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The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

COLUMN: Marching Band is not a sport

Dan+Hahn+is+a+graduate+student+studying+English+and+can+be+reached+at+217-581-2812.
Dan Hahn
Dan Hahn is a graduate student studying English and can be reached at 217-581-2812.

Even though competitive marching band requires significant physical training, focus, and teamwork, I am not convinced that marching band can be called a sport.

Marching bands typically perform at sporting events, like a football game. No one in their right mind would ever question if football can be considered a sport.

So, the fact that we can call into question how to categorize marching band indicates to me, right off the bat (pun intended), that it should not be labeled a sport.

This is not to say that members of the marching band are not dedicated and do not adhere to rigorous training in order to perform and their peak.

Indeed, they work hard; and it would be folly to question otherwise. Similar to other performers, marching bands train more like dancers, musicians, and other choreographed performers.

This means that synchronized swimming is also not a sport, it’s a competitive and athletic performance certainly, but a sport it is not. 

So, what makes a sport a sport? Well, a ball, puck, birdie, curling stone, or some kind of object of play should be a requirement, but then what about track and field, or sprinting or swimming?

Well, in the case of these sports the object of play is the athlete’s body itself. Yes, track and field are sports because it is a competition based on speed, power, and time. Two kids playing a game of tag is more of a sport than competitive marching band. 

Physical fitness is needed in a marching band, but it is not a race of one versus many or even of one versus one. It is a musical and physical expression of a group acting as one for the entertainment of others.

We must also consider that different marching band competitions may place more emphasis on certain aspects of a performance, and judges may have different preferences or interpretations.

It is because of the interpretive nature of its scoring that disqualifies marching band from being a true sport.

So, let us recap. Competitive marching band is not a sport, and neither is ballet, dancing, figure skating, or synchronized swimming. These can be considered competitive athletic performances, but these are not sports in the same way we think of baseball or basketball as sports.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary says that a sport is a “physical activity engaged in for pleasure.” This loose definition should not be considered as authoritative because when I go for a walk it is a physical activity I engage in for pleasure, but going for a walk is not a sport.

Another definition is “a particular activity (such as an athletic game) so engaged in” and I think the key words here are “athletic game” – marching band is athletic, but it is not a game. It is a performance which is typically observed at athletic games like football.

It is worth saying that this–perhaps controversial opinion–is not a hill I am willing to die on. I did minimal research before I wrote this column, and I could very easily argue that marching band is a sport.

But, at the end of the day, I do think it is accurate to label marching band as a competitive athletic performance. While I was never in marching band, I certainly believe that whatever a person chooses to label it, that it is a lot of fun for casual observers, enthusiasts, and performers alike.

Dan Hahn can be reached at [email protected] or 217-581-2812.

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Dan Hahn
Dan Hahn, Columnist
Dan Hahn is a graduate student studying English and can be reached at 581-2812.

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