A Beginner’s Guide to Game Day as a Golden Silk

It’s 5:30 am. Your day is already in full swing even though call time isn’t until 8:00. Using your phone flashlight, you sleepily shuffle to the kitchen to turn on your Keurig and pray to everything good and holy that it doesn’t wake up your sleeping roommates. Chug a cup of coffee and nibble on a granola bar. You’re going to be thankful for it later. The real process will begin in front of your bathroom mirror. After a couple minutes of staring at yourself half-asleep trying to remember why you do this for fun (let’s be real, the Gucci bags under your eyes are here to stay at this point), wet your hair down and prepare to say goodbye to your voluminous curls. Slather a glob of hair gel on top of your head. If you think it’s too much, it probably isn’t. Keep going until you’re legitimately concerned that you may never be able to wash it all out. Weave the end of a comb over the left side of your head, creating a zig-zag patterned part with edges so sharp they could be classified as a weapon. It’ll probably take you a couple (dozen) tries to get it right, but you’ll feel ready to take on the world when you’ve finally nailed it. Quickly pin a sock bun onto the nape of your neck and grab your trusty can of Aqua Net. Oh, the flyaway disasters this baby has prevented. Hold your breath because the room is about to become a foggy mess of aerosol and you should try not to destroy your lungs before practice. Take a look in the mirror to admire your work, and give yourself a pat on the back for completing the first item on your preparation checklist.

6:30 am. Take a second to text your fellow guard members and make sure they’re all awake. Grab your makeup bag. It’s probably heavy enough that you could use it to do some bicep curls as a quick arm warm-up. Sit down and apologize in advance to the pores on your face. They won’t be happy with you after this next step and might try to take revenge in the form of a nasty breakout. Take a deep breath and fly through the process. You don’t have time to second guess your decisions. Sunscreen (trust me). Foundation. Powder. Blush. More blush. Approximately ten pounds of eye shadow (any less and you’re risking a gig). Highlighter that’s as bright as your future. Eyeliner. Brows. Mascara. Lipstick (so much lipstick). Blow yourself a kiss. You’re stunning. Throw on each piece of your uniform. Under Armor, long black socks, a uniform zipped up to your neck, marching shoes (definitely triple knot these, low-chair marching with loose shoelaces is just a disaster waiting to happen), two warm-up jackets and earrings. Never, ever forget the earrings. Pack a small makeup bag with some necessities to carry you through the day. Start with lipstick, bobby pins, extra flag tape, and then throw in as many snacks as your bag will hold without breaking.

It should be about 7:30 at this point. Run through everything you’ve just done in your mind to make sure you haven’t missed a step. Grab your flags and head out with a positive attitude. Use the time on your walk over to Hull Field to convince yourself that you’re not exhausted. When you show up, take in the sights, and don’t try to hold back the natural smile that hits your face.

It’s 8:00. Always make sure you’re standing in block at call time. Yell the first “chop ho” of the day with pride, and don’t question anything when a herd of tubas runs past you during inspection.

8:10. Time for warm-up. Stretch every muscle in your body, and ignore the beads of sweat that are already taking their toll on the foundation on your forehead. Run through the halftime show, and practice showing off your performance face for the parents and alumni surrounding the field. If your cheeks aren’t burning, you’re not smiling wide enough. When you hear Professor Gephart yell “off the field for pregame,” head to the back of the field to switch out flags to your “P” silk, and apologize to every band member you nearly collapse over in the process. If you’re not running here, you’re wrong. Get to the west end zone of the field as quickly as possible because no one appreciates a band-o who lollygags to their dot. Hunker down. How does the drum major bend his back like that? Does he even have a spine? No one knows. Just go with it. March through the pregame show, and prepare to be gasping for breath by the time you’re singing the chorus of “Hail Purdue.”

What time is it? It’s 10:00 (and IU still sucks). Relax during tailgate, hydrate, and treasure this quick moment that you get to sit down, because it won’t happen again for a while. Stuff your socks and jacket pockets full of fruit snacks and granola bars. Don’t question this, it’s a tried-and-true method of keeping your sanity during the game.

10:30. In the words of Professor Gephart, this is when the day “takes on a life of its own.” Circle up with your guard family and scream the “whatever the weather” cheer to pump yourself up. Don’t be embarrassed, it’s tradition. March to Slayter Center and welcome the familiar burning sensation in your calves that accompanies a day full of low chair marching. When you reach Slayter, keep your smile plastered on, and put some pep into your cheering. Your audience will be just a few feet away from you, and they’re going to feed off of your energy. After making a cringe-worthy attempt at singing the hymn and spinning to a rousing rendition of “Hail Purdue,” push through the grueling climb up to the north end zone concert. Keep a checklist running through your mind the whole way up the hill. Knees high, no bicycling, toes pointed, solid swagger. It’ll be over before you know it. Keep the peppy smile alive through the concert and head into Ross-Ade. Ignore the urge to jam out, and try to focus on the drum line’s tempo that is being slowly drowned out by whatever the DJ is playing.

Take a quick break in the stands, and let your pep meter recharge. You’re finally allowed to dance to “Humble” here. We all appreciate a healthy dose of Kendrick. 11:40. It’s time for pregame. The big moment. Whatever you do, don’t make a single comment about how calm the breeze is. This will likely upset the gods of game day superstitions and prompt them to curse you with hurricane force winds. From the second you hear “hunker down” until you are stumbling off the field trying to roll up the massive Indiana flag, you have to tune in to the show and drown out every other distraction in your life. Forget about how exhausted you already are, and remember how much you love this. All you have to do now is pray that the wind tunnel that is Ross-Ade Stadium is kind to you when you release your tosses.

12:00. You’re back in the stands and it’s time for kickoff. During the Hazell era, this would be the time to groan a little to yourself and half-heartedly yell out the occasional “Go Purdue.” Send your praises to Jeff Brohm across the field though, because nowadays you get to immerse yourself in each play and actually believe that your team has a fighting chance at winning. Dance on the bleachers, make up new cheers, keep your smile on (you could end up on the jumbo-tron at any moment), and resist any urge to check your mirror and reapply makeup. Head down for halftime. Run through the show in your mind, but don’t panic when you suddenly feel like you’ve forgotten all of your drill. You haven’t. Just breathe. Head to your first dot during the fire-up video, and bring your flag up to the right shoulder position. Muscle memory will take over here, but continue to stay engaged and enjoy every moment of your show. Before you know it, you’ll be marching off the field and heading back to the stands.

Resist the urge to check your makeup after the show. Your foundation has probably melted off, but so has everyone else’s. Third quarter. Throw your hands up and shout. Fourth quarter. Stretch your arms to Hail Fire. The clock runs out. Win or lose, show the team some love. The Boilers are the best, right?

Post-game time. Throw out one more attempt of singing the hymn. Embrace the screeching; you’re in guard, not choir. Keep those biceps engaged, and spin through the fight songs one last time (you honestly might start hearing them in your dreams once this day is over).

The whistle blows. Put everything you’ve got into the march back to Elliott. Yell the cadences with passion, and keep your swagger hits sharp no matter how badly your arms burn. You’re almost done. Make your last stop at Hovde Hall for drum major breakdown. Don’t worry, it’s not a cult thing (even though it is). When you see the BBD crew running towards Dr. Nave, you can finally pride yourself in making it through the day.

Sleep, take a breather, and get ready to repeat it all next weekend. You know you want to.