Spotlight Series: At the Heart of What We Do

With the #DCI2019 season halfway through, corps are beginning to head south for the DCI Southwestern Championship in San Antonio, TX. Simultaneously, high school bands across the nation are gearing up for band camp. The weather will be hot, the air may be humid, and extreme weather conditions are all but guaranteed. Throughout the start of the season, we have visited with multiple drum corps to examine how they ensure the safety of their students, staff, and volunteers. The work they do to establish a culture that prioritizes student safety hasn’t gone unrecognized, and we’re proud to continue spotlighting organizations who strive to do so much for their students!

The Bluecoats are no exception to this work. Their transparent and accessible Health and Wellness Manual ensures that all leaders have the ability and the expectation to uphold the highest standard of safety. Mike Scott, CEO for the Bluecoats, took some time to outline the policies that ensure the corps operates in a safe environment.

Catching Enough Zzzzzs.

Bluecoats puts a focus on proper training, preparation, and treatment for our performing athletes. We’ve developed programs, partnerships, and policies to ensure that our community is, first-and-foremost, healthy.

As if rehearsing for 6-12 hours a day isn’t demanding enough, asking members to live off of a tour bus for 60 days is a lot. Many will say they sleep well enough on the bus, but in reality, athletes need adequate, uninterrupted sleep each night in order to maintain peak performance. In fact, teens require between 8-10 hours of sleep each night in order to function at their highest level the next day. 

The NFHS explains that a proper amount of sleep directly contributes to performance and mitigates risk to the individual performer 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. With the drum corps model as it stands, organizations have a great task in front of them as they determine the appropriate amount of floor time members require each night.

The Bluecoats’ formula for determining floor time requires at least 50% of bus time be given back to participants in floor time. Therefore, students can expect anywhere from 5-8 hours of floor time every night. Scott explains that “this ensures that our minimum amount of time on the floor is always sufficient, and that on nights with extended drives, they actually get more sleep.” Further, the Bluecoats typically do not begin a day until 8 AM as well. 

Prepare. Disseminate. Practice.

Emergency Actions Plans exist to empower leaders of all levels with the rules and tools necessary to maintain a safe environment for participants. The NFHS Band Safety Course discusses thoroughly the purpose and function of an emergency action plan. On an obvious level, the plan ensures that there are no questions as to procedures regarding weather, injury, etc. Additionally, having a plan that is practiced prior to the start of the season empowers leaders on all levels to take action when action is needed. From captain, to director, Emergency Action Plans save lives.

The Bluecoats’ Emergency Action Plan thoroughly details the steps necessary to mitigate risk no matter the situation. According to Scott, the plan is “kept in conspicuous places throughout the fleet, including on every vehicle and as near to the rehearsal fields and sites as we can.” The plan is also carried by members of all leadership teams. Empowering team members down to the student leader level establishes a culture that all members of the organization are accountable when it comes to safety. 

Additionally, the Bluecoats have an established medical professional team that works on site with the corps at all times throughout the summer. The team consists of a certified Athletic trainer and 2 AT interns both of which are currently studying for their AT certification. All members of the medical team keep a copy of the EAP on their person.

School districts generally have Emergency Action Plans that have been written and approved by school boards. These plans are disseminated to all classroom teachers and staff members. It is imperative however, that directors take the time to identify any risks specific to band and color guard that may not be outlined in a districts plan. Additionally, ensuring that all staff and student leaders (especially if they are not trained by the district) are informed on the policies of the program and can take mitigating action as necessary will create both trust within the organization and a greater sense of safety no matter who is in front of a student group. 

The Discussion Continues.

As the marching arts becomes more physically demanding, all parties involved need to ensure that our standards match the demands we are asking of our students. As directors, ensuring that all members of your staff are informed and practiced in the policies and procedures required within the program and the district is a fantastic place to start. Additionally, allowing student leaders into that crucial training only ensures further that the needs of the students are fully met. The Bluecoats set a standard for how to treat members from beginning to end, and that priority increases the chance that members can stay physically healthy well into their futures. 

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