Winter Guard


The Winter Guard team has a group huddle before a competition.

After a successful season, the school’s winter guard deserves to be recognized for the tight knit and supportive group it is. Their fierce but familial attitude differs from the feeling of many other sports, making it something special that the school should be more aware of.

Winter guard is a dance performance that is derived from military ceremonies, using props such as sabres and rifles to add to the performance. It is similar to color guard, which performs in the fall as a part of the marching band during their concerts, competitions and football games. However, winter guard is different in that it is its own entity and competes against other schools on its own to a recorded song. The coaches are the same and many of the students also do both.

“The fact that there are two seasons can be a little confusing. You’ve probably seen us perform as color guard at halftime of football games,” junior, co-captain Eric Dunham, who has also been on the team since he was a freshman, said. “Winter guard is a little different, we perform to a recorded song. This year it was a K-pop song called ‘Goodbye’ by 2ne1.”

At the championship, the team received the winning score of 82, while other teams mostly scored between 60 and 70. The championship is not the only competition winter guard has competed in this year. They have also performed several times against other high schools, mostly from Virginia. There, they are scored out of 100 on their mastery of technique and constant showmanship in their routine, which is choreographed by their coaches.

“This year, it was really special because the majority of us had never done guard before, so it was confidence boosting to score so well,” social media and outreach manager, sophomore Zarah King said. “It’s really amazing, because guard isn’t [a sport] you hear about before high school, so we’re all new.”

One reason that winter guard may have been flying under the radar is that it is not coached by any teachers at the school. Instead, they are led by Coach Miles Strebeck and Assistant Coach Noelle Smith, two people who are not affiliated with Arlington Public Schools (APS) and who coach as a hobby. A second grade teacher at Barrett Elementary School and former parent of a guard member at the school, Ms. Andrea Donovan, also helps out the team.

“The coaches are great because they try to motivate us to try our best, but also let us choose our own paths on how we are on the team,” junior, co-captain Eric Dunham, who has also been on the team since he was a freshman, said.

Winter guard is also a very inclusive sport that does not require tryouts to get on the team. That makes it somewhat of an oddity among some other highly competitive school sports. Due to the nature of the routines and welcoming spirit of the team, people who would not usually participate in a school sport have one they can excel in. It is an activity that anyone can become amazing at with time and practice.

“Confidence is huge. I didn’t have a lot of confidence when I started, but as the season went on it grew,” King said. “This season, I worked to grow my teammates confidence. You’re never going to catch a toss if you never let go.”

Still, the routines can be quite challenging. It is very time consuming, as it takes constant practice for most students to memorize all the steps. Members need to have perseverance and a good attitude to get through the season.

“The hardest part is probably not getting discouraged,” Brent said. “When you’re learning something new it takes different people different amounts of time to pick up, so it can be frustrating when others learn faster.”

For those who participate in winter guard, it is a bonding experience that deeply affects them. Other sports could maybe even learn something from the camaraderie and good sportsmanship of guard members.

“My favorite part about winter guard is honestly the community. At competitions everyone is so friendly with each other even if they’ve never met,” Brent said. “Everyone wishes each other good luck and compliments each other even if they’re competing against you.”