Is Marching Band A Sport? (The Debate Is Settled)

Since as far back as anyone in the activity can remember, there has been a hotly contested debate around whether or not marching band is a sport. And as a marching band geek who just spent 4 hours researching the topic I can soundly say I have found a definitive answer to the age old question.

Is marching band a sport? The simple answer is that marching band is a sport. However, it even more closely fits the definition of a performance art. Marching band fits into most dictionary definitions of sport. But there are some very good reasons why most people do not intuitively think about marching band as a sport even though it technically does fit the definition.

Does Marching Band Fit The Definition of a Sport?

SourceDefinition of SportMarching Band Qualifies
Oxfordactivity that you do for pleasure and that needs physical effort or skill, usually done in a special area and according to fixed rules
Dictionary.coman athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature, as racing, baseball, tennis, golf, bowling, wrestling, boxing, hunting, fishing, etc.
Merriam Webstera source of diversion
CollinsSports are games such as football and basketball and other competitive leisure activities which need physical effort and skill.
American HeritageAn activity involving physical exertion and skill that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often undertaken competitively.
Macmillanan activity in which players or teams compete against each other, usually an activity that involves physical effort
Longmana physical activity in which people compete against each other

Why Don’t People Consider Marching Band a Sport?

Most people do not consider marching band to be a sport. Despite the definition. And they never will. And here’s why…

First off, for most of history it hasn’t been!

Most definitions of sport involve competition. Competition is a relatively new addition to the marching band activity.

When you think about the much longer history of marching band, the main outlet for the activity has been the military. Competitive marching band has only been a thing since the 1920s. On top of that, college and military bands are still non competitive to this day. Drum corps and high school bands are the only ones who compete at all.

Another reason involves the context in which marching band is presented in society. Just think about the way the marching band program it is classified in schools. Marching band programs are considered part of a school district’s music and/or arts department, not the athletic department.

Hold on! Diving, figure skating, and gymnastics are all widely considered sports. Why not marching band??

Think about it. These are all things we know from the Olympics. The context matters. Some of those kinds of sports have only been in the olympic games for about the same amount of time marching band competitions have been around.

But.. it’s the Olympics. Everyone knows about them and they are referred to as Olympic Sports or Olympic Games regularly. On the other hand, many people today are not aware that high school marching bands compete at all or that drum corps even exist!

But marching band is so hard! And the heat. And the practices. We deserve respect!

I know I know. But cheer up. Marching band can be its own thing and we can keep telling everyone about how athletic it is and how ESPN compared a Cavalier tenor drum player’s heart rate to a marathon runner. See video here.

If Marching Band Is Not a Sport The What Is It?

Most people who would say marching band is not a sport will likely say it is a form of pageantry or a performing art. Let’s see the definitions for performance art first.

SourceDefinition of Performance ArtMarching Band Qualifies
Oxfordan art form in which an artist gives a performance, rather than producing a physical work of art
Dictionary.coma collaborative art form originating in the 1970s as a fusion of several artistic media, as painting, film, video, music, drama, and dance, and deriving in part from the 1960s performance happenings.
Merriam Webstera nontraditional art form often with political or topical themes that typically features a live presentation to an audience or onlookers (as on a street) and draws on such arts as acting, poetry, music, dance, or painting
CollinsPerformance art is a theatrical presentation that includes various art forms such as dance, music, painting, and sculpture.
American HeritageA form of art performed live that combines elements of visual and performing arts.
Macmillana type of art in which an artist gives a performance using different art forms such as acting, dance, and painting
Longmana type of art that can combine acting, dance, painting, film etc to express an idea

And now how about pageantry…

SourceDefinition of PageantryMarching Band Qualifies
Oxfordimpressive and exciting events and ceremonies involving a lot of people wearing special clothes
Dictionary.comspectacular display; pomp
Merriam Websterpageants and the presentation of pageants
CollinsPeople use pageantry to refer to the colorful and formal things that are done for special official or royal occasions, for example, the wearing of special clothes and the playing of special music.
American HeritagePageants and their presentation.
Macmillanthe traditional features of formal ceremonies, for example special clothes, music, and decorations
Longmanimpressive ceremonies or events, involving many people wearing special clothes

Marching band fits the definition of a performance art very closely. And it is not really a form of pageantry in the traditional sense.

It is clear that marching band is somewhere between sport and performance art and most likely a bit closer to a performance art. No other sport incorporates music the way marching band does. However many performance arts incorporate some level of athleticism.

It’s not quite accurate to say marching band is not a sport but it is accurate to say it is more closely related to performance art.

School Yard Arguments For and Against Marching Band Being Considered a Sport


  • I saw marching bands on ESPN!
  • I had to get a physical from your doctor to participate in high school marching band
  • You think it’s not athletic? Let’s see how you do out there during those 3 hour summer band practices!
  • Gymnastics is not a game but we consider that a sport!


  • Marching band is part of the music department not the athletics department
  • marching is basically just walking
  • not enough touchdowns and swishy things


So marching band is technically a sport…buuuuut…it’s a performance art.

And so what! So what are all these band geeks getting all worked up for anyways!

Ok I kid. It’s no secret. Us bandos just want some good old fashion respect for putting in our time out on the field. Getting injuries. Sweating in the way that will ruin a t-shirt forever.

We go through something people refer to as a “hell week” and we don’t get to say we are doing a sport. Seems off. And it is…Kind of.