A scoreboard does not make an athlete

Taylor Murray | The Chronicle

Every year, Mason’s competitive guard and dance team work for hours, days on end, to make their way up through the extreme levels of competition. Mason High School’s competitive winter guard puts in between nine and eighteen hours of practice each week. The varsity dance team works ten to sixteen hours a week leading up to nationals. After all of this time and effort put into perfecting a routine or show, it baffles me that I still get into countless arguments over whether or not these conventionally female activities should be considered a sport.

Do not get me wrong – I realize there are certain guidelines for something to be considered a sport, and guard may be an unconventional blend of different activities. However, even if our activities will not officially be called “sports”, at least show us some respect and call us athletes. The bruises, sore muscles and sweat that we come home bearing should be an easy indicator that guard and dance are as physically taxing as any other sport. Even in the fall season, where the color guard competes alongside the marching band, we have eight to twelve hour practices each day in the summer on the blacktop, in full sun and heat. 

Gong Chen, a professor at the Department of Kinesiology at San Jose University studied the differences in strength between American college-age males and females and found that women have an average of 37-68% of the muscle strength that men do. There are differences in the anatomical and muscular structure of men and women; I am not trying to argue with proven facts. Those variabilities are the reason why there are separate sports teams for both men and women – it would be unfair if we competed directly. However, even if a woman may not be able to play a sport to the same physical caliber as a man, she is still playing to her own physical limit. Both male and female athletes put in the same amount of effort, and both deserve the title of “athlete”.

Anything that falls under the category of a sport, with physical exertion, skill and competition between teams or individuals, should be considered the same difficulty and held in the same esteem. It is impossible to directly compare men’s and women’s sports, given the differences in structure and players, so the simple solution is to realize that each athlete is as strong and capable as the next – no matter what activity they are involved in.

I have heard too many people say that all the color guard does is “stand there waving a flag”, or that dance “cannot possibly be that hard.”. All I ask is that you see what we do each day, and the effort and skill we put into our sports. I ask that you put yourself in our shoes before you judge our capabilities. Not everyone can stand in a darkened auditorium and perform with all of their heart and energy on stage like dancers. Not everyone can stare up into the lights of a crowded football stadium and prepare to make the ten-minute workout of their lives seem effortless like the guard.

Students that participate in unconventional, artistic activities may not win by having the highest number on a scoreboard, but they are still legitimate athletes.