Ok…I’m a self-professed “jock”. I don’t own a band instrument, I can’t read music, I can’t dance and I can’t count in rhythm. Needless to say, I have never been one of those types to really appreciate a marching band and everything that goes into those halftime shows…until last week.
I’m so thrilled by the involvement of the newly formed pep-band at our volleyball matches. As a very small token of my appreciation to the members of the Marching Knights, I ended my practice early last week and went over to their practice field to show them some support. Little did I know that I was going to be asked to stand up in front of the 300+ members and say something that could possibly convey my gratitude. I hope that I was able to express my thanks as I stumbled through a few words. Afterwards, I was asked to join director Ron Ellis up on the observation tower as the Marching Knights learned a new routine for an upcoming halftime show.
The view from this observation deck was stunning as I looked westerly into a gorgeous Florida sunset. Then it dawned on me, not only were the 300+ members going to learn this routine from scratch, they only had 20 minutes of day light in which to learn the entire complex series of drills and movements. Looking around the practice field I didn’t see any lights. Either they were going to learn this in daylight, or they were going to be perfecting it in total darkness. I was absolutely amazed on how the various grad assistants and student leaders quickly mentored their small groups and taught them the steps. Then like some football-field wide jigsaw puzzle….BAM it all came together into a marching mosaic. What I saw taking place was stunning to me….but Mr. Ellis is driven by perfection. So they kept working on it.
Mind you, they weren’t allowed to have their instruments until they had the entire routing learned, timed and perfected….all in 20 minutes. The sun had now dipped below the horizon….and they kept working on it.
In the mass of marching humanity was a “rotating wedge” that each member had to start and end their movement on the exact precise beat…all while rotating 90 degrees. They were pretty close after only three attempts. Then they started to work on a 64-count serpentine line movement culminating in a freestyle “jam” that gave me shivers. Again, they learned it after only a few tries. At this point it was so dark that I couldn’t see the other side of the practice field any longer. But they kept working on it.
It was nearly pitch black, the choreography was nearly precise and Mr. Ellis leaned over and said, “You are about to see the reason why I love working with college marching bands.” I wasn’t exactly sure what he meant, but less than a minute later, I found an entirely new appreciation for the UCF Marching Knights. We could now see no more than a few feet in front of our faces as the band members stealthily picked up their instruments. Mr. Ellis helped the Marching Knights stay in perfect synchronization by opening his cell phone so the members could see his waving hands.
Then somewhere in the darkness of the night, 300+ Marching Knights stepped in perfect synchronization, the human wedge shifted a perfect 90 degrees, the 64-count serpentine line was on a perfect count and the blare of the musical instruments was so perfectly crisp that the Marching Knights could have been heard from Oviedo. I know why Mr. Ellis loves working with college marching bands. The “power” of that moment almost blew me off the observation tower.
It must have been right because they were finally excused for the evening. Perfection was the only means of escaping practice tonight.
If your Black and Gold spirit ever starts to diminish just stop by practice with the Marching Knights. They don’t have the huge full-ride scholarships, they don’t have the lucrative NFL career waiting for them after four years, they don’t have the plush facilities, BUT THEY DO HAVE enough school spirit to fill Bright House Stadium 10 times over (we could all take a lesson from that!!!). They are doing it for the right reasons, for the reasons we should all be doing it. They do it for the love of the “game” and the love of UCF.
Do me a favor and hold off on that hot dog at halftime….take a minute to appreciate the finely tuned precision of UCF’s 300+ person team. It didn’t happen by accident. It happened when you weren’t looking….and it happened so late that no one could see them anyway!
“Armor-Up” Marching Knights, you have a new supporter. I’LL BE THERE this weekend….because I know it’s going to be a THRILLER !!!
This is a letter to all Knight fans from UCF Head Volleyball Coach Todd Dagenais.