In 2017 I was talking with one of the JROTC instructors at one of the local high schools where I have taught 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. “Education is key”! Let’s get into presenting the colors at a sporting event. First, information for the announcer.
For the Announcer
Here is a great article on what to announce for the different situations announcers may encounter. Read the article from sportsannouncing.com. Here is a snippet from the article, All About Presenting the Colors. Please read it for a full understanding of presentation methods and techniques.
While there may be other anthems representing certain people groups, they are not afforded the same protocol as a national anthem. The public is not required to stand or place their hand over their heart. Let’s take the Black Anthem as an example.
While I am in no way suggesting disrespect should be shown to a piece of music that may have meaning to a number of people, it is not at the same level as a national anthem and is not accorded the protocol of standing and placing the right hand over the heart, a military hand salute, or even the color guard going to Present Arms with the rifle guards at the position of Present and the non-national flag dipped forward. If this other music is played, the color guard should only stand at the position of Attention if on the court/field and after that music has finished, the commander of the team gives “Present, ARMS!” and the Star-Spangled Banner is then played or sung.
The announcer can say, “Ladies and gentlemen, the Black Anthem.” After it is finished the announcer should say, “Ladies and gentlemen, please rise, (men remove your hats, and place your right hand over your heart) for the Star-Spangled Banner.” Here is where the color guard would go to Present Arms and the anthem would then begin.
Now, we will cover which direction the team should face. This is all about communication to the audience.
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 play, although many college games, if not all, are probably on the same level of a professional event with TV cameras.
High School Games
I appreciate why a team would stand at the 20 yard line (or the top of the key, for instance) face the opposite 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 and here is 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 and this is not about the three types of respect or sportsmanship. 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.
There are 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”, you will have the tools necessary to navigate those issues.
Below I have used images to illustrate the different ways to enter and exit the different fields you may come across. If it is a professional or even college sport, your team may have to hit certain spot at a certain time while facing a certain direction for the TV camera all coordinated with the timing for the broadcast.
For this, I suggest moving to your position at Port (flags and rifles/axes), post at your spot, and then go to Right Shoulder/Carry and then Present as the announcer asks the audience to stand.
If you will stage in the tunnel (off field), go to Right Shoulder/Carry, and enter and post with the camera on the team the whole time, you will have to coordinate halting, facing, and going to Present as smoothly and quickly as possible.
Basketball Court/Football Field/Soccer Pitch
For this setup, the team forms up in column formation and waits. At the cue, the team marches forward, rounding their corners (no flanks!), and moving into position.
Moving to center court/field: The team may wait at the sideline and again wait for another cue, or continue marching 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 football and baseball. Below are examples.
Entrance from the viewer’s right. For this setup, the team marches out to in front of the pitcher’s mound, or in front of/behind second base in column formation, picks up Mark Time at a predetermined spot, and executes a Colors Turn-On or halts and executes Left Face. 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.
Ice Hockey Rink
The first setup involves entering, traveling down the carpet and presenting to the right. You cannot start with the American flag last in line and then face to the right. The American flag leads in column formation and the team executes Every Left On. To exit from here, the team execute a Colors Turn-Off or a Right Face.
The second setup involves traveling down the carpet and presenting to the left. This involves Colors Turn-On or Left Face. To exit from here, the team must have the lead/right rifle/axe guard step off first and then every team member steps off in sequence with Every Left Off.
Once the team is in position, giving Present Arms right away would be a good idea instead of waiting for the first note. That way, the Anthem can begin on the visual signal of the color team going to Present.
If you are a trained and certified Ceremonial Guardsman, remember, you are the ceremonial expert everywhere you go, you are the one to tell the hosting organization what you do, how you do it, and when. You must have a knowledge of flag protocol.
I also suggest that, when leaving, you give the command, “Port, Arms”, which brings the colors down to your side (you have finished your job and are no longer the focus) and depart.
The former Army Instructor at my AJROTC battalion informed me that it is against protocol to allow personnel behind the U.S. flag. Consequently, we’ve always halted the Color Guard at the 35 yard line of our football field so that people in the stands are all in front of the Colors. I haven’t found any source that supports the AIs claim. Could you please address this? Thank you.
I’m positive that was your predecessor’s personal preference because it doesn’t make sense. I appreciate the thought process behind it, but there are some situations where the colors will have audience behind the team. A look at any colors presentation for a college football or even NFL game will show you that. If you wish to keep the color guard at the 35, go ahead, there’s nothing restricting that but there’s also nothing restricting your team standing on the 50 and facing the home stand.
I’m interested in introducing my AFJROTC color guard to moves like “Every Left On/Off” and “Colors Turn On/Off.” How should commands be given in cases like this? I’ve also seen a video by USAF Honor Guard (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQB9M4tMmsQ) that shows some instructions for these moves (while accounting for regulation vs ceremonial drill), but not all moves in this video have commands. Should commands be given with a command voice? or should we do so without command? or something else? Thanks DM.
Every Left On is started with Forward March and ends with Color Guard Halt.
Off starts with Ready, Step.
Colors Turn On is begun with Colors given on a left step, individual rotation in 4 steps, Halt is then on the left step four steps later.
Colors, Colors Turn, HARCH is for Colors Turn Off.
Thanks for the elaborations and explanations . . .