Archive for the ‘Practicing’ Category

In the morning? The evening? Afternoon? What’s the best time for practices?

This depends completely on your team. Of course you don’t want to wear out your team and make everyone wake up at 5am for practice; then again, you don’t want them staying till 5 after school everyday or until 9 at night. So take a vote and see what works. When do people want to practice? Not only is this a good way to make everyone happy, but also, if people are telling you when they want to be at practice, then they’re more likely to be happy when they’re at practice. It’s a win-win situation here.

Keeping your members active in decisions is important. If you make decisions for other people without them knowing, they wouldn’t be too happy. Make team decisions. If something doesn’t work out, then work around it. Find out what your team wants!

Check out how to schedule practice for more tips.


When you create the routine, you need to make sure that it’s challenging, interesting, appealing to the audience, etc. That’s the obvious. You also have to make sure that it is capable of being 98% perfect.

A difficult routine is great, but a difficult routine performed poorly is just as bad as a boring routine. Challenge yourselfs with a difficult routine and make it as perfect as possible. Of course there is no such thing as 100% perfection, but if you want to succeed in competitions, you’re going to need at least 90% perfection. If this is just not happening for your team, maybe it’s because the routine is too difficult! Maybe the counts are too fast, the moves are too far apart to transition to, the music is too fast, etc. Simplify it and make the work easier on the team. If you’ve read my other articles on choreography, you should know that you yourself must be capable of performing the routine with the music first. Sometimes people will create moves that they themselves can’t even do! Practice first. Teachers don’t teach things that they don’t know; likewise, you shouldn’t be teaching a routine that you have not practiced and perfected. Make sure 90% perfection is possible.

As for the routine itself, one way to make it fun, new, and interesting is to add your team member’s creativity to it. They can contribute to the choreography and make your life as a captain easier! In the end, make sure anyone who creates a section of the choreography gets credit for it in some way! After all, if you don’t credit this person, you’ve basically took credit for her work. You’ve learned this lesson at school already. Don’t plagiarize.

The main reason choreography is so hard to perfect is because it is created without consideration to the pace of the music and the plausibility of the moves. Of course it’s okay to first start off slow and speed the counts up to the music, but the instructor’s responsibility is to perfect the choreography before she teaches it. If you can’t do it, no one else can. Make sure you can do it, and make sure there are no extremely difficult, based-on-chance moves. These could be cartwheels or other risky moves. It usually leads to sloppiness anyway. Don’t add something to the routine unless you’re sure that everyone is capable of perfecting it (including yourself!).

Though I say to not add something that can’t be perfected, I don’t mean to make the routine boring and easy. Challenges are good, but extremely risky challenges like head-spinning just won’t work, unless everyone can do it. Make your routine as creative as possible, with unique transitions and a bit of everyone’s creativity in it.

Happy choreographing )

Trying to get everyone to practice is tough! Drillers have their own lives outside of school and sometimes can’t work around the schedule. Don’t you wish you could freeze time? )

So in the case that you can’t freeze time, what can you do to get everyone to practice? Working with missing members is difficult, so here are some ways to work around this.

Remember, if you are a captain, your responsibility is to accomodate team members and work with them. You’re not better than them. You’re just leading them, and in order for this to happen, they must be able to attend!

Vote on practices. Ask your team members what the best days for practice are. Usually Sundays are already eliminated because many people have religious affiliations. But some people are busy every Wednesday with other important things. You can’t stop them; these people have their own lives and drill should not interfere! Voting will eliminate skipping practices for periodic events, like meetings, Church, whatever people do. This allows team members to speak up for when they cannot be here. Remember: work with your team members. Instead of scolding them when they aren’t here, create a schedule that will allow them to be here. It’s simple as that.

Keep practices consistent. Don’t make the schedule random. After you’ve voted and found out which days are okay for practice, find out which days you will practice. This should be a periodic schedule, like Every Monday to Thursday from 2:30 to 4:30 PM. Something like that. This way there are no random practices on days that people are busy. In additional, members will have a chance to join clubs and be involved in the school in other ways; in this example, Fridays are always free, so members can join clubs that are on Fridays.

No surprise practices. This goes with keeping practices consistent. Don’t expect everyone to be at practice if you alert them the day before! Preferably, practices should be scheduled one month in advance. Two weeks is good enough, but it’s the bare minimum. The earlier they know about practices, the more time they have to alert you about times that they cannot be here; consequently, you will have more time to reschedule or cancel and keep everyone at practice.

If an extra practice is necessary, VOTE! Again, it’s not a team member’s fault if she can’t be there. This way you know who can make it.

NEVER schedule before asking/voting. This is probably the biggest planning mistake there is, but people do it all the time! Just ask yourself why you would schedule something when you know someone can’t make it? Without everyone, practice is almost a waste because one person is behind.

Be nice about it. If someone can’t make it, ask why (nicely!). If this is a plausible excuse, then it’s ok. Reschedule practice if there is time. Things like funerals or sickness come up unexpectedly. You can’t expect a member to alert you two weeks in advance about this. Also, some appointments can only be made during practice time. Clinics usually close early and are closed on Fridays. Just ask the member to explain and use your own reasoning to see if this is okay. Smile. If you’re angry about it, the then she will be also. This creates a negative team.
Make sure you show everyone the schedule. They can’t be here if they don’t know!

There is always someone that likes to be sick or have a headache every other day. In this case, you should talk with her. See if this is a plausible excuse or if she is simply trying to miss practice. Don’t be afraid to kick her off the team; besides, the reason she’s always “sick” is probably because she hates practice. These people pull your team behind.

Remember that bad scheduling leads to missing members and unproductive practices. Scolding your members for being absent leads to a negative team mood. So work with your team members to form a schedule!

My article about planning actual practice time might also be helpful.


*NOTE*: 1/16/07–this site has moved to
This article and new articles are posted there!

Here is the link to this article on the new site:


You can always improve your flexibility. But sometimes you just don’t know how!

I didn’t explain actual stretches to you in my last flexibility article. So, here are some stretches that might work for you:

The Simple Stretches
That’s right. Just the normal old v-sit will help a lot! You just need to focus when you stretch. If you truly want to be more flexible, then work on being more flexible. Stretch and think of stretching that extra inch as your goal. You won’t become flexible if you don’t genuinely want it. Stretching requires focus.

The Split
Sit in your splits for a minute or two and feel the stretch. If you don’t feel any stretch, elevate one leg on a stair, step, or phonebook. You can also try to split against a doorway. Hold the sides of the wall to keep your balance.
On the other hand, if you cannot do the splits, then go as close as you can and stay in this position for at least a minute. Don’t estimate, either. Use a clock, or else you might think it’s been one minute when it’s only been 20 seconds. Pain impairs your estimation!

Spread Eagle
There are a lot of names for this one. Basically, sit in a v-sit near a wall. Spread your legs out as far as possible and pull yourself into the wall as far as you can. This helps a lot in doing the middle splits.

Stretch with a Friend!
There’s lots of stretches you can do with a partner! Lay on your back–legs straight; point both toes. Have a partner elevate one leg as far to your nose as possible. Try resisting your partner’s push for ten seconds, relaxing and pulling your leg in for ten seconds, resisting, etc. You can also do this by yourself by simply pulling your own leg in.
Here’s another one. Place your leg on a friend’s shoulder (be careful!). If that is too high for you, tell your partner to lower it. Your partner can then hold your leg and raise it up as you get used to the stretch. You should lean on a wall so you don’t lose your balance!

These stretches all work, but the best way to stretch is to use a mixture of everything. Stretch every muscle in your body.
The most important thing to know when stretching is to focus. You can’t just stretch without focusing and expect to become more flexible. When you stretch, think about stretching and nothing else. This focus is really what is going to help you.

Comment and tell me if this helps!

Think every practice is for practicing formations? Wrong! If you get your formations right, then so what? Isn’t there this judging category called execution? Showmanship? Oh yeah…

When you’re planning practice, you have to leave room to practice everything–not just the formations part. And make sure you plan practices. Not five minutes before it starts, either. Plan ahead.

Planning is essential. At school, teachers have curriculums, and if you’ve noticed, the teachers that plan their year finish teaching whole curriculum and those not-so-great teachers will get to chapter two of your textbook. You want to finish the curriculum. This is the drill curriculum:


These have to look as near to perfect as possible for maximum effect. Moves usually are influenced by formations; for instance, a kick formation likely has a line in it so people kick together. What if that line is more like a zigzag? Yuck… needs work.


I would say this is one of the hardest things to do, especially when you’re tired. Those angles need to stay perfect, your toes have to stay pointed, and you have to trick your mind and make yourself not tired. But it’s not over yet. You have to keep going. Of course you can make a perfect T, but when you’re tired, that T looks more like a low V. Not good. Endurance is a part of execution also.


You’re tired and you have to smile? That sucks. But it’s part of the art. Keeping that smile bright shows how happy you are and how much you love to dance. It shows the judges how dedicated you are, how much you love being on this team, and how badly you want to win. This is one way that you’re going to convince them that this team is best. Smile. It’s easy, isn’t it?


So, in most states, you don’t get judged on this part of the routine. This means nothing. You get secretly judged and you should know this. These are the first and last impressions that you leave and they must be effective and energetic. Entering sloppily is an automatic impression that your team doesn’t want to win. Same with walking out sloppily. It shows how tired you are and incapable. Definitely not a good thing.


Bad posture will make your judges wince. It’s hard to keep that back flat, but it’s only going to be for a few minutes. You need to have good posture to do well in competitions. It’s just part of the drill art.

This is currently the curriculum, which I may be adding to later.

Captains and coaches, this is your job. You’re teaching this team, and you want every student to complete the curriculum of your class. One of the hardest things about drill is the concept of teamwork–every individual member has to ace every part of this curriculum. These are all tests that they must pass. If one person doesn’t, the whole team suffers.

So, in order to successfully complete this curriculum, you need to be planning practices two weeks at a time. So for instance, on Monday from 2:30pm until 3:30 you will work on angles; then, you will have a short break and from 3:35 to 4 you will work on formations. Make these agendas specific, and stick with them. There is no use to making a schedule it you don’t use it. Make sure you plan practices and get things done. Incorporate every part of the drill curriculum to ensure that your performance goes well. Spend more time on areas that need improvement and less time on the areas that you’ve pretty much got down. Let team members know the agenda. They have a right to know everything. Leaders, don’t treat them like your minions. Just because you have a position means nothing about the level of your skills compared to theirs. I hated being treated like a “newbie”. Remember to not name your team members either. “First-year”, “new members”, “newbies”–these are all discouraging. It’s like a first-year member is automatically worse than a second-year one. Experience is important, but practice is more important. There are many “first-year” (I’m not a big fan of this term) members that are better than “third-years”. It’s all about how much each member practices.

Now it’s time to plan! Don’t wait. Do it now!

Comment and tell me how this works for you.

Remember to smile bright! )

Moved! has moved to

New articles will be added there. All the old articles from this site are there as well. Enjoy! )


A whole lot of time is spent at practice being unproductive because some people still don’t know the routine. And as a captain or even a team member, you start thinking, “why do they not know the routine? It’s been a month since they’ve learned it!” It’s a very good question, but there isn’t really an answer to it, other than the fact that they’re lazy, effortless, and don’t place drill on their priority list. But you can’t just kick them off the team–they’re important. You’re going to have to deal with it some way or another.

The main problem about someone not knowing the routine is that it brings the team down. You can’t really work on angles, formations, etc. so you’re forced to instead go over the routine (and waste time) or find another activity to do (conditioning, marching, etc.) that won’t really help your performance which is coming up in two weeks…

It’s extremely frustrating when practice after practice, these same people continue to not practice and not know the routine. You start wondering why on earth they were selected at the time of try-outs.

When I was on drill, the captains/coach always enforced the fact that we’re a “team” and have to do “teamwork” in order to be successful. Well, it’s true, but only to an extent. Of course you have to rely on each other have good angles, be sharp, perform well, etc., but another thing that annoyed me was the concept that if one person didn’t march the right way, the whole team would have to march again and again until everyone had it right. There was always the one person that didn’t point her toes, or the one person that decided to not keep her posture back, and even though I was doing it fine, I had to repeat it over and over again just because of the girl who didn’t point her toes, the girl that didn’t want to be sharp, etc. It really angered me and I am pretty sure that it angered every other person on the team. It just brought everyone’s mood down and I stopped caring completely after doing it the 5th time in a row. I mean, is this concept of “teamwork” really applicable? No. It’s important to work together in a team, but you shouldn’t punish everyone for one person’s errors. It’s just not right.

So, just because some people don’t know the routine, does that mean everyone should go to practice and waste their time going over the routine, for the millionth time in a row? No. Here’s my method of teaching a routine:

1. After choreographing, create packets for everyone (make sure you triple-check for errors)
These packets were very useful for me when I was learning the routine. They would have the count # and the moves next to it, indicating where marching started and stopped. Here’s an example of what I mean:
1 High v, in fists
2 Swirl arms down to low v (start high-knee marching)
3 W angle in fists
& T, in fists
4 Broken T, in blades (stop marching)

OK, so that wasn’t exactly a realistic routine, but I hope you get the idea. It’s really easy to forget the routine after it is taught, especially when a lot is taught in a day. Sometimes people will leave out entire 8-counts and it just leads to confusion. These packets are good references and you will never have a team member telling you “but…I forgot about that part”, “you didn’t answer your phone when I called for help”, etc. Just make sure they don’t lose their packet.

2. Set a time period for teaching the routine to the team
Some teams like to practice daily for an hour or two a day; others might like to practice for 3 hours a day two days a week. It all depends on how your team does it. For a normal, approximately 3 minute routine, I would say set a week to teach the routine. You don’t want to teach an overwhelming amount in one day, nor do you want to take a whole month to teach it. Make sure you give everyone a 5 minute break between a set of four 8-counts for them to think about what they’ve learned and catch up on it. If you’re talking the whole time, no one will have time to think about the previosu 8-count or the one before it, so make sure you close your mouth for a few minutes and just let them think about it and practice on their own for a bit. One time when I was being taught, the captain just kept going on and on to new sets of 8-counts. I just gave up midway through practice and decided I’d go home and learn it. I just didn’t care anymore. You don’t want anyone to just give up, so “thinking-breaks” would be helpful.

3. Leave a 1-week time space for team members to practice
Don’t schedule practices for one week. Take the stress off and enforce everyone to practice and take advantage of the time off.

4. Schedule one week for individual practices to evaluate team members
Create a sign-up sheet for evaluation sessions. Have five of these (one hour each) in one week. Divide your team up evenly (ex: 30 members on a team, divide this by five days so that you will evaluate six members per practice). Allow members to sign up whenever they wish, as long as it’s in the timeframe. During this practice, your job as a captain is to evaluate every team member on how well they know the routine. This has nothing to do with perfecting it. Knowledge is the first part–you can perfect the routine later. If the person knows the routine, she passes, and if not, she will fail. Don’t be too harsh, it’s a know-it or don’t thing; you don’t want everyone stressed out over this. Create a punishment for failing, like going to practices during the weekend or going to “fail” practices. This will be your time to punish those that didn’t know the routine, because it was their fault and they deserve to be punished rather than the team as a whole. Use this time to help them learn the routine so that you can start practices with the entire team to work on the next step–perfection.

And there you have it! One week to teach the routine, one week to rest, one week to evaluate. A three-week process. This might seem long, but if you think about it, it’s really not. Most captains make the mistake of teaching a routine in 1-2 weeks and going immediately into the perfection process. Though many team members are dedicated and spend time practicing, there are the ones who don’t. Running straight into the process of perfection is therefore only a waste of time, because the people that don’t know the routine can’t perfect what they’ve not yet learned. When you perform, the judges watch every single person on your team and you cannot risk having one person off. If one person doesn’t know the routine, she’ll never have time to perfect it and her bad angles/posture/etc. will catch a judge’s eye.

Sometimes even months after the routine is taught, people still don’t know the routine. I remember times when people hadn’t learned a routine until four months after being taught. So if you think about it, a three-week process with every single member knowing the routine is a pretty good deal. As a whole you will be able to move on and not have to practice formations with the girl in the back who doesn’t know the routine and is always in your way because she doesn’t know where to move. You have go step by step, and the first step is knowledge. Not just in most of the members, but every member. You need to surpass this step in order to move on.

Have fun teaching!

Angles matter a whole lot. If one is off, the whole team is off. Every single little thing counts in drill. So, how do you make all those angles perfect? How do you awe the judges that are watching your every move?

Well, you can’t have perfect angles without good posture. Roll your shoulders back and push them down. You need an arched back and your body should be stiff. Only after attaining this posture should you practice angles.

Start off on your own. Practicing angles in the mirror is ideal because you can see exactly what each and every angle looks like. After going over every individual angle, practice with counts and the music. Make sure that these angles are placed in the correct locations and while you’re at it, keep your movements sharp. Angles that are correctly placed but not sharp won’t exactly do you much good.

After this, plan a day with the team to practice angles (or suggest a practice to your captain or coach). By doing this, you can learn to match angles. Stand in a line with people relatively your height and hit each angle one by one. A captain or coach that’s standing in front of this line should see every single arm at the same position. Go through maybe a few 8-counts with this angle-matching method each practice. Your arms should be pretty sore by the end of this, because it takes a lot of repetitions to get the angles just perfect. It’s probably not a good idea to practice angles for over half an hour at a time. Arms will get sore and you shouldn’t strain the team. Just wait another day and let the soreness lead to built muscles!

An important concept about drill is that everything matters. You can’t just be sharp and have crappy angles; likewise, you can’t just have good angles and no sharpness. It all has to go together. Remember though, you need to take things one step at a time. You can always start off by practicing angles at the beginning of the year so that they are well memorized by the end! Good luck!


*NOTE*: 1/16/07–this site has moved to
This article and new articles are posted there!

Here is the link to this article on the new site:


Edit 3/23/07: Moira–in order to become more flexible, the best solution is to stretch routinely. Stretching daily allows you to build flexibility and maintain it the next day. This eliminates the amount of flexibility that you lose from not stretching for long periods of time. Some useful stretches are listed at the end of this article: Important things to remember about gaining flexibility:
Stretch correctly:
Make sure you are holding each stretch for an appropriate amount time (1-3 minutes depending on the stretch), and make sure you feel the stretch where you are supposed to.
Stretch routinely:
Flexibility is something that you have to build. Once you stop, flexibility doesn’t just stop building–it collapses. When gymnasts stop stretching for long periods of time, getting into the splits becomes very difficult as a result of the loss of flexibility. Stretch daily if possible.
Stretch more than one muscle:
It is important to stretch several muscles. If, for instance, you are interested in doing the splits, you must stretch several leg muscles and not just one. Stretch everywhere that you must.
It takes time:
Stretching isn’t a one-day thing. Be patient so that you don’t lose motivation.
I hope this helps you gain the flexibility that you asked for. If not, please feel free to email me or post another comment at the new site (

Edit 9/4/06: For help on the splits, read Flexibility to the Max–Stretch your splits in 3 weeks!

You’ve been stretching what seems like forever, but you still haven’t got the splits down after a year or so. It seems impossible, and you start asking yourself if you’re incapable of doing the splits. Maybe the right question to ask is if you are stretching correctly, doing the right stretches, and stretching frequently enough.

Being able to do the splits isn’t just based on being flexible in one area. A lot of people tend to stretch the same muscles everyday, but never get the splits down. This may because they are doing the wrong stretches. Another possibility is that they aren’t performing the stretches correctly. Make sure you use a variety of stretches and also perform them correctly. Stretching improperly won’t do you any good.

Being flexible also requires a lot of stretching. You need to be stretching daily, for at least 15 minutes. You can’t just compensate and decide to stretch for two hours every Saturday. It doesn’t work that way–you have to stretch daily in order to build up on it. Your flexibility improves everyday, but it also digresses. If you stretch once a week, you’ll become more flexible, but by the next week, you will lose all the flexibility that you gained. That’s why you have to stretch daily–so that you build flexibility and don’t lose it.

One important tip for stretching is to do it after warming up. Your muscles are much easier to stretch while they’re warm and it won’t feel as painful while stretching cold. You’ll get better results this way and have less risks of pulling a muscle.

Another tip is to stretch while at practice. I know you probably warm up and stretch, but while stretching, you can’t just talk to your friends and be in a stretching position while doing so. You have to think about stretching and focus on becoming more flexible. You can sit in a stretching position for hours and get no stretch at all. You actually have to stretch to your limits in order to improve your flexibility. After awhile, your stretching limits will expand because you are becoming more flexible. You will be able to get another inch down into your splits. And week after week, if you continue focusing, you’ll get it!

Just remember that flexibility is attainable if you focus hard and stretch often. Don’t let your flexibility digress more than it improves.


*NOTE*: 1/16/07–this site has moved to
This article and new articles are posted there!

Here is the link to this article on the new site:


After practicing an entire drill routine, you may feel exhausted, sweaty, and worn-out. You definitely don’t want to do it again, but you know that you have to because you need to improve. But you’re still winded every single time you do the routine. What do you do?

Many “drillers” (from here on out, I will use the word driller to refer to a drill team member) create “tired spots” during their routine. Sound familiar? This is the part of the routine–usually near the middle–where you are tired and lose the ability to stay sharp and, at the same time, keep your posture back, angles strong, smile bright, etc. This is definitely not the right thing to do. Judges can look at you at any point in the routine, and you can’t just hope that they don’t see you when you’re tired. It happens, and you shouldn’t risk it.

Drillers also tend to be weak at the beginning of the routine so that they can show it all off at the end (or visa versa, where you’re super-sharp at the beginning and show your tiredness at the end). This is a wrong solution also, because again, a judge can see you being sloppy and probably won’t appreciate it. So, what’s the solution?

Ultimately, your goal is to keep your endurance throughout the whole routine. Sounds impossible, right? It’s not. So, how do you do it?

One way to accomplish this task is to try completing the first four 8-counts of the routine as sharp as you can without giving up. Don’t be sloppy because you’re tired. Mentally tell yourself to do it. Pretty easy? Now take a one-minute rest to catch your breath and get some water. Now do the same thing, except with the first six 8-counts. Harder, isn’t it? This activity is both a mental and physical exercise. Endurance involves both. You need the mind to push yourself but the physical strength to actually do it. It’s like waking up in the morning. You know that you have the physical strength to get up, but you need to make your mind agree with you. So, this exercise makes your mind work hard to motivate you, but at the same time, your physical strength is improving because you are making yourself work harder. The hardest part about this exercise is actually getting started and motivating yourself.

Another way to improve your endurance is to do half of the routine everyday. Once you’ve finally got the half-way point down (usually the point with the most endurance problems) without being super tired once you’re done, add the whole routine in and do it once a day. You’ll be able to push yourself harder at the end, which is usually where everyone else starts to breath heavily and become extremely tired.

Captains and coaches often make this same mistake: “If I make these girls perform the routine ten times in a row, their endurance will improve”. This sometimes works, but it is simply painful, time-consuming, and hardly effective. Making drillers perform the routine once is already tiring, so will tiring yourself out ten times improve your endurance? Maybe a little, but it’s not a fun process. Girls will already start losing their sharpness and giving up the second time they perform the routine. So, what this method does is make girls give up and make them tired with little improvement in endurance. I know that doing the routine a million times made me angry at the captains and coach. It had no purpose and I was tired; I just didn’t want to do it and all I could think about while I was doing it was how stupid this was and how much I hated the routine and how long it was and how tired I was… I don’t think that’s exactly a good thing.

Being on a drill team requires a lot of endurance. The thing about drill is that it is a performing art. It’s not a sport like track or cross country. Drill has to look “pretty” in order for it to be good. You don’t have to have good posture or a good smile when you’re running track, although you need endurance. For drill, you must make yourself mentally stronger to make every angle perfect and every move sharp. You can’t even make yourself look tired. So you need to start improving that endurance!