Spotlight Series: A Habit of Empowerment

Achieving goals and establishing a culture that empowers all individuals takes a shared understanding of an organization’s philosophy and vision. It is developing leaders whether they carry a title or not. Creating a shared understanding is essential to the success of any group, and buy in can only happen when members know they serve a vital purpose in the machine. DCI organizations continue to improve standards that allow for a shared understanding of wellness, and in doing so, foster leadership from the ground up that prioritizes these standards. The Madison Scouts have been placing students at the front and in the middle of their organizational development for years now. Their updated policies and procedures place safety and wellness needs at the forefront of their action plan. Additionally, their leadership model empowers their students, staff, and executives to collaborate and take a shared responsibility in creating a culture worth being a part of. David Lofy, corps director for the Madison Scouts, and Dann Petersen, programs director for Forward Performing Arts, dove in with great detail to let us in on the magic that is the Madison Scouts.

Servant Leadership.

Empowering our students who are ready to take on more formal teaching opportunities has been invaluable for those who will go on to teach in various work environments.

David Lofy

Corps Director, Madison Scouts

If there is one thing that sets the Madison Scouts apart from other organizations, it is their dedication to developing leaders on every level. Incepted in 2015, their Forward Leadership program was “designed to encapsulate the unspoken Scout’s leadership philosophy with the intent of boiling it down to actionable goals.” David Lofy, corps director for the Scouts says that the most powerful aspect of the program is that it allows for student-centered learning, a sentiment shared within the educational community as well. Students have opportunities to consider diverse perspectives and co-design/facilitate sessions alongside their staff and fellow leaders. The 2019 servant leader team took part in developing the year’s curriculum by beginning with creating a shared vision. They met in Madison just before spring training where they decided on a set of values and goals that would drive the Forward Leadership sessions and the summer season’s development. Further, they participated in sessions focused on developing personal identity, adapting to corps culture upgrades, giving/receiving feedback, and empowering others. 2019 Corps Values



2019 Shared Corps Goals




We refer to our student leadership team as ‘servant leaders’, as it aligns with our philosophy… We also firmly believe that every member of the corps carries leadership abilities that are utilized in different ways based on their role in the corps. While our servant leaders may be more vocal on and off the field, they actively look for opportunities to empower and lift up the members around them.

David Lofy

Corps Director, Madison Scouts

Lofy explained that students who have participated in this program have echoed similar sentiments: that they appreciate the practice-based nature of activities and that it “stays away from feel-good phrases and focuses on the development of practical skills.” The program’s ultimate goal is to help students engage in who they are, who they can be, and how they relate to diverse perspectives from others. With student-led development, and a standard and vision set by students, they are well on their way to creating amazing leaders for tomorrow!

Improving Standards.

In addition to the direct member leader training and full corps development, the Madison Scouts have established a comprehensive health and wellness team that travels with the corps. According to Dann Peterson, Forward Performing Arts programs director, this team is “composed of the program’s director, corps director, two assistant directors, lead athletic trainer, assistant athletic trainer, athletic training intern, nutrition specialist and outside consultants including athletic trainer, nurse practitioner and assistant professor in mental health.” The team works together to create and carry out action plans related to the health of the corps, from medical to dietary plans. They have helped to shape the policies that the Madison Scouts have refined over the years, including the corps’ nutrition, hydration, and flex time policy. The NFHS Band Safety course details the nutrition levels needed to maintain an athletic capacity like drum corps requires. They recommend focusing on eating lean proteins, fruits, vegetables and whole grains “to ensure the body is prepared for training.” They also recommend focusing on protein-rich foods within an hour of activity to aid in faster recovery. According to Peterson, the nutritionist and athletic trainer have crafted a 12 day rotating menu. This menu focuses on creating an athlete’s diet with “optimal levels” of calories, protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Their fourth meal focuses on replenishing salt and electrolyte contents. In terms of hydration, the corps’ policies state that students should be replenishing fluids often and proactively. The ‘Hydration’ section of their policy manual specifically outlines the following:
  • Student should consume 17-20 oz. of any liquid before the first rehearsal of the day.
  • Students should consume a minimum of a half gallon of water for every two hours of rehearsal.
  • During meal breaks, students should consume 17-20 oz. of any liquid, preferably with electrolytes. Salty snacks are also recommended to help replenish salt stores in the body.
  • All students will refill their water jugs prior to leaving a housing location and consume water throughout travel.
The resonating development within the Scouts’ organization is that they feed and hydrate their members like athletes. And this is because any drum corps, World or Open class, is a team of highly athletic individuals. They train between 8 and 12 hours a day, travel between performances, and strive to be personally, musically, and physically stronger than who they were yesterday. In order to maintain that kind of highly athletic lifestyle, they require an admin staff that is dedicated to their nutritional health as well as their physical health. They also need the education and wherewithal to take that knowledge and apply it during preseason, on the bus, and on free days.

A Little More R&R.

Just as important as nutrition and hydration is the proper rest of a drum corps or marching band. The body needs to time to physically recover from long days of marching, dancing, and traveling. Having a proper rest and sleep plan is essential to the continued safety and recovery of a drum corps. The Madison Scouts have taken strides toward creating a sleep and flex time plan. They emphasize that even though the drum corps touring model present massive challenges regarding proper sleep, it is still a “critical component” in the success of an athlete. The NFHS course explains that teens need between 8-10 hours of sleep every night because it is the “single most performance enhancing adjustment.” They explain that proper amounts of sleep directly contribute to performance and mitigate risk of the individual in many ways including:
  • Enhanced growth and recovery post-training
  • Reduced fatigue
  • Improved cognitive performance and mood state
  • Reduced risk of injury
  • Enhanced power performance
Down time or “floor time” is a coveted block of time to anyone who marches drum corps. It refers to the amount of time a group as to sleep horizontally at a housing site between travel on the bus and the start of the days rehearsals.

Madison Scouts’ Down Time Policy

  If travel time + down time is less than 4 hours, the total amount of time for all rest must be 9.5 hours. If travel + down time is greater than or equal to 4 hours, the total amount of time for all rest must be 10 hours. Additionally, down time (also known as floor time) must range between 2 and 8 hours. Further, the Scouts remain transparent regarding adding rehearsal time to their schedules. Their manuel states that “on rare occasions, it may be necessary to add rehearsal time, in lieu of down time, in order to ensure performance confidence or complete a change to the program. In these situations, the acting caption heads may add flex rehearsal time with the following parameters.” This time is detailed to be no more than 30 min per day with a maximum for 1 hour per week. If flex time is added to the schedule, then that time must be given back to the members within a week. In short, anything they ask extra of their membership, they pay back in full in an amount of time that will aid in optimal recovery. In an effort to prioritize self-care, the Scouts have upgraded their language from “free days” to “rest and recovery days.” Lofy explained that “As they push themselves in one of the most intense youth activities available, we hope our students leave understanding how to both push themselves to their performance limits while remaining in-tune to their body’s many needs.” Their schedule rotates now between a week involving one R&R day and one laundry block off. Additionally, the students are encouraged to engage in R&R that will allow them to return to rehearsals fully recharged both emotionally and physically. These kinds of student-first practices allow for optimization of performance on the field, but also encourage them to embody this in their daily practices. It let’s them know that their presence in the organization matters.

The Discussion Continues.

The Madison Scouts have taken massive strides in opening the lines of communication between admin, staff, and membership. Through these open discussions, their goal is simple: to create a “a staff/student culture that prioritizes and dialogues more regularly about student health and wellness.” The more comfortable an ensemble feels communicating their needs to the staff, and the more comfortable administration teams feel opening these conversations with their membership, the tighter knit the organizations will become. Creating positive culture depends on the leaders who set it and the individuals who buy in to the right “stuff.” And buy in can only be achieved when everyone is willing to listen to one another from Day 1.

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