Marching Band: The Lost Sport

Contrary to popular belief, marching band isn’t a hobby or an activity -- it’s a sport. In a world where trying to hit a ball into a hole with no particular sense of urgency or opposition can be a sport, marching band definitely qualifies for the title. The amount of work that has to be put into a single show is equal to or greater than that of a team sport’s practice. The dictionary definition of a sport is “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.” Marching band is more eligible for the title of “sport” than most sports are.

Marching band is more physically and mentally exhausting than over half of the sports in America. During the marching season at NHHS, we have practice every Monday and Wednesday for two hours- plus an hour every week day. Drill days are six hours of learning our drill (marching) and practicing it. Every Friday alternates between football games and drill days. At every football game we march for pregame, play during the game in the stands, and perform our field show during halftime. In either scenario, we leave NHHS around 10:00-10:30 p.m. And we also have multiple competitions that last about twelve hours (noon to midnight). Throughout all of these events, we are marching and playing an instrument simultaneously. It requires an extreme amount of endurance and strength. Some of the heaviest marching instruments can weigh up to 50 pounds. When combined with the amount of air support needed to play an instrument and move around at the same time, the effort being made to do a field show is absurd.

On top of the amount of physical activity required to be in a marching band, all players must be skilled in playing their instruments. A player needs to be able to read and play complicated music, as well as memorize an entire show's worth (typically around 5 to 10 minutes) of music and drill. A player also needs to memorize all of the songs that the band plays in the football stands. Playing an instrument is hard enough with the music in front of you and sitting down -- not to mention the skill in the actual marching. Despite what people say, it isn’t just walking. Marching has very specific techniques to create uniformity. Every year before the season starts, we have two weeks straight of band camp, six hours a day dedicated to learning marching technique and playing while moving. It takes a lot of time and effort to become a good marcher.

As for the last piece of criterion, marching bands compete in multiple competitions every year. Divided by divisions, each band performs their unique field show for the judges and all of the audience. At the end of the night, each division rewards first, second, and third place. There is usually also an award for the best band overall, throughout the divisions. These competitions are arguably more entertaining than any other sport. Instead of watching different teams playing the same sport with the same kind of game every time, audiences get to experience a completely different game every time they watch. Nothing is ever repeated, and everything is interesting. There are no slow moments, and every second of every performance is filled with music, dancers, and complicated drills.

While marching band may not come across as a cookie-cutter sport, it definitely deserves the title. Marching band is quite clearly a sport, and until you have marched across an entire football field backwards in about 20 seconds while playing an instrument at full volume, I don’t think you have the right to say that it isn’t.