Good, Better, Best

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Independent A Class Champion in WGI Sport of the Arts
What does it take to be the best? Find out from the captain of FIU Winterguard, the 2017 Independent A Class champion in WGI Sport of the Arts.

Now before I get started with my version of a fairytale come true, I would like to explain what being a captain of the Florida International University (FIU) guard means to me. Well, it means everything. It’s a huge honor to represent an organization that takes pride in their members’ achievements and growth and where creating your second family is the first priority.

Organized and Motivated

As a captain I am expected to reach a standard that the staff puts out for me and find ways for my team to meet those standards as well. However, I do not do it alone. There are two other captains, Sabrina and Roeni.

We have a system in place: “Keep it organized and keep them motivated.”

We make sure that every logistical detail is in order before rehearsal. That way we can focus completely on getting and keeping the team hyped. We try our hardest to lead by example, giving our all during every repetition in hopes we get the same in return. Nothing feels better than being a positive example for your peers, and that is what we all strive to do as captains.

A Comeback

Now on to my version of a fairytale …

“Good, better, best. Never let it rest. ’Til your good is better, and your better is best.”

This quote by St. Jerome guided the FIU Winterguard to a gold medal at the 2017 WGI World Championships. However, this title did not come easily.

Let’s take it back to the winter of 2016 after I recently ended my second season with the FIU marching band. I was having a discussion with our new color guard director, Enrique Perez. He was talking about bringing the FIU Winterguard back (we took a break for a year) and how he wanted to get the FIU name known in the winter guard world.

I was already so excited to join because it had been way too long since my feet had touched a winter tarp (two years to be exact). However, my excitement slightly turned into panic from one moment to the next when he told me that I was going to be one of the captains for the guard. An overload of emotions flooded my mind. I was excited and nervous. I had never had experience spinning with an independent winter guard before, let alone lead one. I was worried that I was not ready to take on that big of a monster just yet, and I was scared to let people down.

Lessons Learned

As the member auditions rolled around, the number of people auditioning was a little shaky because of the year off. But luckily with some recruiting, we were able to assemble the new and improved 2016 FIU Winterguard.

During this season I learned a lot—not only with spinning but also as a leader. These are the three most impactful lessons:

  1. Things will not always go as planned. When they start going south, take a deep breath and figure out a solution. Quickly.
  2. Stay motivated and lead by example. As a captain or a leader, all eyes are on you. Your teammates actually look to you for a sense of relief and even for that, “Everything is going to be OK,” look that gives them the reassurance they need to get through the rest of that tough rehearsal.
  3. And finally, never give up. This third lesson I learned on the evening after our semifinals performance at WGI in 2016. After performing two amazing runs, our state of bliss was abruptly taken away from us when we were told that we did not qualify for finals. We placed 21st (top 20 made finals), and we missed it by 0.57 points.

That day is when I promised myself and my team that we would never experience that horrendous feeling again, that I would not give up until FIU makes it into finals next year. That experience lit a fire in me that I did not know I had. I was ready to take on the next season.

Top Honors

Fast forward to auditions for the 2017 season. Out of 60 hopefuls, the 2017 cast got cut down to 31. We started as a bunch of strangers, but as the season went on, the bond created between all of us was one like no other. I knew we were a part of something special, but I never imagined what it would be.

The combination of the “hungry-for-redemption vets” and the “eager rookies” created an unstoppable machine. As a whole we never settled for “Good.” We wanted to get “Better” until we got to our “Best.” Our best was not only making A Class finals but also winning a gold medal with the highest ever WGI A Class score of 97.905. Talk about a dream come true!

And to add a cherry on top, I had applied for a WGI Scholarship in March in hopes that I would be able to receive extra funds to continue my higher education at FIU for my senior year. Out of all the applicants, I was selected as a recipient!

It was easy to say that this season was one for the books for me and 30 of my closest friends. The love I have for FIU is like no other, and the bonds that I have created are ones that I will cherish for as long as I live.

So to my fellow leaders, remember those three words: Good, Better, Best. They can make your dreams come true too.

About the Author

Stephany Gonzalez has been a member of the color guard at Florida International University (FIU) for the past four years and has been one of the captains for the past two years. She is currently a senior, majoring in early childhood development with a track in speech therapy. She is also the color guard director at John A. Ferguson Senior High School, in Miami, where she started her color guard career more than seven years ago.

Photo courtesy of WGI Sport of the Arts.

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