Marching Band Health: Performance Day Pitfalls

Performance Day Pitfalls

Marching Band Health: Performance Day Pitfalls

It’s the day you and your students have worked towards all summer – Performance Day!  Not only is important to “ace” the music and drill, but the health of your marching band members is also extremely important. It can make or break your performance. Overheated, anxious, exhausted, hungry, and sick band members cannot perform at their peak, if at all. You can have the perfect top-notch drill and music, but without healthy students, you won’t ever begin to truly perform. Let’s take a look at some Marching Band Health performance day pitfalls and some tips for success.

Pre-Performance Jitters

Pre-performance jitters can best be described as ‘having butterflies’. It’s that rush of anxiety that many people experience when anticipating a performance. However, these jitters can also leave new band members frozen in fear on the 50-yard line, staring at a stadium full of people staring back at them, and that on-field judge breathing down their neck.  “Where was that drill spot…? What was the first note again?! Oh my!”

A great first step is to front-load the “first time on the field in a real show” experience with a lot of clear information about that experience: what to expect on the performance day, schedules, down time, etc. Consider having upperclassmen explain first-hand to their sections about the performance experience and what to expect. Upperclassmen often have time-tested, brilliant tips and tricks to help new marchers navigate the performance day. Ultimately, having expectations and plans laid out often brings peace to veterans and first-timers, alike.

Encourage and motivate your students to give it all they’ve got.  Reassure them that their hard work will pay off, that you are proud of them, and that they will do a great job. Such simple words of encouragement can make all the difference. After all, if they do their best and leave it all on the field, isn’t that what it’s all about? Winning is a great and worthy goal. But, remember: constantly aiming for excellence and working as a team are two of the life-changing experiences of band that forever shape us.

Baking in Uniform

High temperatures and the beating sun can leave anyone overheated and drained. However, adding heavy and elaborate uniforms and equipment, all while running a ten-minute marathon, can be very dangerous if not managed properly. Nausea, dizziness, fatigue, and the possibility of fainting can set in quickly. So, how do you navigate this out-of-your-control environment and climate, before hitting the field for performance?

First, wait as long as possible before allowing students dress in uniform. Have them carry jackets and shakos to the warm-up area, dressed in their bib pants. Guard Members wearing long sleeves and/or long pants may also have to find an alternative to their costume if it can allow them to be cooler. Guard members should discuss hair options that are cooler, and all band members should have their hair up in order to fit into their shako and stay cool.

As soon as the band comes off the field, encourage band members to take off their jackets and hats before walking back to the buses. Ask parents to help carry items back to the trailers, especially for students with large instruments or guard equipment.

Marching in Your Sleep

Warning: Don’t fall asleep, while marching. Sleeping while marching will cause missteps, sudden loss of placement in drill and formations, feelings of sudden confusion and embarrassment, dangerous collisions with guard members, dented instruments, broken reeds, facial-planting in the astroturf, and many other personal tragedies.

All kidding aside, we all know the importance of getting a good night’s rest. It means a clear, sharp mind and a much-needed repair and healing cycle for the body. In fact, 8-10 hours of sleep is recommended for high-school teenagers (per the National Sleep Foundation). Encourage your students to stick to a bedtime/sleep routine (even on weekends), avoid caffeine late at night, try practicing a relaxing bedtime ritual, set bedroom temperatures to an ideal number, and turn off electronics at night.

The Hunger Monster

We’ve all been hangry – oh yes! It’s distracting, frustrating, and lack of food can even make you feel weak and tired. We all need fuel, but it should be the right fuel. Encourage your students to eat a healthy, high protein breakfast that will lay the foundation for their day. On the bus, bring healthy snacks, and make good choices when buying food at concession stands. Here are some more tips on Eating Right for the Best Musical Performance.

Many bands also partner with their parent-booster organization to provide healthy snacks and/or a meal for students on-site at competitions. This is an easy way to fuel-up the band and to keep everyone feeling great!

H2O and Electrolytes

With our bodies made up of nearly 60% water, we crave hydration in order to thrive and survive. According to the article, “7 Science-Based Health Benefits of Drinking Enough Water,” dehydration can have a noticeable effect if you lose as little as 2% of your body’s water content. This can lead to altered body temperature control, reduced motivation, increased fatigue and make exercise feel much more difficult, both physically and mentally. Optimal hydration has been shown to prevent this from happening and may even reduce the oxidative stress that occurs during high-intensity exercise.”

Having your students properly hydrate, especially in high heat and during intense sweating, is essential. Students should try to also replenish electrolytes. Although water and sports drinks can help one reach healthy levels, many foods can also aid in this charge. Check out this article on on food that replenishes electrolytes: And, here’s a great chart from The USDA National Nutrient Database that shows the percentage of water content in specific foods: Encourage students to eat these food items and drink at least eight cups of water daily, especially on days leading up to a performance.

On performance day, consider having parents tag along with the band with water bottles to squirt water in band members’ mouths, before and after performances.  This trick is also vital for parades! Water should also be provided to all students by the competition host school, before or after warmup, so encourage students to take advantage of these opportunities to hydrate. Lastly, coolers of ice-cold water and sports drinks on the buses are a great way to prepare students for a hot performance and recharge them afterward.

Marching Medical Plan

Even after checking every box above, stuff happens. However, you can be prepared for anything, so don’t give up!

Begin by checking with your band parents and boosters to see if any doctors, nurses, or medical staff already involved with the band would be willing to travel on the buses, to and from contests. These trained volunteers can help you collect a list of student medical histories, allergies, medications, needed supplies, and more. Not only do the volunteers and medical histories prepare you for an emergency, you will have vital medical information on each student to quickly pass along to an EMT.  The histories can also help you avoid sticky situations, such as treating food allergies, and the like.

Having a basic First Aid Kit on each bus, and in a staff’s or medical volunteer’s bag to carry around, is always a smart idea. Having extra cold water bottles in a cooler can also double as a cold pack in a pinch. Also, remember that all contest sites should have a dedicated First Aid Station and/or ambulance on-call that will help your students. Just ask site staff to direct you to the First Aid Station. Site staff can often arrange for a golf cart to deliver an ill student and her/his chaperone to the nearest First Aid Station.

Ace these performance day tips, and your students will be set for success! Let’s make that drill and music shine.

Good Luck!

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