UNR marching band
The Wolf Pack marching band playing before a game. The dedication performers in marching band show makes the activity worthy of being called a sport.
photo/Sagebrush archives

Some people may not realize—or even oppose the fact—that marching band is a sport. With sweat, blood, many tears and constant dehydration, there is no good reason marching band cannot be considered a sport.

The Oxford Dictionary defines a sport as “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.”

So if we break down that definition: Is marching band physically demanding? Yes. Is there skills needed? Yes. Do they work in a team setting? Yes. Is there competition involved? Yes. Does marching band provide entertainment? For some, yes. 

Aside from technical reasons marching band is a sport, establishing marching band as a sport would help close the vast gap between athletics and art.

Despite the various ways society segregates marching band away from other sports, we can see how it is a clear cut sport through a few ways. Starting off with the various rehearsals, which if it were football would be classified as practices: A band not only has to sound like one, but also move and pace around the field like one unit. That is all achieved with the three to four hour practices done at least four times a week. Rehearsals are dedicated to conditioning, learning marching technique, learning where to move on the field and practicing each set, all while performing the music that has to be memorized. 

Many bands perform in competitions every year. Each band performs their show in front of judges and large audiences. The bands are judged on their formations, musicality and overall showmanship. Competitions push marchers to aim for higher scores and put their all in every practice and competition.  

On top of carrying a heavy instrument, in most cases, there is a ton of multitasking that takes place in this rigorous sport. A marcher not only has to memorize music, but they also have to keep in mind their posture, technique and breath control all while playing music and marching on the field for a consecutive 10-15 minutes. 

All of this is, again, achieved through practices. 

Teamwork is required in any marching band to make a show look the best it can look. It takes a strong mental connection with your fellow band members in order to communicate while playing an instrument. 

Marching band involves lots of creativity as well. Each band performs a different show every year and members must learn new drill, movement and music each season. It’s a tireless cycle, but no one show is the same.

The amount of energy that is exerted during rehearsals and shows is much higher than most people expect. Carrying a 30lbs instrument while trying to move air through it marching at a beat of 176 per minute can take a lot out of a person. All of this exertion has to be ignored in order to perform a good show. You have to stand up straight. You have to make sure the music you’re playing is the best it can be. You have to be loud enough for the people in the neighborhood to hear you. 

One study shows that a tenor marcher has a similar heartbeat as a marathon runner halfway through a marathon. If that’s not evidence enough that marching band is a sport, we don’t know what is.

Just like any competition—the rules of sportsmanship apply. Being courteous to other members and bands whether you win or lose is everything. In the end, everyone is just in it for their love of the march and the music.

So, in conclusion, if baseball can be considered a sport, then so can marching band. 

Sarah Strang can be reached at sstrang@sagebrush.unr.edu. Andrew Mendez can be reached at andrewmendez@sagebrush.unr.edu. Both can also be found on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.