What High School Marching Band Taught Me

What High School Marching Band Taught Me

Things I learned besides packing a truck.


Marching band. In high school, sometimes I saw it as a divider between the different things I loved. Field trips for competitions would compete with cross country meets, school work was always done in the dim glow from an iPhone light while riding on the bus late Saturday night.

At football games, you would watch as parents and students jumped out of their seats while we were performing our show at halftime so they could wait in line for pizza. In all honesty, there were some days when the marching band felt like it was a burden.

Looking back on it while I went to a competition over the weekend to see some friends still in high school, I realized that whether I wanted to admit it or not, the truth was there: Marching band taught me some of the most important lessons I've carried on with me.

To begin, the marching band taught me about time management. I learned early on that I needed to step it up if I wanted to remain an honors student and still participate in band.

This meant bringing my backpack with me to the competitions, doing homework on the bus until I was practically car sick, and having to spend all Sunday morning catching up on the things I couldn't finish during our Saturday competitions, which included finishing this work before rehearsal Sunday evening.

Now in college, this time management has helped me immensely. I know that those few precious hours I have between my classes are best spent at the library. I know that participating in extracurriculars in college is tough, and that similar to the band, I need to find time to get my work done and my studying finished before I participate.

Shockingly enough, marching band also taught me about teamwork. During my time in high school, I participated in cross country during the same season as the marching band. Although the cross country was my favorite activity ever during high school, it didn't have as much teamwork that marching band did.

I was in the front ensemble (or pit) for my band, and sometimes that required us to be independent. During lunch, while the band was outside practicing or during a long summer rehearsal, it was our job to learn the music, correct our mistakes, and learn to cooperate with each other and play better for everything to work together as a whole.

This also required each member of the marching band to learn how to communicate efficiently. Texts were expected to be sent out if running late to a rehearsal, and notes were to be written and handed in with a valid excuse of why you were missing rehearsal. It was not tolerated if you missed rehearsal to grab a coffee or eat at Panera Bread.

It was especially not tolerated if you did not have an excuse at all. You also had to communicate with other members of the band. Things never seemed to get accomplished when yelling at your section, and it always seemed that the sections of the band who were comfortable with each other and offered constructive criticism seemed to do the best.

However, if you still did not have your music memorized three weeks into the season, you're constructive criticism was going to involve yelling. No doubt about it.

Adversity is a noun that means difficulties or misfortune. Throughout life, we seem to always deal with some form of adversity, and the marching band was no exception. There were times when our score was not where we expected it to be, or something went terribly wrong in the show.

There were tapes of judges criticism that made you frustrated, and sometimes comments from the band director made you feel frustrated, confused, and even angry. But what could you do? You essentially picked yourself up, dusted yourself off, and continued to practice getting better, keeping in mind what the ultimate goal is.

Throughout our band season, our goal was to be at a "Box Four" standard, which is labeled as "high level & consistent". The Box Four standard isn't just a marching band term you hear repeated constantly the day of a competition. Instead, it is a term that should be repeated constantly in life.

Every task you complete in life or the way you act towards others should be done at a high level and consistently. You're always going to have to deal with criticism, and marching band taught me how to deal with it and move on, becoming a better player not only for my own benefit but for the sake of the band. Becoming a better person not only gives you benefits, but it also allows the people around you to rise up to the new standards.

I could go on for quite some time about stories from marching band, lessons I've learned, and mistakes I've made. There are not enough blog posts in the world to describe how much I learned from marching band, whether I agreed with these things or not during the times they occurred.

However, one of the biggest lessons I learned you cannot find in a book, or through the director's comments, or through the judge's tapes and the score they gave you. This lesson is camaraderie. Camaraderie is mutual trust and friendship among people who spend a lot of time together.

No matter how much you try to get away, you spend tons of time with the people in the marching band. During the first half of football games, we all huddled near each other trying to stay warm. During Saturday competition's, we loaded the instrument truck together and passed around snacks on the bus.

Sunday nights were filled with dozens of "I'm too tired for this" or even the hopeful question of "It's raining. Will we be let out early?" was asked as we progressed through each week (we weren't let out early, we went to the gym to practice instead). In marching band, I met people that I would not have thought of becoming friends with, and learn things about music, others, and myself that I wouldn't have imagined.

I believe that there is a certain level of dedication and passion needed to participate in marching band, and without achieving those levels myself, I'm not quite sure what I would be doing today.

So, thanks, marching band. The high level and consistent lessons I was taught rubbed off, and I can finally say that I'm glad that they did.

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The Coach That Killed My Passion

An open letter to the coach that made me hate a sport I once loved.

I fell in love with the game in second grade. I lived for every practice and every game. I lived for the countless hours in the gym or my driveway perfecting every shot, every pass and every move I could think of. Every night after dinner, I would go shoot and would not allow myself to go inside until I hit a hundred shots. I had a desire to play, to get better and to be the best basketball player I could possibly be.

I had many coaches between church leagues, rec leagues, personal coaches, basketball camps, middle school and high school. Most of the coaches I had the opportunity to play for had a passion for the game like I did. They inspired me to never stop working. They would tell me I had a natural ability. I took pride in knowing that I worked hard and I took pride in the compliments that I got from my coaches and other parents. I always looked forward to the drills and, believe it or not, I even looked forward to the running. These coaches had a desire to teach, and I had a desire to learn through every good and bad thing that happened during many seasons. Thank you to the coaches that coached and supported me through the years.

SEE ALSO: My Regrets From My Time As A College Softball Player

Along with the good coaches, are a few bad coaches. These are the coaches that focused on favorites instead of the good of the entire team. I had coaches that no matter how hard I worked, it would never be good enough for them. I had coaches that would take insults too far on the court and in the classroom.

I had coaches that killed my passion and love for the game of basketball.

When a passion dies, it is quite possibly the most heartbreaking thing ever. A desire you once had to play every second of the day is gone; it turns into dreading every practice and game. It turns into leaving every game with earphones in so other parents don't talk to you about it. It meant dreading school the next day due to everyone talking about the previous game. My passion was destroyed when a coach looked at me in the eyes and said, "You could go to any other school and start varsity, but you just can't play for me."

SEE ALSO: Should College Athletes Be Limited To One Sport?

Looking back now at the amount of tears shed after practices and games, I just want to say to this coach: Making me feel bad about myself doesn't make me want to play and work hard for you, whether in the classroom or on the court. Telling me that, "Hard work always pays off" and not keeping that word doesn't make me want to work hard either. I spent every minute of the day focusing on making sure you didn't see the pain that I felt, and all of my energy was put towards that fake smile when I said I was OK with how you treated me. There are not words for the feeling I got when parents of teammates asked why I didn't play more or why I got pulled after one mistake; I simply didn't have an answer. The way you made me feel about myself and my ability to play ball made me hate myself; not only did you make me doubt my ability to play, you turned my teammates against me to where they didn't trust my abilities. I would not wish the pain you caused me on my greatest enemy. I pray that one day, eventually, when all of your players quit coming back that you realize that it isn't all about winning records. It’s about the players. You can have winning records without a good coach if you have a good team, but you won’t have a team if you can't treat players with the respect they deserve.

SEE ALSO: To The Little Girl Picking Up A Basketball For The First Time

Cover Image Credit: Equality Charter School

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The Lesson I Learned on Graduation Day

I gained more than just my diploma on graduation day.


Each day we encounter experiences that shape who we are. Whether they are for good or bad, these are lessons that ultimately lead our next decision in life. This year, my graduation day taught me one of the most valuable lessons I've learned, providing me with a forward-looking attitude as I moved through 2018 and now onto 2019.

On June 1st, 2018, I stood alongside nearly 660 of my classmates anxiously waiting to turn our tassels. With nothing else to do, I fidgeted with my gown for nearly 2 hours before finally getting the chance to walk across that stage. After my 5 seconds of fame, I returned to my seat with the same tiresome attitude.

"Can this be over already?"

I heard the crowd of parents mumble beside me. As the ceremony continued, the crowd anxiously grew louder. Students' last names from "M" onward were nearly muted out by the disturbing amount of side conversation that echoed the room. Graduation ceremonies are often deemed as unnecessarily long, but for the kid with the last name "Zimmerman", it feels even longer. Although I was sure to make the most of my walk across the stage, I failed to recognize the importance of all the other special moments that composed the ceremony.

Most parents anxiously await their child's name to be called, yet forget to give the recognition to everyone else who succeeded alongside them. The student's name who was called 3 people before your child may have been a first generation college student in their family, the 655th name to be called may have experienced a tragedy during the year, yet still excelled to receive their diploma, and the child's name who could not be heard because your side conversation, may have been going on to serve in our armed forces.

It was not until I watched the heartfelt graduation ceremony of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that I realized I had taken graduation day for granted. The parents who attended my ceremony were lucky to watch their children obtain their own diploma, the teachers who volunteered their time to organize the event were lucky to be alongside all of their colleagues, and the students who sat with empty chairs next to them were lucky that the non-attending students had the option of being there. While it is important to embrace our moment, it is just important to recognize that it is someone else's moment too. Too often we centralize significant events around ourselves, but if graduation day taught me anything, it was the importance of embracing a moment with everyone that you are sharing it with.

Rather than waiting for January 1st to loop around to start "seizing every moment", I decided to start right then and there. From that day forward, I made sure to congratulate all my friends who earned their diploma. I attended graduation parties nearly every other day for two weeks but treated each one with the same significance as my own. It shouldn't have taken me regretting my own graduation day to alter my mentality, but unfortunately, it did. The important thing is that I now recognize the importance of acknowledging others' achievements just as much as myself. While every day may not be the brightest or the most fulfilled to me, someone out there had the best day of their life, and if I was lucky enough to watch the sun rise and set, then I'd say I had a pretty darn good day as well.

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