Training, Practice and Rehearsal, three different types of well, practice. Here is an article on the Difference Between Practice and Rehearsal and an article on the Difference Between Practice and Training.
Whether you are on a first responder or military honor guard or a JROTC/ROTC drill team, your responsibilities are the same to a point: develop your skills, keep them sharp and, if you can, learn new skills.
How to Run a Competitive Drill Team Practice
You must cover these areas at drill team practice: Inspection, Regulation Drill and Exhibition Drill. There is one other area to cover whether drill team members or other cadets, color team (color guard). If the color team members are also drill team members then, obviously, you will have to have these cadets practice their sequence either on their own or for part of the drill team practice.
Scheduling your time between platoon/flight and squad/element regulation sequences, then moving on to the exhibition sequence and even then working in color team(s) into the mix can be quite a challenge.
Find out the layout of the next competition’s inspection area and work to enter and exit the area with the team.
I remember when I marched on my JROTC team and we had a very small room (on purpose) for the inspection area. We marched 17 members with fourth squad entering first, then third, second, first and me last, the commander. The team formed up at the back of the room with just enough space for the judge to walk behind 4th element and we opened ranks perfectly and then it began. What I do not remember is how we exited. Practice marching into a small area/room by squad/element using “(Column of Files) File from the Right” command.
We did very well my four years on the team because we had dedicated cadets and, what was even more important, we had dedicated instructors.
Armed and unarmed platoon/flight and squad/element sequences can take the least amount of practice if you have created a solid foundation of drill and ceremonies in your JROTC program. All cadets should at least be familiar with all stationary drill (standing manual), flanks and columns. Proper execution of each movement is key and then working on alignment and distance should follow.
All team members should read applicable D&C manuals and the Commander(s) should eat, sleep and breathe the regulation sequence command list until it is completely memorized.
The color team is part of regulation drill, but needs very specific attention. The uncase and case parts of the sequence must be accomplished per a mixture of the Army Training Circular and your service’s D&C manual. Yes, a mixture.
This is also where that solid D&C foundation will help, plus personal practice time. Creating an effective routine takes time, teaching it takes time and, finally, practicing it takes time.
All of the parts of a drill competition take a great deal of time and you must find a balance. If your teams practice for two hours every day after school, you will be able to find that balance with relative ease. If you practice Tuesdays and Thursdays for an hour-and-a-half, that balance will be more difficult- but it is doable.
What do I recommend? Start early- even during the summer and teach new cadets all they must know for regulation drill to be perfect in their execution. Then, run through those regulation sequences twice a week to keep them fresh in everyone’s memory, with the rest of the time spent on exhibition.
Lastly, give 100%, 100% of the time. Each time you practice make that practice seem like a performance on the competition field and be professional. If you can do your best with the resources you have and come in 8th place and still know that you gave your all, trophies will never matter.