How To Present the Colors at an Event

DrillMaster Color Guard/Color Team, Honor Guard, Honor Guard Training, Instructional 10 Comments

I was talking with one of the JROTC instructors at one of the local high schools where I teach in the afternoons and he was relaying the story of their color guard presenting the colors for a professional ball club and how the training I gave the team really helped since it provided the cadets and the instructors with a repertoire of moves from which they could choose to make their colors presentation look as professional as possible. Then it hit me- I really need to write an article about this! Yes, all of this information is in my book, The Honor Guard Manual, but, I really want to get this information out as far and wide as possible- as I always say, “Education is key”!

For the announcers: here is a great article on what to announce for the different situations announcers may encounter. Click here for the article, P.A. Announcement: Color/Honor Guard.

UPDATE: Which way does the team face? A cadet contacted me on Instagram asking about the proper direction to face for presenting the colors. That is an excellent question! Below, the images concentrate mainly on professional events where the team must hit a certain mark for the TV cameras. However, there are high school and college games that come into question, although many college games, if not all, are probably on the same level of a professional event with TV cameras.


I appreciate why a team would face the end zone instead of the home team stands and fully support that thinking, this is exactly what my color guard used to do while I was drum major of my high school band. Doing it is very appropriate, here’s why: it’s a game, not a war. Yes, I understand that some may build a sport up to the level of “doing battle on the field”, but it’s not even close. The other team is not made up of enemies. The other side of the field or court is full of spectators: parents and grandparents who are out to see their student play his or her heart out. Everyone is there to support their team and enjoy the sport. Facing only one side does not create a sense of mutual respect.

Sporting Events

There are a couple (at least) different ways to enter, position, and exit a sports field. Some, provide a unique “problem” on how to accomplish the ceremony while keeping the flag in the primary spot (to the marching right or in front). Once you read this, you will not encounter any more “problems”.

Below I have created images to illustrate the different ways to enter and exit the different fields you may come across. If it is a professional sport, your team will have a certain spot to hit at a certain time while facing a certain direction for the TV camera all coordinated with the timing for the broadcast.

Do you need to find out how to execute the moves mentioned above (e.g. Every Left On/Off, etc.)? Get these books that will explain everything for you (click on the title):

The Honor Guard Manual

DrillMaster’s Color Guard Coach’s Field Manual

Basketball Court

Basketball Colors Presentation

Entrance from the viewer’s left. For this setup, the team would form up in column formation and wait. At their cue, they would march forward, round their corner to the right at the corner of the court, and at the center line, execute Every Left On, to rearrange the team for the presentation. The team may wait at the back of the court and again wait for another cue, or continue to march forward once in line formation and hit their mark for the presentation. An alternate to this is rounding the corner at the key and executing Every Left On at center court.

The same principles apply for Baseball and Football.

Baseball Diamond

Baseball Colors Presentation

Entrance from the viewer’s right. For this setup, the team marches out to the pitcher’s mound, or behind second base in single file, picks up Mark Time at a predetermined spot, and executes a Colors Turn-On. The exit would then be either a Colors Turn-Off to exit to the viewer’s left, or Every Left Off to retrace the path of entry.

The Football layout is similar to the Basketball layout.

Football/Soccer Field

Football Colors Presentations

Ice Hockey, however, is a little different. Notice the Big difference in carpet positioning at the beginning.

Ice Hockey Rink

Ice Hockey Colors Presentation to the Right

The first setup involves entering, traveling down the carpet and presenting to the right. This involves Every Left On. To exit from here, the team execute a Colors Turn-Off.

Ice Hockey Colors Presentation to the Left

The second setup involves traveling down the carpet and presenting to the left. This involves Colors Turn-On. To exit from here, the team execute Every Left Off beginning with the Right Rifle/Axe Guard.

The “T” Matt

Every once in a while I receive a question or a comment about a unique colors presentation predicament that makes me think for a couple of minutes. This is one and here’s my suggestion for a couple of ways to enter and exit.

If you need to split for a singer, entering in a Column of Twos is probably going to be your best option.

If you don’t need to split, entering in a single column, hitting the left side of the mat to snake around into line helps the trail guard get into position much easier than having the team enter at the center and leaving the trail guard to move really quickly over to the side. The flags in the diagram are at an angle to help show the team.

Exiting can take the form of a Colors Turn (Army/AF) or Countermarch ((MC/N/CG) and then the lead/right rifle guard steps off and on the next left the US bearer steps off, and the rest of the team on subsequent left steps. Bringing the colors out of the harness socket to either Straight or Left Angle Port (rifles to Port as well) is a good idea since the color guard’s job is finished and the focus should no longer be on the team.

If you are split because of a singer, the singer needs to leave first so that you can maneuver with as much room as possible. The team faces inward, US and guard move first and wait for Other flag and guard, all steps off and leave in Column of Twos or single file. The flags in the diagram are at an angle to help show the team.

Comments 10

  1. Hi! I have an event next week. We will be presenting the colors (only US Flag) ~ in the program it says “Present the Colors”. Is this correct?

    Also I have only one person carrying the flag in. I read that we need to have a person on each side of him ~ is this correct? this is a civilian event. Should I ask someone from our local police department and our sheriff’s office? Is he ok to walk alone?

    Thank you!!

    1. Post

      Hi Leslie,

      Glad we were able to get the details taken care of through email! Guards are not mandatory, it depends on the era the team represents, if they Scouts, and a couple other details.

      All the best to you for the ceremony!

  2. When marching, is the American flag always on the right of any other flag? Also when posting the flag in a gym setting for a program, should the American flag always be on the right as the audience is looking at it?

    1. Post

      Mr. Consbruck,
      Yes, the American flag is always on the marching right when the color guard is in line formation and in the front when the team is in column formation. No other flag is to its right or in front here in the USA. We can get into service peculiarities when overseas, if you require that information.

      As for the position of the flag in a seated audience situation, it should be to the audience’s left, which is stage right, in line with or behind the speaker.

    1. Post

      Mr. Kickham,
      Great question! The answer is, it depends.

      Rifles are mandatory because they are shown in all three service drill and ceremonies manuals. That means Active Duty, Guard, Reserve, veteran organizations, and all cadet organizations must carry rifles. This also includes law enforcement teams.

      There are very few exceptions and they are: 1) All scout programs, including Sea Scouts, do not allow members to carry rifles at any time and 2) when presenting or posting the colors, rifles are not carried.

      Firefighters and Sea Scouts use the ceremonial pike pole for the guards except Ina church setting.

    1. Post

      Taps should be played at a funeral or at lights out. It is also common at remembrance ceremonies. Anyone in uniform in the vicinity of hearing the music should render a hand salute or execute Present Arms. All veterans are authorized to salute when out of uniform per the 2000 NDAA, however, the Marine Corps does not authorize the hand salute when in civies (hand over heart instead).

  3. When presenting, or posting the colors on a stage, what is the protocol for the placement of the official party in terms of the colors being presented with the official party behind the flag?

    1. Post

      This is a unique situation. Army Training Circular 3-21.5 states that the color guard faces the official party and then posts the colors (or the team can depart). If there is a stage, it sounds like the presentation should be accomplished off and in front of the stage and then the team can go onto the stage to post. I hope this helps.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *