We all know the common phrase, “it takes a village to raise a kid.” In part, this is absolutely true. The company with which we surround our children impacts their lives greatly. As educators, we want our students to be impacted positively by their learning “village.” This means surrounding them with mentors to guide them toward success; fellow members who will keep them intrinsically and extrinsically motivated; and experts who will provide the care needed to maintain the safety of that student. The success of any team comes from the lessons they learn on and the care they receive off the field. It comes from educating students with how to best care for their bodies and their well-being.
Creating a healthy environment for drum corps takes an army. It requires experts from all safety fields encouraging and providing top-notch care to students. Similarly, it requires these experts to treat each student individually. There is no place for cookie cutter care.
The Boston Crusaders are a prime example of educating and caring for each member based on their needs and backgrounds. The Crusaders have gone to great lengths over the years to establish this kind of environment for their members and give them the best experience possible. Chris Holland, Executive Director of the Boston Crusaders, sums it up perfectly: “The bigger picture benefits are that when we focus on safety, health, and wellness it forces us to be efficient with our time. It...drives preparation...It is not a hindrance.” When it comes to their membership, the Crusaders travel with a wealth of knowledge and an army of experts behind them. Holland shared with us some of the Boston Crusader’s best practices.
For the Boston Crusaders, there is no Band-Aid fix to the health of their membership. It’s about injury prevention and physical maintenance before and during the season. It’s about identifying areas of need in each member and providing a personalized plan that strengthens their bodies and mitigates risk of injury.
So how does this corps accomplish a medical training plan for 160 young marchers? A fully-staffed medical team. The team is made up of an MD, a physical and occupational therapist, at least 1 certified trainer, a PA, and at least 2 RNs, all of which rotate throughout the season. Their MD is present throughout the audition process. She conducts a whole scale diagnostic assessment of each member using a rubric created by the MD and the corps. Assessments include:
[Drum corps] is a huge investment on the member's part, and it's the saddest thing when a kid has to go home after a week due to injury.
Exec. Director, BAC
Members that present deficiencies in any tests are given individualized training plans that will help them mitigate any risk of injury. In fact, all members are given feedback and advised training based on the results of the assessment. Progress is monitored throughout the winter, and each member has their own health profile by move-ins that is kept and updated by the MD.
Many of these kids come from other corps. If they’ve had injuries during corps (or even marching band) in the past, they know what a summer of discomfort feels like. As a result, they are very receptive to these training plans, Holland expressed. “It’s a huge investment on the member’s part,” he stated, “and it’s the saddest thing when a kid needs to go home after a week due to injury.” Members use their social channels to track and share successes and milestones, creating a community of marchers who value healthy progress. This is the Boston Crusaders' third year of implementing this medical platform.
In addition to the ongoing wellness efforts, the Boston Crusaders have also offered a 5 part First Aid/CPR/AED course through the American Heart Association called the AHA HeartCode program. The training was offered thanks to two members of the BAC Board of Directors. This course was offered to all levels of leadership in the corps. Certified leaders include a drum major, 3 color guard members, the tour manager, visual caption manager, and guard caption manager. Additionally, a front ensemble member was previously certified through this course. Holland stated that this variety of certified leaders, from staff to student, provides a "good cross section covering the 2-3 rehearsal fields and spaces we occupy."
In January of this year, DCI partnered with the NFHS and Varsity University, collaborating to create a Band Safety Course. The course has been endorsed by DCI, WGI, and MFA. It addresses many risks marchers face and how directors can effectively mitigate those risks by implementing best practices. One of the biggest challenges marchers face is exposure to heat-related injuries and dehydration. Humidity and heat index are 2 major contributing factors to this. According to the NFHS course, “when the humidity in the air is high, perspiration is slower to evaporate which can cause participants to overheat.” The heat index is the result of the actual temperature and level of humidity. It’s what the environment “feels like.” Also, the course explains that during dehydration, a lack of fluids decreases the volume of blood flowing throughout the body. This leads to exhaustion, fatigue, confusion, and all other symptoms of dehydration. It explains that hydration “should begin before a participant feels thirsty” and should continue after the participant has stopped exercising.
The Boston Crusaders rely on their medical team and the chain of command to identify unsafe weather situations and for advising hydration practices. The medical team charts the weather conditions and follows a corps-wide protocol for issuing alerts. Holland explained that air horns are used in the case of extreme weather emergencies and are a signal for everyone to evacuate the field. To track heat index, the corps uses a wet bulb thermometer. Additionally, they track the cumulative effects of multi-day weather stents, like those seen during the deep South July tour. These stents are the hardest to cope with, expressed Holland. The key to not feeling the effects is to take precautionary measures up front. Members are notified via their Slack channel of upcoming weather conditions and are reminded to care for themselves accordingly. Proper care includes increasing hydration, taking in extra electrolytes, and resting properly.
Per the corps’ protocol, participants should be intaking 7 oz. of water every 10-15 min during an event/rehearsal, and rehydration should happen within 2 hours of exercise concluding. Holland expressed that this is a best practice used by many of the drum corps. “We all borrow from each other,” he stated. The organizations compete on the field,” he stated. But off the field, they’re open books of information. Instead of reinventing the wheel, the corps communicate with each other to share best practices.
Holland shared the corps heat and hydration policy, and a complete version can be found here.
Anytime a prop is used in the performance space, considerations need to be made. Designers need to consider venue allowances, abilities of their members, and the functionality of the prop itself. Special care and attention need to be given to training performers to use the prop safely and with skill. DCI recently updated their prop policy, and Holland was on the committee that drafted the latest version. The policy regards the production and manufacturing of props for the safety of the performer (See Appendix 526 in the Policies and Procedures Appendix). These regulations reflect the best practices outlined in the Band Safety Course. The course explains that safety considerations should be made for any prop exceeding 4 feet and that when measuring props, include the height with any wheels, guard rails, and platforms. The newest iteration of the DCI protocol includes clauses regarding maximum height, at what point guard rails are required, and addresses added risk usage such as lifts, leaps, and stunts atop the props.
The Crusaders’ props are manufactured by Global Scenic Services, a company that produces staging for major clients such as Broadway, the American Theatre Ballet, and Victoria Secret. Their props conform to OSHA and DCI standards with handrails, safety pads, and tether systems used when needed. Further, the props come with pre and post assembly checklists for additional safety measures, have their own hauling truck, and are staffed with prop-specific personnel.
The end goal of these procedures and safety measures is simple: to “minimize the need to have member participation in the loading, unloading, and daily setup of the props.” This process could potentially harm participants as accidents do occur, but having a thorough set of procedures for the handling of props mitigates the risk of participant, staff, and volunteer injury.
Holland sums it up perfectly:
These members come to experience drum corps and the Boston Crusaders and deserve an exceptional experience on and off the field. Providing a safe environment is paramount to that experience. It is important to the organization because we want them to carry themselves like professionals, therefore they should be treated professionally. But moreover, parents and music programs send these kids off and we want to treat them like they are our own family - because they are. We are teaching them music, performing and life skills to help them grow. When we emphasize safety, they will prioritize that as they move forward in life."
At the end of the day, this summer’s marching membership is next summer’s instructional staff. It is the duty of their teachers to model the on and off-field leadership skills that will better the organization tomorrow. Placing a focus on safety at all levels and collaborating with organizations to share best practices only reinforces that idea. “We want to exceed expectations every moment of every day,” Holland concludes. “The members deserve nothing less.”
Danielle Geier lives for pageantry and the marching arts. Passionate about colorguard, she has marched since she was in 7th grade. She marched with the Morton High School band program for a total of 6 years, including 3 years in their circuit-level winterguard. She was a 4 year camper at the Music for All Summer Symposium and marched in the 2009 Bands of America Tournament of Roses Parade Honor Band. She went on to attend Murray State University, where she studied English Education, was an active member in the MSU Racer Band, and was devoted to her sisters in the Sigma Alpha Iota music fraternity. She marched with The Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps in 2010, 2011, and 2014 as well, earning a bronze and gold metal during her tenure. She has teched, choreographed, and directed for Marshall County High School, Calloway County High School, Bethel University, Morton High School, Waukesha North High School, and Greendale High School. Geier is a member of the DSI Marketing Team and currently resides in Waukesha, Wisconsin, where she teaches at Greendale High School. She is also a staff member at the Music For All Summer Symposium.