When It’s Good to Cheat

It is important to know the correct hand placement for every count of your routines. Consistent hand placement across the ensemble can make the difference between a clean equipment phrase and a dirty one. Also, well-placed hands can result in spectacularly uniform tosses and catches.

Many ensembles utilize small pieces of tape strategically placed on the equipment to provide specific points of reference. These marks are referred to as “cheaters” or “cheater tapes.”

On the Flag Pole. There is not necessarily a right or wrong placement for cheater tapes, so long as every performer in the ensemble has the tape marks at the same location on every pole. However, many instructors find it useful to split the exposed part of the pole into thirds. For a standard 6-foot flag, tape marks would be placed at 12” and 24” from the bottom end of the pole (without the end caps).

Not only will this give you two major points of reference but additional hand placements can be indicated by “splitting the tapes” or placing a hand directly between two cheaters.

A customized cheater mark can also be added for a particularly difficult toss or section of equipment work.

Under the Silk. You can place an additional cheater under the silk for reference during tosses. Measure 48” from the bottom of the pole and wrap several layers of tape around the pole, so that you can feel it through the flag casing. Placing one hand on this mark and the other hand on the cheater at 24” will split the entire pole into thirds and is good placement for starting or catching a basic vertical toss.

Discretion. Hide your cheater tapes from the watchful eye of discerning judges by making them the same color as your pole on performance flags. You will still be able to feel the tape and see it up close without broadcasting mistakes to the audience.

With cheater tapes you no longer need to estimate hand placements “about 6 inches in” or “a third of the way from the silk.” They are a great tool for cleaning up routines quickly. And don’t worry, when we’re talking about hand placement, it’s actually good to cheat!

About the Author

Catina Anderson has been involved in the color guard activity, first as a performer and then instructor, for the past 20 years. She is currently on staff at Broad Run High School in Ashburn, Va. She is also the founder and editor of www.colorguardeducators.com, a website for color guard coaches. She earned a bachelor’s degree at Towson University and a master’s degree in education from Marymount University.