I’m starting to pay more attention to what goes on during halftime at high school basketball games, especially when drill teams take the floor. Their dance skills, and more specifically their athletic ability, are amazing. Macho males reading this column may snicker, and want to flip right past to the sports section. I urge them, however, to stick with me here.
I’ve spent a total of 22 years writing for newspapers and about 17 as a sports writer. Yet, I had never attended a drill team event until last month’s Region 11 drill team competition at Grantsville High School on Jan. 13.
A couple of things pulled me in to watch. First, it is a sanctioned high school sport by the Utah High School Activities Association, and a sports category in the Transcript-Bulletin Cup competition for our three 3A high schools in Tooele Valley. Second, I’m good friends with the husband of one of the drill team’s coaches and he’s helped me on work projects throughout the years. So, I owed him. He pitched the idea of me attending the region event, and told me about the various nuances of the competition. Third, writing about drill teams is definitely something different from the constant diet of high school basketball — especially with most of the boys and girls teams at the bottom of the standings anyway.
I arrived a bit late because the event was scheduled to last two hours; I figured if I watched about an hour that would be enough to give me an idea of what drill team competition is all about. Plus, I figured I’d have to call the expert coaches afterward to explain to me what I had just witnessed. I’ve watched hundreds of basketball and baseball games and I know it’s important to see what occurs in the early stages of those contests, but I didn’t know anything about covering drill teams.
Here’s what I learned: Boys sports are easy compared to drill team competition, or at least, just as difficult. Plus, the boys aren’t judged on their makeup.
Drill teams work just as hard at their sport as do other high school teams, and the pressure at drill team competitions with audience-packed gyms is intense. Why the intensity? So much is riding on a few performances. There’s little opportunity to make a come-from-behind victory.
This year the routines for region and state meets included military, dance and kick. According to information about drill teams on the UHSAA website, five judges evaluate the routines on five categories that include appearance, choreography, difficulty, execution and showmanship. The highest and lowest scores are thrown out and the three remaining are tallied. The team with the lowest ranking wins. Stansbury High School took second overall, followed by Tooele High in fourth and Grantsville High in sixth place.
It appeared to me that the categories of “difficulty” and “execution” showed off the athletic capability of these young women. For the difficulty category, judges looked for ambidexterity, rhythms, flexibility, intricacy and maneuvering of formations and endurance. For the execution category, judges focused on body control, unison-timing, dynamics, spacing, precision, and kick technique.
I love watching high school basketball games and used to think that half-times were a waste of time, and that teams should just keep on playing.
Now, I don’t mind the break because I know something about drill teams and respect the dedication and athleticism the participants must have to do it well. Next time I have the opportunity to watch a drill team performance, I’ll try to evaluate their intricacy and maneuvering of formations.