NHSDTC - Most Frequently Asked Questions
Most Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the...

National High School
Drill Team Championships


QUESTION #1 - The NHSDTC looks like Two Different Events - True?
Technically, no. The NHSDTC event is a multi-day military drill competition weekend! The competition is divided into two different competitions, Masters Level and Challenge Level. The Challenge Level competition is a single day event. Beginning in 2009, the Commander's Call for the Challenge Level competition is held on Friday evening to cover many of the most important rules and any late breaking information. The competition is held throughout Saturday morning, afternoon and early evening. The Challenge Level Awards Ceremony is a streamline affair that follows the competition in the evening. At this time, all trophies, scoresheets, scoring reports and team pictures are distributed. The end of the Challenge Level Awards Ceremony ends the physical cadet competition segment of the NHSDTC for these Challenge Level cadets.

The Master's Level competition is held throughout the days of Sunday & Monday. The floor is cleared in the late afternoon on Monday and extensive staging, seating, decoration and installation of electronics to produce a very spectacular Awards Gala that evening - all in just a few hours! The end of the Masters Level Awards Ceremony ends the physical cadet competition segment of the entire NHSDTC competition.

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QUESTION #2 - How Many Days Do Teams Stay in Daytona Beach to Compete?
The basic stay in Daytona Beach for the Nationals is a 4-day / 3-night stay. For Masters Level schools, this means most schools opt for a Friday early afternoon check-in and a Tuesday morning check-out. Most Challenge Level schools opt for a check in on Friday early afternoon and a Monday morning check-out. Challenge Level competition schools generally stay the extra day to conduct sightseeing at the Masters Level, or to nearby educational sites of Kennedy Space Center, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Bethune-Cookman College or maybe even an end-of-the-year fun trip to Universal Studios, Seaworld or Disney.

Occasionally, some Challenge Level schools ask to attend the event for the minimum 3 days / 2 nights. This is possible as we have a few select hotels that will accept schools for this reduced number of days.

All schools dictate their length of stay on the rooming paperwork they fill out to attend the event as all schools attend the competition through the NHSDTC Team Package Plan (explained later in the FAQ).

QUESTION #3 - How Does Our Drill Unit Get Invited to Attend the NHSDTC?
Every year in late September, a magazine is mailed by Sports Network International to every JROTC unit in the world. This magazine (DrillNATION) maintains an official invitation for your JROTC program to petition to enter the Nationals. Any unit in the world is eligible to enter. Submission of the School Registration Form and the School Registration Fee constitutes a valid petition for entry into the Nationals.

QUESTION #4 - What Determines Who Gets Accepted Into The Nationals?
This is a tough question. In years past, all entries were handled on an earliest postmark basis. Many years ago, this wasn't a big problem as entry spaces seemed to just about meet the demand from quality programs looking to attend. However, in the past two or three years, more and more teams from farther and farther away are looking to make their plans to attend the Nationals. And tough choices had to be made as there are only so many hours in the day!

Using an earliest postmark basis, the event was becoming geographically skewed, favoring schools that are closest to the home of the Nationals, Daytona Beach, Florida. These schools received their entries first, had the easiest time deciding whether to attend (or not as transportation was little problem and little planning was necessary), and then had the fastest mail service getting their entries back to SNI.

Beginning in 1998, an entry deadline was instituted. This early December deadline gives all schools equal entry consideration so long as their registration is received by SNI no later than the early December deadline published within the DrillNATION Magazine. Using this method, SNI can select the most deserving schools to attend, not necessarily the ones who can fill out a form, cut a check and mail an application the fastest!

That being said, SNI will make determinations regarding who gets into the Nationals based on numerous criteria. The first criteria is to accept teams who are in contention for an overall title FIRST. This means that schools entering all five team events within a Division (Masters Level) or all four team events (Challenge Level) are given a priority over schools who are entering just a few events. Therefore, if you are NOT planning to enter all events, probably better to save your time and postage because we haven't accepted a "partial" team entry in years. And also remember, schools looking to enter just a color guard unit are encouraged to enter the Open Level Color Guard competition held on the first competition day on Saturday --- this is why we began this exciting event -- join it!

Other important criteria in use include: overall team talent, returning teams/past champions, maintaining a solid service diversity at the event (Navy and Air Force schools are usually in shorter supply!), geographic diversity (distance helps!), and team location diversity (urban, rural, suburban), and a mixture of armed and unarmed teams, as well as a solid number of Mixed Division schools (formerly the Alternative Arms Division schools) and you have the recipe for a great National competition!

The final decision is subjective but based on making the Nationals exactly what it is -- the finest gathering of high school drill and ceremony units ever assembled on a single weekend! It is filled with second guessing and mind-numbing detail but hard choices have to be made. The most important single piece of advice that can be imparted is to fill out the back of your entry form with solid facts -- make your best case why YOUR SCHOOL BELONGS AT THE NATIONALS!

QUESTION #5 - What Competition Level Should Our Unit Enter?
Every school must determine which Nationals Competition Level you feel your team would best compete in -- Masters Level or Challenge Level. The first thing all schools facing this question must understand is your school is gauged on its OVERALL performance. Just because you always do very well in Color Guard doesn't mean that your entire team is worthy of entering the Masters Level. Conversely, just because you never do well in Unit Inspection doesn't mean that your overall team strength is weak.

A general rule of thumb is if you habitually finish in the top three schools in most of the regional drill meets you attend, your unit is most certainly a Masters Level entry. If your program is newer and cannot compete well against many of the better programs in your area, you are probably a perfect candidate for the Challenge Level.

There are two areas that have undergone a large shift from previous years when it comes to what schools/teams compete in what divisions:

1) Schools that maintain a large number of FEMALE ARMED DRILLERS will no longer be able to AUTOMATICALLY register and attend the NHSDTC in the Challenge Level Competition Division. The Mixed Division of the NHSDTC is designed for those schools competing with 25% or greater females on the floor in all events (not including cadet commanders), REGARDLESS OF WHAT WEAPON THEY USE. This competition division is held during the Masters Level competition BUT THE OVERALL DRILL TALENT WITHIN THIS DIVISIONS IS ACTUALLY SLIGHTLY LOWER THAN THE CHALLENGE ARMED DIVISION. Therefore, armed teams that have registered to attend the NHSDTC with high numbers of female drillers will likely have their registration flagged and be asked to contact SNI to discuss your unit in greater detail to see if you are actually entered within the wrong division.

2) Established JROTC programs that have solid OVERALL finishes (generally top 5-6) in the Challenge Level competition (Armed or Unarmed) will no longer be eligible to AUTOMATICALLY remain within the Challenge Level event for repeated entries. This is a change that will affect a few schools who have programs that maintain solid finishes, yet have sought to remain within the Challenge Level competition year after year. The Challenge Level competition is primarily designed for newer, smaller and less competitive programs WHO WOULD LIKELY FINISH IN THE BOTTOM 10% OF SCHOOLS AT THE MASTERS LEVEL! What has happened in recent years is that our 4th-8th place Challenge teams would be finishing likely in mid-pack in Master competition. They need to be moved OUT of the Challenge Level event and compete with schools more like themselves in the Masters Level of the competition. If there are 30 Masters Level teams in a competition division in the Masters Level, the winner of the Challenge event in that division should be around 31st best team in that group of entrants, not a team that could have finished 10th or so in Masters….and this is what has happened in the past few years.

In either case, schools should enter the level they feel they belong within. If the Competition Committee of SNI does not feel that your entry is justified at that level, we will give you the option to move where we feel you belong, or we will refund your registration fee and withdraw your entry from consideration.

QUESTION #6 - I Don't See Regulation Squad Events in the SOP. Is That a Competition Category?
No, at an event of this magnitude, we believe any quality program of any minimum size required by the service HQs should have 13 cadets that can commit to excellence and march in standard Inspection and Regulation, and certainly 4 of those also competing in Color Guard. In the Challenge Division (for smaller or less competitive programs), we allow teams to have 8 + a commander for exhibition drill because that is a more specialized activity requiring far more specialized practice that many smaller program just can't make happen. Also, at the Challenge Level, we have 75% of the scoring based on "Basic" events (Inspection, Regulation and Color Guard). At the Mssters Level, we have 60% because we have TWO exhibition style team events. The addition of a repetitive regulation marching event would serve little purpose.

QUESTION #7 - How is the Date for the Nationals Selected Each Year?
The dates for the Nationals are dictated in concert with the event venue, the Daytona Beach Ocean Center Arena. Many events occur every year in the late Spring in Daytona Beach and the Nationals are scheduled around these. The dates for the Nationals historically remain the first weekend in May.

QUESTION #8 - What Drill Manual Do We Compete Under at the Nationals?
The Armed events at the Nationals are held under the guidelines of Army Trqiniong Circular 3-21.5. The Unarmed events are held under the guidance of Air Force Manual AFMAN 36-2203. The NHSDTC allows all units to perform in accordance with the requirements outlined in their particular service manual. As the saying goes, "you dance with the girl that brung ya"! Every unit competes under their own service manual or the manual of your choosing (all schools state to the judge the manual they will be utilizing during their report in) BUT ALWAYS REMEMBER, the NHSDTC SOP is followed FIRST!

QUESTION #9 - Do We Have to Enter Every Event or Can We Just Enter One or Two?
There is no requirement that a team must enter all events within a competition division to attend the Nationals. However, with the huge interest from schools looking to capture an overall National title, teams that are looking to enter just an event or two are very rarely accepted. Our first priority in accepting any team for entry is, are they competing for an overall title (a team entering all four events {Challenge Level} or five events {Masters Level}? If they are not, they go to the bottom of the pile of entrants. Therefore, we suggest any team serious about gaining entry look at entering every team event within the division you are entering.

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QUESTION #10 - Why Does the Challenge Level Competition Only Have One Team Exhibition Event Instead of the Two offered at the Masters Level?
Mostly the overall philosophy of what the "Challenge" level competition is supposed to be all about have brought Sports Network to the decision that a four event competition, with each phase worth an equal 25% weighting, is the best measure of a National Championship team within this reduced-talent division. Teams that are at a level of "Challenge" should not be expected to establish and practice two exhibition events -- their time could be better spent practicing their Regulation drill and their Color Guard -- the "meat & potatoes" of the drill team.

Reducing the event to the four basic components also allowed the event to literally double in size, thereby allowing the number of schools to be doubled, helping to keep the costs down for the attendees, and most importantly, help to make the hunt for a Challenge Level National Championship as difficult, rewarding and tough as that of the Masters Level championship.

QUESTION #11 - Why Does the Challenge Level Not Have a Separate Solo and/or Dual Exhibition competition?
Primarily, the National High School Drill Team Championships are designed to find the finest military drill team in the world. The solo & dual competition is not scored toward the National title in any division. It is hosted to give the most outstanding individual cadets a place to shine. Beginning in 2009, ALL NHSDTC are eligible to enter the Solo & Dual competitions! Information on exactly how Challenge Level cadets, as well as stand alone cadets attending without a team may gain one of these coveted slots, go to the on-line FAQ for the event, or contact SNI to gain the information necessary to attend and compete at this level.

QUESTION #12 - The "No Crossing Over" Rule -- What Does That Mean?
Cadets may only compete on one TEAM at the Nationals. Therefore, while a single cadet may compete in each EVENT within a competition level and division, he/she may not compete on two separate teams. Teams found in violation of the this rule will be disqualified from the event. ENSURE YOUR TEAM DOES NOT PLAN TO HAVE CADETS WHO ARE "CROSSING OVER", COMPETING IN TWO DIFFERENT DIVISIONS (i.e. both the Armed and the Unarmed events). The easiest way to understand this is to think of each team you enter as being from a separate school.

QUESTION #13 - What Are the Different Competition Divisions Available at the Nationals?
This is fairly simple. Challenge Level maintains an Armed Division and an Unarmed Division. To be considered eligible for the Challenge Level Armed competition OR the Masters Level Demilitarized competition, your rifle must:
   - weigh a minimum of 8 lbs.
   - be modified to ensure it cannot fire a live round (either by removing the firing pin and/or leading the barrel)
   - it must have a trigger guard, an adjustable sling, and a closed stock (metal or rubber)

Unarmed Division in both Challenge and Masters Level is just that, unarmed! Only the rifles used in this division will be those used in the 4-person color guard detail.

The Masters Level Mixed Division (formerly the Alternative Arms Division) is a hybrid. It is an armed competition. It maintains any team (regardless of the gender of the cadets) who utilize weapons that do not meet the criteria listed above for a demilitarized weapon and are deemed as an "alternative arm" by the judging director. This generally means that units using lightweight "facsimile" weapons compete in this division. Additionally, units that are 25% or more female that drill with full-weight, demilitarized weapons will compete within this Division. This is done because it is believed that amixed gender teams drilling with full-weight weapons better compete against teams using lightweight weapons regardless of the team gender, as opposed to predominantly males drilling with full-weight weapons.

In all of the Armed Divisions, the cadet commander MUST carry a rifle, sabre or sword. In the Unarmed Division, the cadet commander MAY carry a sabre or sword.

QUESTION #14 - What is the Team Package Plan and Do I Have to Use It?
All schools choosing to attend the National High School Drill Team Championships must attend through the Team Package Plan. This plan is designed to ensure all cadets, and instructors are given the enjoyment of staying together in superb oceanfront hotels with other schools from across the country, provided with treasured event mementos, as well as ensuring all schools receive the finest drill event they have ever attended at an affordable cost. Team Package Plan Includes:

  • Four days & three nights billeting in one of many oceanfront hotels in Daytona Beach
  • Specially-minted NHSDTC bronze medallion on a RWB chest ribbon
  • Specially-designed NHSDTC t-shirt for all cadets, ordered to size
  • Specially-designed NHSDTC collared sports-shirt for all adults, ordered to size
  • Swiss-embroidered four-inch patch designed for the NHSDTC event
  • 8" X 10" color team photograph with custom event logo
  • Discounts at local pizza, fast food and sandwich shops in the area

The price of the Team Package Plan, based on staying four-to-a-room, are outlined within DrillNATION Magazine).. Challenge level schools have the option to stay 2 nights only for a slightly reduced price. Three, two and one to a room prices are slightly higher, utilized primarily for instructors and other adult team followers. All participants (cadets and unit instructors) are required to attend the NHSDTC through the Team Package Plan.

QUESTION #15 - When Do We Find Out if We Are Accepted into the NHSDTC?>
After registering for the NHSDTC event, if you are accepted to attend (see item #4 above), your school will be notified immediately after the initial early December entry deadline via email. Also, just a few days after this date, a complete listing of every school accepted into the event is place on the event homepage. If your school is not accepted (which unfortunately happens to several schools every year), you will receive a letter from SNI in the mail explaining why you were declined, along with a refund check for any monies within 5 business days from this early December enter deadline.

QUESTION #16 - So Walk Me Through The Timeline - We've Never Been Here Before>

After acceptance into the event, every school receives additional paperwork to allow SNI to better plan their attendance which is mailed back within days. In the weeks that follow just after the New Year, attendees receive a large NHSDTC School Folder. This folder has a wealth of event information that walks them through the paperwork and finance requirements of the event. This makes organizing the trip much simpler and answers virtually every question ever asked about the NHSDTC!

In March, all attendees have financial deposits and paperwork required. When all of the teams send these items to SNI, in mid-March teams then learn what hotels they have been placed within along the Atlantic Ocean in Daytona Beach. Every hotel in use for the event is oceanfront on the Atlantic Ocean within a few miles of the center (NOTE: All teams except those paying for the Hilton HW Package MUST plan for ground transportation while in Datrona Beach as many of the hotels in use are simply too far to plan to walk to.from daily. City buses and cabs are available but pre-planning this aspect of your stay is essential!).

Then, in mid-April, final payments are made and attendees are all set to attend, arriving at the event in early May.

Teams may arrive several days before the event, this is their call! We have event registration the day prior to your competition. Ar event registration, SNI will ensure all money & paperwork are in place, and competitors will receive their room form, discount coupons to area businesses, and their many NHSDTC Team Package Items. At this point, the teams are in and ready for the competition!

QUESTION #17 - What About Parents, Chaperones, Instructors, etc.
Are They Required to Attend Through the Team Package Plan?

Only Cadets and Unit Instructors are required to attend the event and stay through the Team Package Plan - this rule in non-changeable. Many other team followers including Bus Drivers, parents and other team followers elect to stay through the Team Package Plan. They do this for several reasons, including:

  • Wishing to stay in a reasonably priced hotel on the same floor with the team
  • The ability to receive a collared, Nationals sports shirt and a personalized pass to enter the closing night awards ceremony.

QUESTION #18 - We Want to Get a Ballpark Cost for the Trip -- What Should We Consider?
There are several factors that any school should consider when trying to estimate a cost to attend the Nationals. Several of the most important things to consider are: Transportation, Food, and the Team Package Costs.

Transportation: Teams traveling from any great distance must decide whether they will drive or fly. If the team decides to fly, teams should consider flying not only into Daytona Beach International Airport, but also into Orlando International Airport, Melbourne Regional and Jacksonville International Airport -- check your air fares. Teams that fly to the Nationals (even into Daytona Beach) must make arrangements for local transportation not only to and from the airport, but to an from the competition site which is between 1 and 7 miles from the oceanfront hotels used for the NHSDTC Team Package Plan. This is why most teams bus to the Nationals from as far away as Missouri, Louisiana, Texas and Nebraska.

Food: Meals are plentiful, varied and reasonably priced. As with any other beach resort town, we have more than our share of pizza an hamburger places! Also available are tons of family dinner chains, as well as cafeterias and all-you-can-eat restaurants. Most teams have found that you can comfortably feed your cadets for $12 per day, per person. Sports Network International provides to all teams numerous coupons for many different types of meals throughout the greater Daytona Beach area.

Team Package Plan: The price of the Team Package Plan, based on staying four-to-a-room, changes slightly every year but is kept at the lowest possible level. Challenge level schools have the option to stay only 3 days / 2 nights for a price generally a little less expensive. Three, two and one to a room prices are slightly higher, utilized primarily for instructors and other adult team followers. Not only does this price pay for the oceanfront hotel accommodations, but it also pays for the shirts, medallions, patches, team photos and other items given to each competitor, but more importantly pays for the Ocean Center Arena, the judges, event insurance, trophies, etc. that are necessary to run the event. including housing and feeding the massive judging staff, as well as put forth all of the other items that are necessary to host a drill meet of this size and magnitude.

QUESTION #19 - Is it a Requirement that our Program Maintain an Official JROTC Status?
It is not a requirement that your unit maintain a JROTC status to be considered to attend the Nationals. However, we allow VERY FEW non-affiliate teams into the competition. To even be considered, your cadets must meet the following four requirements:

    The cadets on your team must:
  • Meet state academic eligibility standards
  • Be schooled in and perform in accordance with one of the four branches of the Armed Forces
If your program meets these two basic regulations, you are welcome to apply for entry.

QUESTION #20 - Why is it that the Nationals are not on Television?
Most "2nd Tier" events (everything except baseball, basketball, NASCAR, football, tennis, hockey, golf, soccer and a few other major sports) are not filmed by the television network sports department. The tractor pulls, cheerleading, jump rope, table tennis, skeet shooting and other "niche" sports that you see on television are often filmed, edited, and then made ready to broadcast by outside entites. THEN, the COMPETITION ITSELF obtains sponsors and buys the actual television time and then shows their own product during the broadcast. Without boring you regarding the endless details, the Nationals have looked at this on numerous occasions, including having broadcast professionals look at the event as well. While many of them feel the event would be a natural smash hit to broadcast during the July 4th holiday weekend, to date the estimated $150,000 to $175,000 price tag necessary to do everything required to produce, film, edit, and then broadcast a small 44 minute piece of the Nationals (60 minutes of TV show is actually only 44 minutes plus 16 minutes of commercials) is just not in the budget of our event, nor any sponsors that we have contacted.

We at Sports Network International do believe that the competition would have a broad appeal not only within the JROTC community. Rest assured, if and when the cards fall in just the right place, we would love nothing more than to showcase the National High School Drill Team Championships on a National network. Maybe when one of the Nationals attendees goes on to become the CEO of a major Fortune 500 company, this situation will change around in a big hurry!

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