A high school color guard is usually a group that accompanies the high school marching band, or a drum and bugle corps. As a non-musical group, the color guard provides a colorful visual to complement the marching band, usually performing on a football field. The color guard members may twirl flags, rifles, sabres, or pom-poms as part of their performance, which is coordinated to the music of the marching band. Much like the marching bands they accompany, the high school color guard groups may have competitions.
The color guard's purpose is to add a visual interpretation of the music. The size of the high school color guard can vary, depending on the size of the school, allotted budget, or the talent available in the school. Color guards may be as small as a few members, or as large as 50 or more members. Some color guards will march and twirl an item, such as a rifle, while others may perform dances or gymnastic moves.
Color guard members who twirl white rifles may dress in all white outfits, creating a similar look as the marching band. Often, color guards will twirl flags of various colors and sizes, adding synchronicity and color to the performance. They may vary the colors of the flags, depending on the type of music the band is playing. The flag color guard may use the same colors as the band, or they may use the school colors. The band often refers to the color guard as the guard, or the flag line.
While color guards used to be all-female groups, modern high school color guards have male and female participants. Often, the guard group will practice long hours to perfect the synchronization of spinning and tossing of the flags or rifles. The slightest mistake is often visible to the audience and judges and can ruin the performance and score.
High school color guard groups can compete in many competitions, including the Sport of the Arts contest sponsored by Winter Guard International. Founded in 1977, the organization standardized color guard and created skill levels. Groups compete in levels according to age, ability, and venues. Independent levels, scholastic levels, and middle school groups compete against each other. Winter Guard International's world championships are a series of events involving competitions over a three-day period.