Teacher and colorguard coach Heather Wenzler, with the help of an East Bay Community Foundation grant, started the nine-girl squad just six weeks ago and can't believe how far it has already come. "It's amazing what they are able to do," said Wenzler, who pointed out that the sport is akin to a dancing flags spirit event.
But for Wenzler, organizing this squad isn't just about teaching the girls flag routines; it's about giving the girls tools to help them through their tough teen years: "In addition to colorguard as a spirit squad, there is that ability to build self-esteem and feel proud about what you're doing" - vital attitudes preparing for the physical changes girls face and the uncertainty middle and high school brings.
Wenzler learned firsthand what the sport can do for a girl, as she joined her own high school colorguard team as a freshman, quickly moving up the ranks to become the squad's Major, and then competed nationally with the Sacramento Freelancers before retiring due to a tendon injury.
"In 1991, during practice with the winterguard in Sacramento, the pain was so severe that I chose to let it all go - I left practice and was never able to return," said Wenzler. "I have had a dream of coaching colorguard ever since."
And while Wenzler's new program is still getting its feet wet, the girls have already gained pride and accomplishment from it.
Destiny Fierro, 11, is one of the nine sixth-graders on the squad. "I really haven't played any sports before so I wanted to try out," she said. "It's kind of cool to start a new sport and hang out with my friends."
When asked why she joined the team, 11-year-old Shamari Smith said, "I did it for my mom." Shamari explained that her mom had always wanted to join the colorguard when she was in high school, but wasn't able to. So by joining the Falcon colorguard, Shamari said she is fulfilling her mom's dream as well as her own.
The squad's inaugural performance will take place in front of the Falcon student body on Nov. 27, followed by a repeat performance at Discovery Bay's Parade of Lights.
Wenzler said the colorguard program is still in the building stage. Those interested in sponsoring the team can contact her by e-mail at email@example.com. Donations should be mailed to Stefanie Brundy, c/o Byron Union School District, 14301 Byron Highway, Byron, CA 94514.