Marching Band is a Sport – or Rather a Half Sport

Posted in: Musicouching by Tiffany J L Alfonso on July 2nd, 2010 | 4 Comments

Music fans of high schools and higher education campuses and music educators debate whether or not that spirit-filled ensemble belongs in the athletic field by asking about it: is marching band a real sport? Partially.

Almost everyone loves the thrill of hearing and seeing a marching band, whether they are from their high schools or universities. They form letters or shapes on the field each halftime during their teams’ football games. They see them march down the streets during a festival or holiday parade in their hometowns. A bulk of them has color guards who brandish technicolor flags and catch mock rifles. Some of them have at least one majorette who spins batons with grace. Some others have a dance team, danceline, or dance squad, who sometimes form beelines and kicks their legs up to put some musical kickline troupes to shame.

Students, music fans, and music directors debate on an answer to this question: is that type of band a sport? Does being on color guard require you to do drills with a ball? Does being on a part of a group of mostly scantily-clad girls who wave their fringed hoops during parades require you to do agility drills like butt kicks? Does playing the trombone require you to execute much physical exertion against another person playing it?

The dictionary defines the word sport as an engaging physical activity or one used for pleasure. But many people think as sports as hitting a ball over a net, hitting a puck into a netted goal, or using sabres against one another – respectively as in tennis, ice hockey, or fencing. Most high schools list band under “clubs,” “extracurricular activities,” or “fine arts,” but rarely under “athletics.” Why do they list it as such and consider it a non-sport?

Humorist DJ Corchin noted that it’s not really that – being in it “requires athletic skills but so does performing in 42nd Street.” He calls it a “spart:” half-performing art and half-sport. It’s a sport because the bands of the type practice on the fields under the sun – in a few but long hours – perfecting and refining their formations and music just to beat other bands. Another reason is because they compete with other bands with their athletic skills and artistic execution – that’s what sports are about, anyway.



A lot of high school bands have a color guard, a danceline, at least one majorette with baton, or a combination of any. This example here is the Camden County High School Marching Wildcat Band from Kingsland, Georgia.

Band, as those who believe it’s a mere elective rather than an athletic activity, is a performing art. For the primary and main part, they play music ranging from light classics, their fight songs, to hip-hop tunes of today.

Furthermore, the color guards with their hyper-bright flags add color and interest to the ensemble. Majorettes who twirl batons foster their associations with the band. Dance squads or dancelines who dance with those streamer-hoops or pom-poms or wear boots or jazz shoes and kick to the music reinforce the scholastic spirit of the group, just as cheerleaders promote it separate from the band.

Is the college or high school marching band considered a team of athletes or just a mere musical ensemble in shako hats with dancing extras in jazz shoes and leotards? Some people say that playing a baritone saxophone or twirling a mock sabre makes a student a team player. Some others disagree – playing the mellophone or doing a jazz routine with a decorated hoop is just showing off by performing.

To some others like me, band is partially a form of entertainment that loudly displays school pride, as well as it is partially a school sport that requires dedication and teamwork.

Image by JMRosenfeld via Flickr

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4 Responses to “Marching Band is a Sport – or Rather a Half Sport”
  • Tabitha February 4th, 2011 at 2:03 am

    How about this discussion be looked at another point of view shall we? I was in marching band all 4 years in high school. And i can tell you first hand it should be considered a sport. First, you have to be able to play and instrument. Second, you have to start band practices in June. Third, you had to get early enough to start practice at 8 in the morning and be there until at the very least 4. Fourth, we were out there longer than the football team and working when they were sitting around looking like knot on logs. The football team would constantly compliment us on our hard work and that they wouldnt be able to handle it. We have to be able to know where our other fellow band members are so our lines are correct, play, get to our spots and we compete on Saturdays, we went to games on Fridays. My point being is obviously everything is going to be different and hard in there own way. We chose the different activities for reasons but marching band members should be given the credit the credit that is do. Marching Band is a sport.

  • Tiffany J L Alfonso February 4th, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    Thanks for commenting! Anyone want to decide whether marching band is a real sport, spart, or just a mere arts elective?

  • Lori Dunham February 13th, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    Yah Where i go we start in mid July and go till the end of October. my second year one of the football players was sitting in the shade on the way to the band room and he goes \”eew a band geek\” one of the younger members turns around and says \”eew a foot ball player! who made it to state last year?\” turns and continues on his way. but we were there for longer hours than most of the sports. we also make it farther than most of our normal \”sports\”. I feel that Marching Band is very much a sport.

  • musicman95 February 13th, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    marching band is definitely a sport at our school our football team sucks and i know that aint “showing school spirit” but its true our football team sucks but the band makes the school look good we deserve some respect our football team works pretty hard but our band is out there from 6-8 and from 3-4 everyday and we run the feild more than the football team we have the same objectives as any “sport” we have competitions we attend every game and we work long hours on our “performance” it is defiatly a sport and if you thing otherwise email me at donaldmcbrayer@rocketmail.com and ill make you think not a sport :)

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