Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Marching Band vs. Sports

Marching Band vs. Sports

            For years, there have been debates over giving an activity the title and recognition of being a sport. The activity that would usually come to mind would be cheerleading. A lot of people just think that cheerleaders just lead the crowd in cheers and look all pretty, but in reality there is more to cheerleading than just cheers and some girls who look nice. Cheerleading requires a lot of flexibility and many stunts are performed which can be compared to some aspects of gymnastics. According to the definition of a sport by the Women’s Sports Foundation, cheerleading meets all of the elements described as a sport (Cheer Debate: Is Cheerleading a Sport?). However, there are more activities that are also fighting the same battle to gain recognition as a sport. One of those activities is marching band. Many people believe that marching band is not a sport and should just be classified as a musical activity. Those beliefs give marching band the general stereotype that it is not an athletic activity and should just be thought of as a part of the music program. Marching band is a sport and therefore should receive recognition and funding as one.
There are many reasons as to why marching band should be considered a sport. One of the reasons is the pure definitions of marching band and sport. The definition of marching band is: "a band that marches (as in a parade) and plays music at the same time"(Marching Band, n.d.), however, the definition of sport is: “physical contests pursued for the goals and challenges they entail" (Sports, n.d.). From those two definitions, one can make the argument that marching band should be considered a sport for a few reasons. Marching band goes along with the definition of sport because there are a couple of things that can be considered physical contests in marching band. At competitions for marching band, the various bands compete against one another with their actual field or half time show, and the bands also compete against each other in a parade portion of the competition. Both of these aspects of the competition are physical contests because the bands are competing against each other and both the parade and the field shows require the members of each band to do physical activity.  The parade portion of the marching band competitions covers what is said in the definition of marching band which is that a marching band is a band that marches and plays music at the same time as in a parade.
            Another reason why marching band is a sport is because marching bands practice and put in the same amount of work that sports do. The usual practice schedule for sports teams is to hold practice every day. Marching band rehearsal schedules can vary more often. Each school might have a different set of practice hours and different practice days for their band to rehearse. Some school might choose to practice every day or some might choose to practice only certain days out of the week, and they can also choose to hold practices during the afternoon or at night. There are also some schools, such as those located in the south, that choose to practice all year round since the weather conditions permit them to.
For example, at Northern Illinois University (NIU), the Huskie Marching Band (HMB) practices every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday for at least two hours (Bough, 2012). On Saturdays, the HMB rehearses before every game for at least a couple of hours, marches in a parade, plays at different areas outside of the football stadium, marches pregame and halftime, and finally plays a post-game show. A week of rehearsals with a football game on Saturday would total about 16 hours of rehearsal time. That does not include all of the extra time that the band members have to put in for sectional rehearsals and individual practice. With 8 weeks with home games, 8 weeks with away games, and an entire week of band camp, the HMB practiced for about 274 hours during one semester, which does not include any extra time for sectional rehearsals or individual practicing (Bough, 2012). 
A third reason that marching band is a sport is because of the amount of physical activity that is done. During a performance or a rehearsal, the members of the marching band are doing numerous physical things at once. Members have to hold their instruments up at attention or playing position for almost the entire time (Wozniak 12). This requires good arm strength and endurance to be able to keep the instrument in the proper position. Marching band is similar to sports in this aspect because athletes involved in sports need to have good muscular strength and endurance in order to perform all of the necessary tasks that are required of them.
 The members of the band also must play and march at the same time. Playing an instrument and marching at the same time “demands high levels of oxygen to allow the body to exert the needed effort”, and because of this “marching and playing simultaneously is a highly aerobic activity” (Wozniak 12).  Bands that march in high step style require their members to exert more effort while they are marching. For high step style, the members “must quickly lift their legs so that their thighs are parallel to the ground and their calves are perpendicular” (Wozniak 12). This style requires extra effort to perform. Since marching and playing is considered to be an aerobic physical activity, it can be compared to different sports, such as cross country or soccer. Those sports are also aerobic activities and require a lot of endurance and good oxygen support.
Marching band is also similar to sports because of the fact that injuries can occur from either activity. Not too many people think that injuries could occur from playing in the marching band. Both athletes and musicians in the marching band “use specific muscle groups for long periods of time and this long-term, recurrent use may increase injury risk” (Knapik 1). Injuries have occurred with band members as well as with members of the color guard, which is a part of the auxiliary unit of the marching band. Some examples of injuries experienced by band and color guard members were lumbar pain, upper-extremity pain and sensory symptoms, thoracic pain, headaches, shortness of breath, and chest pain (Haman 3). For the members of the band, having to carry heavy instruments in awkward positions requires extra effort to maintain and also puts extra stress on their bodies (Haman 3). Many people are surprised to find out that about 50% of young musicians experience some type of injury (Haman 2).
The information about the different types of injuries experienced by the members of bands and color guards shows that the activities that marching band members participate in during rehearsals and games can be intense and puts a lot of stress on the body. With sports, all of the physical activities that the athletes partake in during practices, games, and workouts also put a lot of stress on the body. The added stress from marching band or sports puts the students at risk for injury if they are not careful about it. This similarity between marching band and sports strengthens the argument that marching band is a sport because it shows that marching band can be just as physically demanding and stressful as sports are.
Hydration is another subject that can go hand in hand with injuries. Hydration is extremely important to athletes, marching band members, and even life in general. It is a serious topic. It is important to stay hydrated so one would be able to perform at their absolute best. When someone is dehydrated, it decreases their ability to perform well and it is also a serious risk to their health and safety. It is not good for student safety when “the director encourages them to continue because once students get out of formation for water breaks, practice time is lost” (Vepraskas 237). Athletes are usually given adequate time for water breaks to keep hydrated. However, marching band members don’t always get those same opportunities. Hydration is just as important to marching band members especially since marching band is a physical activity.
Some high school around the country allow physical education credits to be replaced by participating in marching band (Strand). At a few universities, marching band has also gone towards physical fitness credits (Wozniak). This shows that many schools and universities believe that marching band can be a good physical activity to participate in that it could replace a class of the normal standard of a physical activity.
Just as sports have try outs for positions on the team, marching band also has try outs for positions in the band. There are certain marching bands that don’t have try outs and would accept everyone into the band. However, there are marching bands that have try outs for positions in the band (Aho 57). Some bands have playing auditions for part distribution or to determine alternates who would be subs for pre-game and members could challenge for spots (Aho 107). This similarity strengthens that argument that marching band is a sport because it helps to show the competitive side of marching band.  
Another similarity between sports and marching band is competition. When people think of competition, the first thought that comes to their mind is some sort of sport or athletic event. Little do people know but competition is a part of music and marching band. Competition is one of the reasons marching band is a sport. Marching bands hold huge competitions where bands come from different areas to perform their field shows in front of judges and a crowd of people. Just like in sports, competition has the same effects on people. The competitive nature of competitions, sporting events, and one’s own desire to win can cause anxiety (Robson). The anxiety that someone might experience could affect the way they perform in the competition in a bad way.
 Other similarities between marching band and sports are that the levels of motivation and engagement are present (Martin 57). The last similarity is the concept of flow. The definition of flow is “a state of consciousness where one becomes totally absorbed in what one is doing to the exclusion of all other thoughts and emotions” (Steckel 6). The idea of flow “can also be described as being in the zone” (Steckel 6). When someone is in the zone, they are completely focused on the task at hand and not even one distraction could throw them off. This sensation is common among athletes and also among musicians. During a game, an athlete can get in the zone by making a few good plays, and suddenly that person has all of the momentum on their side and it would be really hard to break the rhythm that they got into. Musicians also experience the same thing. Sometimes while a musician is playing a piece, they get so caught up in the piece that nothing can break their concentration and they start to play with more emotion to try and portray the story of the piece more. This similarity also helps to strengthen the argument that marching band is a sport because they share many of the same mind frames.
When marching band earns the title of being a sport, it should receive the same amount of funding as a sport. One of the main parts of funding would be scholarships. Athletes in the NCAA get scholarships from their sport and their coaches. A lot of times athletes get full ride scholarships or most of their tuition paid for to go to college. Scholarships for music are far less than athletic scholarships (O’Shaughnessy). Schools have offered scholarships of $100 for freshman and could range up to $750 for upper classmen (Aho 107). The amount of scholarship money available to award to band students is significantly less than what the sports programs offer. If marching band had the title of sport, they might be able to earn more funding for the program and could attract new members to join the band. Some studies show that there is a correlation between scholarships and motivation to do well in a sports or activity (Medic 295). If students are motivated by scholarships to join an activity and do well in it, it might be beneficial to the band program if the opportunity of giving more scholarships could be made.
The marching band would need funding for a few other things as well. One such expense would be money for transportation and housing for away games. Another expense would be equipment. New instruments and repairs on broke instruments can add up to be quite expensive. Marching bands would appreciate help for funding those things so that the organization or the students don’t have to pay for everything themselves.
One last thing that would be worth funding is training for first-aid or other medical occurrences. There are many “music directors that receive little or no training in health-related issues and do not fully understand the importance of adequately hydrating their students who practice for hours at a time in high heat-index conditions in formation, which is a military-style marching on the field while carrying heavy instruments” (Vepraskas 237). Sports programs have coaches and trainers who are trained properly to handle that type of medical stuff, so it would be fair to educate the leaders of the marching band.  If more information and training was provided to band directors and other staff members, “recommendations about uniforms, first-aid training for a designated member of the crew, collection of relevant health information from band members, and possible conditioning/exercise programs” could be made which would help create a safer environment for the students (Haman 4).
Once marching band is considered a sport, it can start to gain recognition as one. Marching bands could have the opportunity to perform in large stadiums and in front of thousands of people. The stadiums could start to make a profit off of the various shows that the marching bands would present. Marching bands could gain some air time on some of the sports channels on TV. The air time would be good for publicity and might even help to raise some funds. The most important thing that marching band would gain from being recognized as a sport would have to be respect. Today, marching band doesn’t get a good amount of respect from the sports world. The sports world doesn’t believe that marching band should be a sport because it doesn’t seem to be athletic to them. The sports world thinks that marching band should be categorized only with music. Our society has the view that marching band is nerdy and should be kept with music. If marching band earned the title of sport, the opinions that people would have might start to change, and maybe more people would like to try to join marching band.
There are many similarities and comparisons that can be made between sports and marching band. The similarities that they share only help to strengthen the argument that marching band is a sport. Studies have shown that marching band contains many of the same aspects that other sports do such as a heavy practice schedule, competiveness, mind sets, hydration, and the risk of injury. There are also many benefits that could come from having marching band as a sport such as more scholarship opportunities for students, the possibility of more income for sporting event, more publicity, and safer environments for the students participating in marching band. The more people know about what marching band is all about, the better chance it has of being considered to have a status as a sport.


Aho, E. W. (2005). A Descriptive Analysis of the Fourteen Mid- American Conference Athletic Band Programs (Doctoral dissertation, Ohio State University). Retrieved from
Bough, D. T. (2012, April). Huskie Marching Band Performance Schedule 2010. Retrieved from Huskie Marching Band.
Harman, S. E. (1993, December). Medical Problems of Marching Musicians. Medical Problems of Performing Artists, 132-135. Retrieved from
Knapik, J. J., Jones, S. B., Darakjy, S., Hauret, K. G., Nevin, R., Grier, T., & Jones, B. H. (2007, November 2). Injuries and Injury Risk Factors Among Members of the United States Army Band. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 50(12), 951-961. Retrieved from
Marching Band. (n.d.). In The Free Dictionary online. Retrieved from
Martin, A. J. (2008). Motivation and Engagement in Music and Sport: Testing a Multidimensional Framework in Diverse Performance Settings. Journal Of Personality, 76(1), 135-170. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6494.2007.00482.x
Medic, N. (2007). The Effects of Athletic Scholarships on Motivation in Sport. Journal of Sport Behavior, 292-306.
O’Shaughnessy, L., (2010, June 22). 7 Things You Need to Know About Sports Scholarships. Retrieved from
Sports, (n.d.). In Encyclopedia Britannica online. Retrived from
Steckel, C. L. (2006, May). An Exploration of Flow Among Collegiate Marching Band Participants. Retrieved from
Strand, B., & Sommer, C. (2005). Should Marching Band be Allowed to Replace Physical Education Credits: An Analysis. Physical Educator, 62(3), 164-168.
Robson, B. E. (2004, December). Competition in Sport, Music, and Dance. Medical Problems of Performing Artists, 160-166. Retrieved from
Vepraskas, C. (2002). Beat the Heat: Managing Heat and Hydration in Marching Band. The Journal of School Nursing, 237-243.
Wozniak, M. (2008). Feasibility Study on Implementing Small Amount Scholarships, Additional Course Credits, a Gym Credit, and a Free Gym Membership For Blue Band Members. Blue Band Rewards Not Given. Retrieved from
Cheer Debate: Is Cheerleading a Sport? (n.d.). Retrieved from Varsity:


  1. Cheerleaders put equal endeavors while performing with marching bands. Their efforts can not be ignored.
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  2. This is an excellent argument as to why it should be a sport, but where are the opposing sides? If you don't shoot down the other side of the argument, they can run free and expand.

  3. This is an excellent argument as to why it should be a sport, but where are the opposing sides? If you don't shoot down the other side of the argument, they can run free and expand.

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  6. When people talk about marching band being a sport, they aren't talking about marching in lines as a parade, that's just an performance art, when we talk about marching band being a sport we're talking about field shows where you literally go to a competition and get judged, we know that parade band isn't a sport -Someone who does marching band and parade band