The Bugler

Bugler Newsletter

The Top 5 Winning Habits of Successful Drill Teams

Matt Wendling, Drill-Team Dynamics, Inc. Coach and Glendale Parade Store Regional Representative.

  1. Practice, Practice, Practice!

    At the end of the day, nothing replaces time spent marching on the drill deck. Most highly successful units practice 5-6 days a week putting in hours comparable to a part-time job. While this might not be an immediate reality for many developing programs, creating a multi-year plan to add practice time to your unit's schedule will have successful results when implemented properly. Some units offer Drill Team as an elective for participating students utilizing PE/Dance State Standards. Other units split practice between morning and afternoon sessions. If you're serious about improvement, finding time to practice is a must!

  2. Set Clear and Attainable Daily Goals!

    The best drill team units know that effective practice means eliminating down-time. By maintaining constant engagement at all times - driven by clearly communicated daily goals - the drama, the in-fighting, and the horse-play are all minimized simply because there is no time for it when the goal is clear. The cadet commander and coach should collaborate in advance of each practice to determine the physical practice goals for that day. Then, post those goals on the office or armory door for all members to see throughout the day. When practice begins, restate those goals and work hard towards them! This seems like a no-brainer but many teams often simply go outside and run through their routines stopping occasionally to fix mistakes. A goal-driven team is a more successful one!

  3. Prepare Methodically for Competition!

    Top drill team units leave NOTHING to chance. They pack extra EVERYTHING and they certainly don't rely upon cadets to show up in their uniforms. The fact of the matter is that cadets exercise personal responsibility setting up their uniforms each week for class. For the competitive drill team, uniform preparation is a science with teams of cadets assigned to each individual rank, accoutrement, and award to ensure that every uniform is the same from cadet to cadet. Shoes are shined well in advance and double-checked for consistency. Uniforms are fit and tailored and many units have a separate "Inspection-Only" uniform maintained to perfection and stored at the unit. In the weeks leading up to a major competition, championship teams spend as much time preparing as they do practicing because they know the difference it makes!

  4. Be Willing to Innovate!

    Top instructors know that an LOI or SOP is a document meant to be read and dissected. Anyone who tells you there isn't strategy in even something as "mundane" as Regulation Drill isn't being truthful; as coaches, we obsess over the minor details. Does the competition not mandate a specific entry/exit point? We ask ourselves, "How can we do things differently - yet correctly - to stand out in the field?" When it comes to exhibition drill, the most innovative routines are always a collaboration between instructor and cadets. Be confident in your vision: even if you don't know how to spin a rifle or slap yourself silly, you probably have some creative ideas that your cadets can bring to life on the floor with their skills!

  5. Constantly Adapt and Overcome!

    Competitive JROTC drill is an ever-evolving field driven to new heights each year by the excellence on display at the nation's top competitions. What worked even 5 years ago might be woefully outdated today. The best drill team coaches are always willing to adapt to this ever-changing field and apply what is successful for the benefit of the cadets in their charge. The phrases, "We've always done it this way." or "I like it like this." are the enemies of success when those methods consistently fail to deliver results. The BEST thing you can do for your cadets is be aware of the changing trends in competitive drill to maximize their efforts!

This is the first article in a series. Watch for the second in the series later in the spring.

About the Author

Matthew Wendling is a former AFJROTC cadet and two-time World Champion driller turned professional drill team coach. As a middle school English teacher, Wendling contributed to multiple championship drill team units where his efforts as an assistant coach culminated in back-to-back National Championship titles in both 2013 and 2014. After leaving the classroom to serve Glendale Parade Store as a Regional Representative, Wendling continues to work as a consultant to multiple championship middle school and high school drill team programs. He is a founding member of the Drill-Team Dynamics Inc. drill team training organization. If you would like to reach Matt, you can contact him at

Drill-Team Dynamics’ Instructor Seminars

With the expansion of professional development opportunities and on-site training workshops offered by companies such as Drill-Team Dynamics Inc., there are many ways to stay current. Many districts will accept professional development hours for attending events like Drill-Team Dynamics' Instructor Seminars where instructors are taught best-practices by other instructors who have spent years developing their own programs.

You can learn more about Drill-Team Dynamics Inc. Instructor Seminars and sign up today by visiting Registration is $350 for the first instructor and each subsequent instructor receives a $50 discount on this fee. With your registration, any number of cadets are eligible to attend this 2-day training for only $25 per cadet. Their separate training is designed to supplement yours!

Glendale and

Glendale outfits honor guards, color guards, and drill units. Visit our site for the best in parade and drill equipment and for uniform accessories at

Copyright © 2001-2018 Glendale Parade Store - 1-800-653-5515