Tall flags refers to a category of team competition amongst high school, and possibly collegiate, drill team and color guard performers. Tall flags also refers to the actual flags themselves – being the longest style of flags used for competition. During competitions, different categories are typically included in the judging and include tall flags, short flags, pom, novelty, show and others. Similar to high school and college sports, drill team and color guard teams compete in different divisions based primarily on the size of the school.
The tall flags portion of the competition involves teams performing a routine using flags of a specific length and following specific competition guidelines. For example, a tall flags routine may apply the following rules: the use of flags with staffs greater than 3 ½ feet (1.07 meters) in length, usage of the flags must account for at least 75 percent of the routine, and a routine must last a minimum of two minutes and maximum of three. Though these are an example of a partial set of competition guidelines for a tall flags category, different state championships might vary the rules.
The short flags competition also has similar rule sets, but requires use of the short flags, or flags less than the minimum length assigned to tall flags. There may also be other categories involving tall flags depending on the extent of the competition. Various categories where color guards or drill teams perform with flags, sabers, and rifles are all judged differently based on which skills the team is competitively putting on display. Lyrical flag competitions, for example, are usually judged on choreography and movement rather than use of flags, though the flags are still used.
As for general competition rules involving drill team or color guard competition, they vary from division to division and state to state. Tall flags may be incorporated into the team’s routine by twirling, tossing, raising and lowering, as well as incorporating them into the performance itself. In competition, a team is judged on its handling of the flags. For routine performances, short and tall flags alike enhance the team’s performance making it more visually appealing to their audiences.