Marching Band and the Issue of Co-ed Sports
During last weeks discussion, my section spent a great deal of time on the idea of separation of gender in athletic teams. Since I both wanted to discuss affirmative action and am not much of a sports person, I did not contribute much to the discussion. Just as the class was ending, however, I suddenly realized that I had a perfect example to present: marching band. While the discussion had focused on “conventional” sports (i.e. the sports such as track, basketball, football, etc.), which typically have separate men’s and women’s teams, I had completely overlooked my own personal sport of choice during high school which had no such barriers. As I did not realize the relevance of my experience earlier, I will fully account for it now.
As a typical highschool marching band, the organization was co-ed by principle, for every other competing marching band in the state of Michigan also permits men and women to participate. Now, one of most common arguments I have heard in discussion which supports separate sports for men and women goes something like this: Women and men have different athletic abilities. Even though it is not as severe as (Mill?) has previously suggested, it would still be unfair to place the two genders in equal competition. I, however, feel that proponents of the above position are only looking at sports from a narrow perspective. These supporters are only considering what I previously considered the “conventional” sports, where emphasis is placed on brute physical strength. There are, however, other ways of viewing athletics. In marching band, the primary focus is on endurance, both mental and physical. Relative to the conventional sports, band is relatively constrained in physical exertion. During practice, a band member must remain absolutely still, and cannot move until the director is ready to continue practicing the next section. During each run, a person must march in coordination with all of the other band members regardless of the step size and speed both of which, in high amounts, can lead to a great deal of discomfort and exhaustion. At the same time, you must do your best to play accurately while not messing up your marching style. As a member of the drumline, I can personally attest to the abilities of women in this sport. Numerous female members of the band have achieved relative excellence during the marching season, and the band directors are just as ready to complement a woman for her marching abilities as a man. Additionally, some of the best members of the drumline have been female. During the four years I was in drumline, there was always at least one woman in my section. In fact, during my freshman and sophomore year, two of the three tenor players – by far the most cumbersome and difficult drumline instrument – were female, and one of them was section leader my junior year! Without a doubt, some of the best members of the marching band were female.
Now, I do not intend to refute or even address the arguments made for conventional sports; this was neither my objective nor even relevant. All I wanted to demonstrate was that not all competitive sports have a separate men’s and women’s team. I have demonstrated that there is a way to have both genders engage in meaningful athletic competition, and I am sure there are numerous other examples. If anyone has another example of a competitively co-ed sport, please post a brief statement about it in the comments section.
An egocentric look back at my freshman year in marching band. This is by far my favorite performance in all of high school: the Jenison performance of “American in Paris”, by George Gershwin. The two female tenors (tenors = quads) I previously mentioned are on either side of the center tenor player (I’m the incredibly short snare player). Follow them and observe their marching/playing style, if you wish.