Color Guard terminology, slang & lingo.

COLOR GUARD - Important Terminology

COLOR GUARD - Important Terminology throughout the Sport

Like most organized sports, the lingo in a Color Guard can be a little difficult to understand. And with its recent rise in popularity, plenty of people are curious about some of the most common terms that members of a color guard use.

Whether you’re a parent or relative cheering from the stands or someone looking to become part of the band, these terms can at least help you get on the same page with the rest of the team.

Color guards also have a very rich history of performances, with some of the earliest choreographed marches going back to the Civil War. Here’s a quick look at the unique history of color guards before the modern day.

History of Color Guard

Modern-day color guard routines are a variation on military color guards. Some of the bravest and strongest soldiers would be chosen to carry their platoon’s flag through the battlefield. A band would often accompany the flag holder soldiers and play patriotic songs to keep them motivated. While marching brands were unique to the army, civilians would also perform these drills out of respect for the troops. These civilian marches are what really transitioned into color guard as we know it today.

  • Terminology of Color Guard

Color guard terminology is vast and grows as people come up with new moves and terms to refer to those moves. . So even though terms tend to change pretty frequently, some stay pretty consistent. Here are some of the most popular terms in color guard.

  • Across the Floor

This term refers to any exercise or step performed repeatedly during rehearsals to perfect it.  The team will be moving across the space allocated for rehearsal.

  • Charleston

This funky dance step from 20's that got really popular in some color guard performances. To do the Charleston, you put one foot forward and then kicking the other to bring them together.  Now, you want to take your other foot back, and kick with your first foot, bringing both of them together.

  • Bolt

A bolt is a piece of plastic that you can often see on top of a rifle, or at the ends of aluminum flag poles. It’s a type of counterweight used to make the rifle and the flag pole more stable.

  • Click sticks

A pair of drum sticks that instructors use to keep time during rehearsal.

  • Cracker jack

Cracker jack is a basic flag catch, which involves pulling two ends of a pole in opposite directions and releasing, making the flag spin. allowing the flag to rotate fully before catching it in the same position.

  • Double

A double is a toss that rotates twice in the air before the catch.


  • Equipment

Any tools that performers use during their performance falls under the umbrella term of equipment. That can include flags, rods, rifles and sabers, along with other tools that the guard uses.

  • Flourish

It refers to any movement of any equipment between performers. You can also sometimes hear people refer to performances with large movements.

  • Jam weight

These are weights added to aluminum poles for better performance. The name “jam weight” comes from how you insert the pole in it.

  • Lock

When performers in the guard prepare for double or higher tosses on equipment, it’s a lock. They’ll tilt  their equipment from to a 45 degree angle and initiate the toss. You might also also hear some refer to it as prep..

  • Lunge

Lunges happen in the wide second position. A performer will bend one knee with their back straight and the other leg running parallel to the ground

  • Newbie

A newbie is anyone who is new to the guard, and is usually reserved for Freshmen. It also refers to people who have never spun the flag before.

  • Rifle

Equipment that resembles a wooden gun used during a performance.

  • Saber

A Saber is a replica sword that is part of the equipment that people use during a performance.

  • Shatter weight

Shatter weight is another name for a bolt  used as counter weight on a rifle or pole to keep the equipment stable.

  • Single

Any toss that a performer catches in mid-air after a single rotation.

  • Spin

A spin is when any equipment rotates in one direction. This applies to all equipment like sabres, rifles, and even the flag. .

Purpose of the Color Guard

While the color guard certainly started out as separate designation of individuals in an army, now it’s about putting on a performance alongside the marching band. However, the color guard still maintains it’s original purpose of motivating the troops and representing their house colors.

A color guard will often feature a group of 50 members at most. The group can include a number of performers, including gymnasts and acrobats. They will often wear loud and colorful dresses and will often perform during a parade or before a major sporting event.

Types of Color Guard

There are basically two types of color guard,

Military Color Guard

A military color guard will usually perform in a parade, and will not be as flashy as other types of performances. While they will also be performing with a marching band, will usually include a lot more people, and they will often exclusively march with rifles and sabres.

Entertainment Color Guard

The entertainment color guard performs to entertain an audience, usually before a major sporting event at the school. It is different from a parade as it is independent of any strict code. Most colleges and high schools will have a color guard performance before the main sporting event. .The best part about these types of color guard is that they can have as few as 5 performers, or as many as 50 performers.


The color guard is an essential part of any sporting event, as they bring out stellar performances before the team goes out to play. And with this list of terms, you can now be a better part of the team. But if you’re looking for a quick selection of some of the best color guard equipment, then consider stopping by GuardGifts.

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