a good fit for the program in the first place.

For instance, one student might be quitting because their parents don't understand how the process of winter guard works. They think they can wait until AFTER auditions to explain to their student that they aren't going to allow him or her to participate in winter guard until he or she has better grades in class. However, grades came out BEFORE auditions, and the next grade card doesn't come out until AFTER the winter guard has learned the entire show. You can't simply pull a student out of winter guard for the entire time the team is learning their show and bonding and expect them to simply step back in halfway through the season, learn the show, and get along with everyone. But the real problem here is that the parents don't understand that.

Another type of student who quits is the one looking for self-glory. I have had so many self-glorifying students come through the door at Spintronix that it's pathetic. They don't generally last long, just one or two seasons. They often have a delusional idea that they are better than others at color guard and therefore they simply DESERVE all of the attention, solos, and any other spotlight that can be granted to them. The truth is that while it might be exciting to have a self-glorifying member on the guard who really IS the best performer (which generally happens when a guard program is very young), over time these performers become toxic to the group as a whole. As the rest of the group progresses and grows together, the self-glorifying member generally stays at the same level because they refuse to truly work with the team, stuck in their belief that they are still the best. Then, when they aren't chosen for a select portion of the team, or handed a solo, they will often resort to one of two things; 1. stirring up drama with the rest of the team, or 2. simply quitting. If you've got a REALLY self-involved performer then they will stir up drama with the rest of the team and then finally quit. These are the types who generally want to "go out with a bang" so they will say things they think are cutting, trying to bring the whole team or even the entire organization down to their level, demonstrating how they believe the team will fail without their special talent. In truth, in every situation I have ever had of self-glorifying member quitting, the team has actually flourished above and beyond their former achievements after that toxic member was gone.

There can, of course, be a host of other reasons. Students can have a problem with authority, they can be non-conformists who look at color guard as a suppression of individuality rather than creation of art, others might just have a lot going on at home so that they can't handle the stress of being on a team.

Trying to get to the bottom of these kinds of situations can become time-consuming, and I feel bad because every group goes through this as a stage of their growth. But it's just a stage, and as you learn to simply let these students go rather than worry about the reasons why they are quitting, you will begin to notice more patterns and personality types that don't work well with your program. It makes cutting those students during the audition process easier as the seasons march on, and you will have less quitters in your later years.

The most important thing is to keep things positive no matter what, and deal with the blows as they are delivered. Don't be discouraged over the one student who couldn't hack it and had to quit, focus on the incredible students who ARE there, who are sticking around and have faith in you and your program. Those are the ones who should be occupying your time and receiving your attention! Besides, it's easier to clean a guard of 16 than a guard of 25 anyway...

<3 Jackie

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