Thirty members of the Seymour High School Marching Owls chose to put away their band instruments this school year.
Instead, they will be marching with flags, sabers and guns.
Color guard is a new option at the school.
When Kevin Cottrill started as band director 17 years ago, there was a pep steppers group that used flags for one year.
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Since then, the only other accompaniment with the marching band has been the cheerleaders.
Steve Nauman, the corporation’s business manager, and his daughter, Lacey Money, a secretary at Margaret R. Brown Elementary School, both have a background in color guard.
One day earlier this year, Money suggested to her father that Seymour start color guard.
After they shared the idea with Cottrill, the group started learning the techniques in May to prepare for the upcoming football season.
“Hopefully, people will be excited there’s another element, and they’ll watch us progress, and at some point, we’ll have the precision we want,” Nauman said. “I know in the beginning, it probably won’t quite be what I would expect, but I tell the kids, ‘It’s better than what we had because we had nothing.’ The main thing is to be positive and do your best, and it will all fall together.”
Nauman participated in color guard his senior year at Wes-Del High School. Then while attending Ball State University, he was hired to do a band camp at Scottsburg High School.
After that, he became the color guard director, a position he would hold for 35 years.
Three groups — high school, middle school and a combination of both — met year-round to practice for the winter competitions in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. There was even an elementary program at one time.
Money became involved in color guard at an early age and competed for Scottsburg until graduating in 2006. She and her father also led a successful color guard program at New Washington High School for three years.
Nauman retired from Scottsburg three and a half years ago before finding out about the business manager job at Seymour.
In the spring, he spoke to Seymour middle and high school band students about starting color guard. For now, they chose to only offer it to band members.
“That was really just because they had so many band kids, and these kids already know what the band program is all about,” Nauman said. “If they can play their horn, they can probably spin a flag. We just knew from the beginning, that’s probably just a better way to start it out. It doesn’t mean it will always be that way.”
More than 30 girls initially signed up and tried some hands-on activities to learn how color guard works.
For some, it would end up being tougher than they envisioned.
“In the color guard world, they call it pageantry of arts,” Nauman said. “It’s a sport, but most people don’t look at it as a sport, but it’s as physical as any other sporting activity that there is because you use all parts of your body, and you have to have timing and coordination, and your feet and everything have to move.
“As you progress, we really focus on a lot of body stuff, so they have to be in great physical shape or it just doesn’t work out for them,” he said.
The girls first had to learn about the parts of the flags and weapons. Then they learned how to use their hands and do it in time.
“It’s getting 30 people to grab their hand on the pole at the same place at the same time,” Money said. “Most people think you can just pick it up and spin it, but there’s actually a method to it.”
They practiced two and a half hours Tuesday and Thursday nights on the football field.
Then the last week of July, they participated in band camp from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
One day during camp, they paraded from the high school to Kovener’s Korner to get ice cream. That was a defining moment, Nauman said.
“Quite honestly, until we did the parade, I don’t think some of them really got it,” he said. “For the first time, they got to do a parade, and they felt like they were achieving something because they actually got to perform it. I really saw the kids were just excited and enjoyed it, and that’s the main thing to me.”
The directors are letting the girls advance at their own pace.
“What I really enjoy is watching the kids progress and when they finally get something they’ve been working on for days and you just know they are frustrated, and they finally get it. That’s what’s priceless to me,” Nauman said.
“Yeah, you might be able to spin it, but can you move from one side of the field to the other while you do it and everybody do it together and make it look good?” Money said. “That’s something the girls have really come a long way with.”
As they continue to fine-tune their skills for performances at home football games, the color guard members will meet in groups — flags, sabers and guns.
The directors are excited to see the girls perform in front of a crowd for the first time.
“When you are done and you look up and you’re like, ‘Oh, these people really enjoyed it,’ you did something and they liked it, you can’t explain that feeling,” Money said. “These experiences that these kids get, you won’t get anywhere else. For them to have those experiences, that stays with you forever.”
Nauman said color guard allows the participants to create lasting friendships and grow individually.
“I’ve had kids that come in Day 1 and probably this is not the activity for them because they struggle so much, but by the time they get to be a senior, they are one of your best kids,” he said. “It’s just the determination that they put behind it. That’s what I think is neat to just watch those kids grow. Some kids that are very shy end up being great leaders. It changes most kids’ lives.”
Senior Sophie Gorman and junior Ashlie Smith both said going from band to color guard has been a learning experience.
“The techniques were very different,” Gorman said. “In color guard, you don’t mark time like you do in band, so it was different, but it was a good kind of different. It was just a change.”
Smith said she has been up for the challenge.
“I feel like I’ve achieved a personal goal of doing something else,” she said. “Playing flute from sixth to 10th grade and bringing the guard back, it has come back, and we’re hitting hard.”
Gorman said several former flute players are in color guard, so that has allowed her to stay close to friends.
“I do love band, but I’m a senior, and this is the only year I would be able to try color guard,” she said. “I’m very glad that I did not only because it was a change, but because I’ve made so many close friends because it’s a smaller group than the band.”
As the football season-opener approaches Aug. 18, the color guard is ready to perform for the first time.
“Everyone usually loves watching the marching band just because of the shapes we make or the moves we make, and I feel like the color guard is going to add a whole new effect to that,” Gorman said. “People are going to be so excited, and it’s going to get them riled up for the football games.”
Beyond the football season, Nauman said the color guard may perform at a few basketball games in the winter and will continue to practice year-round.
Signups for the next school year will be in the spring.
“Basically, in color guard, you’re in until you opt out,” he said. “I don’t make them audition. If I end up having 80 kids, that might be a different story. I don’t do that unless I have to because I want to give kids opportunities.”
Nauman said expanding the color guard to lower grade levels may be a few years down the road when there are experienced high-schoolers to help teach them. Entering competitions also may be an option in the future.
“I’m more about making sure the kids have a strong foundation and they can enjoy what they’re doing,” he said.
He encourages people to come out to football games to watch the color guard.
“It will be fun, and I think the kids are having fun,” he said. “The main thing is I hope the community realizes where we started and look at us where we end and go from there. That’s the big thing is everybody has to start somewhere. I’m proud of the kids and where we’ve gotten.”
The Seymour High School color guard will perform with the marching band and cheerleaders at these home football games:
Aug. 18 vs. Evansville Harrison, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 1 vs. Columbus East, 7 p.m.
Sept. 15 vs. Bedford North Lawrence, 7 p.m.
Sept. 22 vs. Brownstown Central, 7 p.m.
Oct. 6 vs. New Albany, 7 p.m.