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What’s a Cheater Tape?

“Cheater tapes” also called “third markers” are tape markings added to flag poles to define hand placement and help clean up choreography throughout the group. When teaching new routines, many instructors will indicate where the hands should be placed in relation to the markings. These points of reference are invaluable for developing a clean routine and uniform appearance. While cheater tapes are competition legal, there are good ways to make them less obvious.  

Cheater tapes can be positioned anywhere on the flag pole, including under the header pocket, but most of the time the lower half of the pole is broken into thirds. After that, additional tapes may be added. For example, if the choreography demands holding the pole at a certain point for proper execution or if you know that a certain toss is repeated, add a cheater tape. The most important part of placement is that it’s consistent for all performers. 

Application

For training and learning the fundamentals of color guard and winter guard, many instructors go with a basic configuration of thirds. If you used the flag and pole dimensions mentioned in our article “

  1. Measure the full length of the pole (without the pole caps in place), then divide that number in half – put tape there.  For example, a 6’ pole would get a tape marker at 36” from the bottom of the pole.  
  1. Now divide the space from the center of the pole to the base into 3rds – put tape at the next two thirds. For a 6’ pole you would place tape at 12” up and 24” up. These are common placements for basic tosses. The 24” position is often called the “upper tape” and the 12” is often called the “lower tape”. 
  1. Optionally, some groups like to add a fourth tape 1/3rd up from the halfway marker. This tape is concealed by the silk and helps students with basic vertical tosses and drops.  

If this all sounds confusing, don’t worry, we’ve made a diagram. Remember, this is just a basic setup. Feel free add additional cheater tapes to best fit your choreography.  

Diagram of proper placement of color guard flag cheater tapes

Pro Tip: Don’t go overboard with the tape! Make your cheaters just thick enough so that you can feel it but not see it – about 1 to 2 layers. This saves on tape and keeps everything looking clean and tidy.   

Now that you know how to add your tapes, let’s talk about aesthetics. When you’re first getting started, it’s fine to use contrast tape for a clearer visual guide to hand placement. As you progress, you’ll want to use something more discreet. Matching electrical tape, clear packing tape, or clear contact paper are all great options. If using a Silver or Gold flag pole, your group may want to invest in a few rolls of mirror tape. Another innovative option if using something like our Ultra prop film, is to place small hair elastics or a couple of layers of electrical tape at each point before applying your film. This gives you a pronounced bump to help guide you but with a sleek, seamless look. Remember, the only people who need to know you have cheater tapes are you and your group members (not the audience, and definitely not the judges). 

Trainer Flags 

Another interesting option that some groups employ is Trainer Flags! These contrast stripe practice flags help guard members learn the proper hand positions while allowing guard instructors to do quick position checks from a distance. This same basic pattern can be made into a one-color design for a classic solid flag look with the advantages of the seam placement, two-color for easy visibility, or as a three-color flag for verbal or written commands in either rectangle or arc shapes. If you use your school colors, this trainer flag can also double as a pep rally flag or parade silk!


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