College students and their families see marching bands performing at football games, parades and so on. It requires a lot of coordination and strength to play music while also making sure you’re in step and look good. Some bands compete and some don’t, but athletic college marching bands, in general, should be held in the same regard as other athletic teams are.
Despite the physical and musical demands, some believe marching band doesn’t qualify as a sport. As a marching band nerd, I empathize with others in the band and those who simply love college marching bands who have dealt with this debate for decades.
In fact, Dictionary.com defines a sport as “an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature, as racing, baseball, tennis, golf, bowling, wrestling, boxing, hunting, fishing, etc.” Different cultures will, consequently, have differing opinions on what makes something a sport, which makes this debate all the more confusing.
Marching band shouldn’t be debated over, but we shouldn’t feel the need to put down the efforts put in by directors and students going into different events and shows, especially those who don’t compete.
Some may debate how marching band needs to involve competition to make it a legitimate sport. According to a Reddit thread, one user expressed what they feel some marching bands can be considered athletic pageantry and some can’t. The user compares marching band to cheerleading and synchronized swimming and states those are arts. The user states, “A football team or a soccer team—the point of them is to be more athletic and skillful than another one in direct, objective competition. Marching band/drum corps isn’t the same.”
In my own experience, I never got to compete in my high school’s marching band like other high schools in my area did. People in those other marching bands put so much effort to win a competition with a show they put hours of work into. So, for that type of band, it’d contradict what the Reddit user stated.
Now, as I’m a part of The Sound of USD, we don’t compete in the way that upper-level marching bands, like a handful of high schools and southern universities who go to competitions, do. In this regard, The Sound of USD doesn’t compete, so this side of the debate is legitimate.
For the physicality needed to do several formations, choreography and so on, marching band fits this element of a sport. We stretch to prep ourselves to march every morning and physically exert ourselves during practices. Athletic college marching band is a lot of work, both physically and mentally. To put on a solid and well-rehearsed show throughout an entire football game, students must work to achieve their goals.
This debate seems to be an unending one with many band members, both present and past, wanting to not feel delegitimized because they aren’t a “sport” to some. Athletic college marching bands and marching bands overall put just as much effort into what they do as any sports team, so they should have the same respect as a sports team.