Winterguard: Beyond Friendship, Beyond Family

debaseinstallPersonal Reflections, Winter Guard

When the staff sat around the planning table last year and discussed the course of action we were to take to bring Paradigm back out, many questions were discussed. All programs go through the planning and problem solving to-do list which usually includes how to find a consistent rehearsal site, a set schedule, work on the budget, discuss possible show concepts, how to attract membership, how to choose the right staff, etc. but one question in particular stuck out in my mind. It was the question we knew both members and parents were going to ask when discussing their choices:

“Why would I choose Paradigm? What make them different?
Why with all the performance options would I choose this program?”

Well, for me, this was the easiest question of all to answer.

It is well known that I am one of the longest committed members to Paradigm. I dedicated 9 years to the program and would of easily given more had it been available to me. One of my “Favorite Things” that I am famous or infamous (however you prefer) for was the 1999 butterfly hair nightmare. (Oh, butterflies…) I think that innocent mistake will haunt me ‘til my final days. 2000 was my first year in IA Finals which was “Cool”.

  I partied in to the top 5 in IA with “Birdland” in 2001. I wasn’t a “Wayfaring Stranger” as I earned my 2002 IA Silver Medal and I still sing the praises of “Fleetwood Mac” who lead the way to my 2003 IO Bronze Medal. I proudly have the WGI medals shadowboxed in honor of those great accomplishments.

Entering into my IW years, I growled and managed to escape the cage in 2004 “A Look Inside“. I was a part of the most amazing flag features ever created in 2005 which was no “Typical Situation“. 2006 was an emotional roller coaster as I discovered Mitch Albrom’s Tuesdays with Morrie and the movies Philadelphia and Meet Joe Black. And as I recovered from my car accident in November 2006, I joined in March, the end of the season, to sing ‘One Love’ into a microphone in 2007.

When I walked into the gym in Lake City, Florida with my sister, Jamie, back in the September of 1998, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself in to nor what was going to be accomplished in the time I was there. I was 15, a Junior in high school, and surrounded by a lot of college students who knew more and could spin better than I could. All I knew was that I wanted to march and my high school no longer had a winter guard program. What I did know was we were going to audition for Paradigm Independent and the people there were really nice. When the weekend was over, I was tired and sore but I made some great new friends. I became the youngest person on the team that year and 1 of only 2 high schoolers that made it. It was the first steps towards a near decade of family and commitment

There is an old clique that goes something like – you make your closest friends in college. I completely disagree. I met them in the guard community. I met them at Paradigm. Paradigm is second Family. I have been around long enough to know there is nothing like the bond between marching members. There is nothing greater than that continued bond over years of teamwork and commitment. There is nothing like the instant connection when we haven’t seen each other in a while and it is immediately like we saw each other yesterday. I know I could call almost anyone of my former teammates and if possible, someway, somehow, they would support me if I really needed it. And while I am close with my coworkers and I feel like I spend just as much or more time with them as I do my guard family, its by no means the same. They don’t understand why I keep giving up my days off to teach at clinics or tech some flags or fix some feet. They have never been to Dayton and been on the floor feeling the connective energy of the people giving their all while thousands of eyes watch and applaud. They haven’t felt the bond off walking on the floor in pure joy or pure exhaustion. They have never felt the sense of accomplishment when a group you have taught achieves that one perfect moment in that one perfect run. When I request off work, I put ‘family event’ because that is what it is to me.

9 years. Don’t they go by in a blink? I went through SO much in that time. High school graduation, college graduation, relationships, friendships, disappointments, successes, my car accident, and so much more. I grew up in Paradigm. I can honestly say marching at Paradigm made me the person I am today. I can watch the videos and see my growth as a performer and a person. I look back at the obstacles I had to hurdle over to make it to the next season and see the people next to me encouraging me to go forth. I know the people I helped and what I gave back, which is why I love to teach.

So when asked this question directly to me – how would I talk to others about why Paradigm? My response was this:

Winterguard teaches not just drop spins and tosses; it teaches Life. It teaches dedication to your team and commitment to those around you. It teaches about friendship with no conditions. It teaches how to really trust in people that you depend on and find those who are depending on you. It teaches financial obligation to your dues and personal life sacrifices. It teaches how to make the right choices and learn from the wrong ones. It teaches hygiene, hair, and makeup 101. It teaching nutrition and body awareness. It teaches you the grace of winning and the dignity of losing. It teaches you that hard work pays off and when you think about giving up, you still have a little bit more to give.

All these “life” things were never taught in any of my college classes. There were taught at right shoulder in a gym with Paradigm. After I stopped marching, I looked for something else that was as great. I found a few groups and activities that came close or atleast had moments of it but “IT” wasn’t there. Maybe because I didn’t stay that long or the staff didn’t focus on teaching these things or I knew where Home was. But I missed Paradigm.

I would choose Paradigm because this is my Family, my second home. These people are who I have to depend on and trust to be there and to do their jobs. I have cried with these people. I’ve laughed, have been exhausted, overjoyed, overwhelmed, bruised, brokenhearted, and a million other emotions. 

I am thrilled and honored to be a part of the staff at Paradigm this year and I look forward to what this season and the many after it will bring.

If you have a ‘Home’, I can’t wait to see you on the floor and good luck to you this season! But if you don’t have a ‘Home’ yet and still are looking for that special place to go, please by all means come join us for a weekend. I have no doubt that once you meet my Family, you will want to be a part of it too.