Preseason Prep: The Team vs. The Band
Blugolds – football team and marching band alike – start preseason warmups and take the field together
Everyone who knows a lick about sports knows that there is a rigorous training period that goes along with a season. The Blugold Football team is no exception, beginning their practices two weeks before school is in session.
Junior Ellis Williams, a wide receiver for the team, can vouch for the intensity of the two-week period. Starting at the break of dawn, players can get their injuries tended to in the training room as early as 5am before their 6:30 practice. After two hours of football, the team grabs breakfast before breaking down the film from the previous day’s work. After lunch, “double days” mean another practice before breaking for dinner, followed by more film study. “The body gets sore and you get pretty nicked up,” Williams said. “But it’s a fun experience”.
When game day rolls around in 2014, the team has a new home game ritual. Instead of driving individually, the team changes together in McPhee on campus before getting bussed to Carson Park. There, they meet with the fans before the game then proceed to do warm-ups together.
After drills, stretching, and running basic plays, the marching band plays them out onto the field.
“We love the marching band,” Williams said. “Eau Claire has a nationally recognized marching band. ... We’re no dummies. People are there to see football, but the marching band brings their own crowd as well.”
The atmosphere at Carson Park becomes electric, and the football team has no problem giving the marching band credit for making the experience something that they’ll never forget.
“It’s every kid’s dream to play college football and have that marching band going, with the energy that creates,” Williams said. “Without the marching band there to create that energy, it would be a completely different experience. They are a huge part of what makes Carson Park such a special place to play football.”
Blugold Marching Band members are lucky if they’re able to find any part of the calendar year to kick back and relax.
“Not for me,” said senior drum major Nick Hansberry about possible free time. “For some there’s a three month block without marching band, but that’s pep band season, a contingency of the marching band.”
Fondly referred to as the “BMB,” these students have a marching season that begins just before classes and ends in November, but the work continues after weekend football games and marching exhibitions. Students can register for a class that allows them to take part in the creative process, picking the artists and tunes that are going to be featured in the show in the following fall. “Dr. (Randy) Dickerson arranges the music all summer,” said Hansberry. “But the drum line writes the percussion parts.”
As summer comes to an end, the color guard and drum line show up two weeks before classes. “We use that time to bond a little more, do team building,” said senior drum line consultant Jack Donovan. “But we play a lot too, learning the exercises and the show music.”
The week before classes is for marching band camp, beginning at 8am and going until 5:30 every night. Hansberry said they start with a four-hour block where we warm up, learn the music, then learn the drill. “We get to hear the music for the first time. ... It’s a really neat experience, and you start to get really excited for the season.” As drill is internalized, the process becomes more complicated. “All 300 people on the field pointing to where they’re going, going there in 8-16 counts, and just memorizing it so that they not only know where to go, but how to relate to everyone else around them,” he said. “It can be a tedious process … but it’s fun.”
Although the entire season takes a toll on the band’s members, Hansberry said the reward of a relationship with the athletic program is worth it. “We are very fortunate to be in an area where we are so supported by the football team and the athletic director,” he said. “Every game, win or lose, the football players come applaud us because they really enjoy what we do.”