Is Marching Band A Sport?
What is a sport? By definition, a sport is “an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature.” An alternative definition adds that “an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.”
When the typical person thinks of sports, or the term ‘sport,’ they think of basketball, football, baseball, soccer, wrestling, tennis, hockey, etc. By definition, marching band should be considered a sport, but it’s difficult for many to keep an open mind to the concept.
There is a lot of ignorance when it comes to marching band. Surely, we all know that team sports have leagues, schedules, standings, etc. Like these sports, there are leagues in high school, college, and even a national major league association.
Most sports have scheduled practice times and camps to understand the game, work on techniques, etc. But what about the marching band “season”? After all, sports have a particular season in which they compete. Baseball is typically a spring and summer sport; football is played during the fall, basketball is in fall and winter, and track is generally in spring.
As for the marching band, there isn’t an off-season since they are practicing all year. Some highly competitive teams will practice eight hours, basically putting in an entire workday. Even the most casual practices can last upwards of six hours straight.
Marching bands don’t take off due to inclement weather. They typically need to use the football field or practice it for their work, often in temperatures at freezing or as high as 100 in the scorching part of the summer. It’s not uncommon for marching band members to pass out from heat-related fatigue and dehydration.
The color guard is a part of the marching band that may be overlooked but has even more demanding practices. Members of the color guard must be able to carry flags and be physically fit to mark spots and perform flawlessly. Executing every move, dance, and toss requires precision and upper-body strength.
During the competition, several judges evaluate every move. There are several formations and enough steps (2 to 3 per second) to cover 4 miles if each step was the length of a regular step (steps are much shorter during competition). Everything must be completed in a 10-to-15-minute period. It’s no wonder that practices can last up to eight hours straight.
During half-time shows, the marching band and drum & bugle corps display incredible footwork while still playing their instrument. It’s an awe-inspiring feat if appropriately scrutinized. Consider trying to jog or even run in all directions, dance, carry a heavy instrument, memorize and perform the music, all while wearing a heavy uniform in all kinds of weather conditions.
Demanding Physical Requirements
The physical requirements to compete in a marching band are more daunting than most realize. Members have to carry an instrument that averages between 20 and 40 pounds. They must march to keep time, around more than 100 people, and play the music correctly.
Stress is constantly placed in the neck, arms, shoulders, and back. While it’s difficult enough to keep a two-pound trumpet in the air for 10 to 15 minutes, imagine the strength required to do this with the large tuba.
To get an idea of how physically demanding marching bands can be, ESPN conducted a study measuring the heart rate of a drummer. Nealy, all band members, at some point in time, get sprains, fatigue, soreness, and other types of joint injuries over the course of a season.
Nearly one-fourth of all band members had head-related issues that needed treatment. The level of competition equals that of any Division I athletic program, with heart rates approaching 200.
The muscles used the most by marching band members are the hamstring, quadriceps, calves, glutes, hip flexors, and tibialis anterior. Sounds like an athletic activity to me.
More Than Meets The Eye
The skill set required to play the instrument is clearly daunting enough to make a marching band. Add in the complex movements and physical and mental stress, and there is a lot more to performing than meets the surface.
Technically, people will not consider marching band a sport, but Reuters Health compared the demands required to successfully perform in a marching band similar to that of a football athlete. Think about that before automatically thinking of the marching band member as a “nerd” or “geek.”
Conclusion: Marching Band Is Absolutely a Sport
Though often deemed as less athletic than other sports, marching band is a strenuous activity that requires dedication and skill. Marching bands have been shown to improve coordination, stamina, and teamwork while providing a creative outlet for their members. Next time you see a marching band, don’t underestimate their athleticism – they’ve earned it!