Marching Band: Sport or Activity?

Marching Band: Sport or Activity?


Photo by Melissa Irish
Photo by Melissa Irish

It is clear that skill is key, and teamwork isn’t an option.  What hasn’t been settled upon yet about marching band is if the activity could be considered a sport.

The Bellevue West Marching Thunderbirds have their season from mid-summer to the end of October.  They perform a show and several songs at football games, and also engage in competitions outside of school.  Practice takes place almost every morning before school and sometimes in sectionals after the school day has ended.

“During the school year, it’s pretty time-consuming,” sophomore Eric Morris said.

Morris admitted that being in the Marching Thunderbirds has helped him mentally and caused him to better hone his skills with his saxophone. It also causes the members to form close relationships with each other.

“They’re a family,” sophomore Audrey Williams said.  “You become a family when you join marching band.”

Williams and other non-band students are supportive of the Marching Thunderbirds whether they have an official status as a sport.  Besides, without an official position as an athletic sport, marching band members aren’t required to purchase an activity card or get a sports physical.

With a dynamic that resembles that of a family, students that aren’t in marching band, such as Williams, notice the strong bonds they make.  Sometimes marching band sections will gather outside of practice for a get-together.  Although they aren’t a team in name, members consider themselves to be one.

“I can’t think of any ways why we wouldn’t be a team,” Morris said. “Because we all play together like one band, one sound that comes from within.”

To some, the words “team” and “sport” go hand in hand.  When discussing marching band though, this connection is questionable.

“I’ve always thought of it as like a club activity or like a class you could take, something fun to do,” senior Bre Surratt said.

Bre has played football for as long as he has attended Bellevue West.  He said that because of all of the factors that go into what is a sport, it is difficult to decide if marching band is one or not.

“It would depend on what your idea of a sport is,” sophomore Elizabeth Loftus said. “It is not necessarily athletic based, it is more skill and instrumental, which is not exactly sport material.”

Other marching band members were more upfront about their opinion.  The majority seemed to believe it was a sport.

“It is physical and we do compete against other people,” Morris said.  “People think that we don’t do much work but we actually do.”

Loftus, a flutist, provided more detail on how marching band is physical.

“You have to hold your instrument, which can weigh usually from two to maybe eight pounds,” Loftus said.  “You walk around the field, or run, or march.  It is not as physical as say, basketball or football, but it definitely requires a certain level of strength and endurance.”

At least a handful of students not in marching band are aware of the difficulty level of the activity.

“It takes a lot of hard work to be in marching band,” Williams said.  “I would definitely consider marching band a sport.”

She also spoke about why she thought some people do not regard marching band as such.

“I think it’s because people think sports are football, baseball, anything with a ball,” Williams said. “They don’t really consider anything other than that to be a sport, but really, a sport is just something that takes hard work and dedication. And it’s a team.”

Although sophomore Cassie Black is no longer in marching band, she was last year and continues to remember her experiences.

“You also have to be able to use your brain really well,” Black said. “You have to be able to read music and march and play.  You just have to be able to do a lot of things physically and mentally, just as you would with anything else.”

Loftus mentioned some displeasure with how the activity is regarded by other high school students.  She said she thinks the marching band would get more appreciation if it was widely considered a sport.

“I find it frustrating in the way that people underestimate how difficult marching band actually is, and how they end up forgetting it in the shadow of football,” Loftus said.

Black recalled a moment from when she was in marching band last year.

“Sometimes when people would be like, ‘oh, well this is the football players’ field,’” Black said.  “That was really frustrating because we deserved the field just as much as they did, and we put in the same amount of work, if not more.”

Melissa Irish