Do Head High Kicks Matter?

At Stebbins High School in Dayton Ohio, many girls dreamed of being on the Drill team and being able to proudly be called a Stebbinette, or in other circles merely called a drillee. With it came the responsibility of attending many practices, attending band camp in the summer for a week long drudgery of practices followed by evening free time to recover from sore muscles and potential heat strong. Summers in Wilmington Ohio at Bluffton College, were camp was held, were hot. Marching and dancing for the afternoon in the blistering sun on a football field void of shade could be quite grueling. All this was done just to get the girls and the Marching Band “show ready” for the first football game of the year. And each year, without fault, the show went on with each new routine just as exciting in its own way as the previous year’s show.

At the time, those of us on the squads thought Drill Team was about being popular, learning dance routines, having fun and getting into football and basketball games for free. There were a few other fringe benefits, such as four period in high school, when we were not performing, it was a free period and we were known to leave school and slip out to lunch off campus. (Oh, the stories that could be told!) The camaraderie of the other girls, the friendships that were formed, was an added benefit also. But, a drawback was also being forced to spend time with some folks that you might otherwise choose to not be around nearly as much. There were the typical personalities on that team, the Divas, the loud mouth complainers, the back stabbers, the party girls, the comics, the miss congeniality(s), and all those in between. Yes, it was a diverse melting pot, just like the population at large at our high school W. E. Stebbins. And those of us on the drill team were so very proud to be members!

The focus, in those days, on that team were a few basics. Top on the list was being able to do a head high kick. This meant keeping one leg straight on the ground and kicking the other leg perfectly straight (with no knee bent) and extending it consistently on a kick line perfectly in time and in line with other girls side by side, arm in arm with each kick over the head in unison. No easy feat! This required regular stretching and practice, as an individual and with the team. Other obstacles were thrown in the way over the years also, such as doing this on bar stools, doing splits in ripple lines, etc…. Each feat required new muscle groups to be worked, rehearsed in unison with the team and staged perfectly.

We were coached to hold our head high, to make certain our chin was in line with the back of the stands and to maintain a smile at all times during our performance. In the beginning, we called this faking a smile but over time, as we found our comfort level and realized we really did have something to smile about, it came more naturally. With confidence, comes pride.

So many times, over the years, I have remembered the silly things, the high white ‘go-go’ looking boots, the white eye shadow we all had to wear up to our eyebrows to look uniform, whether or not it looked good on any of us! But, through it all, much like looking back at my children’s experience with sports, I do see the big picture, the life experiences that were gained from being a drillee.

Everyone on the drill team learned to step in time, to make certain we performed in unison which meant you had to not only concentrate on your steps but the person on either side of you. This truly enforced the idea of interdependence. When this is done well, the walk of life is beautiful.

Our team was full of diversity and we had to get along to make a routine make sense. Our world is full of unique personalities as well. The challenges we face, day to day, is understanding through our differences. Without doing this well, we are ignorant.

We were given demerits on drill team as punishment. Rules are made for a reason and we do not get the luxury of making them. Abiding by them is our civic responsibility. If we disobey, we must pay in some way. Learning there are consequences in high school taught us to think about our actions before reacting.

Being able to bend this way and that takes flexibility. This can only be accomplished by exercising. There was no one to remind you, in between practices to stretch either. Similarly, there was no one in between practices to remind you to rehearse the dance routines. But being in shape and being in step was a responsibility. If you were not on, individually, you hurt more than just yourself, you hurt your team. Thus, being on, meant taking self responsibility to work out on your own and everyone took that initiative or did not last on drill team. You had to have some drive, some motivation and some self discipline.

I remember once when I was a sophomore my mother telling me a French teacher called her about a class I was in. She told my mother she thought I was spending too much time doing something irrelevant, “swinging pompoms” as she put it to my mother. My mom responded angrily, “Do you mean that the time my daughter spends working out hard for the Drill team is not of value?”

Thank you Mom! Head high kicks do matter. They helped make me who I am today.
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