When I first began my love affair with the color guard activity, I thought that the words “practice” and “rehearsal” were one and the same; I was quite certain that “rehearsal” was just a sophisticated, sequined-up way of saying “practice.” Oh how wrong I was!
You can’t have one without the other, but perfect practice is what makes great rehearsal possible. It’s what one does away from the rehearsal environment to improve and develop individual skillset. I have had many conversations with coaches and performers who struggle to understand why their guards are not growing. They swear that they spend “X” amount of hours a week practicing, and I always ask: “Is it perfect practice?”
Focus on a Single Skill
Perfect practice is hard work. It refines the body and mind to perform a single skill effortlessly, strongly, and consistently. It is a constant reminder that building technique may be difficult and sometimes even painful but certainly not impossible. Practicing with clear intent is highly valuable. On the other hand, standing on your front lawn spinning and tossing without thinking or without a committed and detailed intent to improve is nothing more than exercise.
Avoid the Exercise Trap
It is easy (even fun) to practice what we know to be our strengths, but not so much fun to be constantly faced with failure at skills that we struggle with. Avoid the trap of practicing what you love and attack your imperfections! Choose one skill at a time to perfect. This method of practicing is truly the ONLY way you (as an individual) will master your craft.
Be OK Alone
Color guard performers are people who thrive in the limelight, which makes practicing alone an unpopular option. The idea of perfect practice is a bit counterintuitive to who we are as performers, not to mention the extra hours outside of an already intensive rehearsal schedule. Yet without perfect practice, perfect performance doesn’t exist.