How to Keep an ROTC Drill Team Going

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How to Keep an ROTC Drill Team Going

DrillMaster's drill team training, exhibition drill

Practice. Practice what? unarmed regulation drill (URD), master it. Add rifles if you want, armed regulation drill (ARD), master it. Then, once you’ve mastered URD (and ARD), and only then should you begin exhibition drill (XD).

At the start, you will spend quite a bit of time working on getting techniques perfected in standing manual and then marching. Spending time on the tiny aspects of what the routine is built upon, the foundation, which is RD, can alleviate correcting issues later and actually save you time since you will not have to revisit something that must now be relearned. Correcting bad habits and relearning new technique takes significantly more time and effort than learning the proper way from the beginning.

Once the team is established, your time should be broken up so that you can us it as effectively as possible: practice regulation drill as often as necessary to keep the routine fresh in the team’s minds. Three times a week for about a half hour or less might be perfect for your team with the rest of the time spent learning and practicing the XD routine.

Established team, a few new members
Do you have the whole team go back to the very beginning? No, not always. It is a good idea to have everyone practice the basics of facing movements, saluting, etc. But to have the whole team start over from the beginning just becasue of a few new members, may hit morale negatively. You will want to make sure that the new drill team members master RD while in their respective class throughout the day/week and when it comes to drill team practice, you can then work on perfecting their techniques that will be specifically used for the team. Insert the new members into the routine and teach them their part of the performance in sections.

The breakdown of a drill team routine
An XD routine has 7 parts:

  1. The opening statement (before you enter the drill area, this should be no more than around 10 seconds long)
  2. Up to the report-in (the report-in should be within the first 2 minutes)
  3. After report-in (the transition away from the report-in and the head judge, around 30 seconds to a minute)
  4. The body of the routine (this is the majority of the routine, 2-3 minutes)
  5. Before report-out (the transition toward the the head judge, about 30 seconds to a minute, the report-out should be within the last 2 minutes)
  6. After report-out (this is the build up to the closing statement)
  7. The closing statement (your last chance, with an exclamation or an understatement, to “wow” your audience, no more than around 10 seconds long)

Easy to difficult
At some point all high school teams lose “their best team members” who graduated last year. Sometimes a significant amount of cadets graduate and other times it is just one or two from the team. All high school and even college teams go through rebuilding years. During those rebuilding years with several new team members can make it necessary to “water down” a routine at the beginning of the year so that the new members can gain the skill necessary to catch up withe the seasoned team members. For instance:

Let’s say your armed teams’ opening statement involves ripples of facing movements with *** slams through the ranks. This is effective and draws the audience’s attention while still being relatively easy. However, the next ripple is a single toss into a right side double ending with a vertical stop and *** slam. Here we have an element of difficulty- but not all of the new team members are able to execute the side double. OK, here is where the “watering” comes in; for the first few weeks of the competition season, leave out the side double and make the transition from the single toss to a *** slam at attention. Bring the side double into the performance when all of the team members are confident and have mastered the move. The same goes for the rest of the routine: as the season progresses, more difficult moves can be added.

New or the same thing each year?
Some teams march the same routine year after year after year, plugging in a cadet here or there to fill a position. This is “formula drill” and lacks the educational qualities of having the cadets involved with the design process, even if they are brought into the process after the ‘meat’ of the routine is already written.

I like to create a routine and then make adjustments to it over time- not just during the current drill season, but use the routine for next year’s team and, for instance, rewrite the opening statement and add some different rifle work here and there, all the while, keeping the old drill sheets (DrillMaster Routine Mapping Tools) for reference. I also like to rely heavily on the cadets I work with to be as creative as possible and help in the design process. Change is a good thing, it keeps the routine from stagnating.

XD is about creativity. It boils down to geometry, but even if you are terrible at math- like me- you can still create a good routine.

Some things to consider
Timing: you are either synchronized or not and that does not necessarily mean everyone on the team doing the same thing at the same time.

Variation: If you do not have a wide vocabulary of movement, your routine will begin to have the same moves in it- repetition. Repetition is not necessarily a bad thing, it can be good when used sparingly, but it can be difficult to have repetition be a positive.

Variation of what? Drill (the designed formations and transitions to those formations), body movement (feet, hands, arms, head, etc.) and, if armed, variation of movement with your piece of equipment (rifle, sword/saber or guidon).

Here is my article on how to write drill and Routine Mapping Tools.

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