The University Interscholastic League, the state organization that governs extracurricular athletic, academic and musical competitions among public schools, will now require marching band students to undergo a physical examination in order to participate.

The decision was made public earlier this week and is effective Aug. 1. It means students cannot take part in physical activities, inside or outside, associated with marching band and performance until they have handled this detail. Districts across West Texas have been busy these past few days getting the word out to parents and guardians.

Although school districts have little time to react to this new rule, it makes sense on a number of levels. First and foremost, this is a safety issue, and school officials are all for measures and regulations that help them keep a community covenant to ensure student safety.

Beyond that, marching band students work extremely hard on their craft and they spend time practicing for halftime performances and other competitions. These students devote hours to mastering their instrument as well as working in sync with numerous other students to pull off the magic involved in a halftime performance.

For many communities, the high school marching band is a point of pride for parents, family members, booster clubs and fans who simply enjoy the beauty of the Friday night football experience. Regardless of the size of the band, it takes a lot of work and effort away from those lights to make sure all goes well before a live audience.

Keep in mind, also, these young people are doing this in late summer and early fall, which means regularly battling the formidable Texas heat. Some band members carry instruments weighing up to 40 pounds. They march in step and alignment around the field at a quick pace. For brass players, they are blowing air through their instruments for eight to 12 minutes.

The LISD provided the following analogy: “It is comparable to running a mile in all different directions while carrying a dumbbell at shoulder level during the course of the performance.”

The UIL edict requires physicals for incoming marching band freshman and juniors. For sophomores and seniors, a medical history form is required. Seventh- and eighth-grade students must undergo physicals. Some districts already had this requirement in place; others, such as LISD, plan to exceed the UIL rule and require a yearly physical for marching band participants just as is already required for young people participating in competitive athletics.

Many band directors and those who work with marching band are required to pass a health safety training compliance course each year and be trained in first aid and CPR.

Numerous districts arrange clinics prior to the start of the school year where students can receive a physical at a reduced cost or for no charge. That practice will now include marching band participants. It is no secret that in some cases, these so-called “routine” physicals have revealed underlying conditions that young people and their family were unaware of.

The new rule will bring thousands of other students under the care of qualified medical professionals, and it is more than likely more will learn about some previously unknown health factor. This is a good thing, by the way. Knowledge is power, and it’s especially powerful when it comes to matters of health and wellness.

In the Lubbock ISD, there are approximately 1,600 students involved in band, and marching band is offered only at the high school level. The same is true in the Amarillo ISD, where some 700 high school students take part in marching band. Likewise, the Canyon ISD, Frenship ISD and Lubbock-Cooper ISD have large numbers of students involved in this activity, which equips young people with important skills and provides them a sense of belonging to a group at a time in their lives when belonging is so very important.

The new school year is still a month or so away, and two-a-day football and volleyball practices won’t be the only activities cranking up. There also will be thousands of young people across West Texas practicing for their upcoming performances under the lights, all of which also require varying degrees of athleticism.

Along those lines, now is a good time to salute those who participate in marching band, including dedicated band directors and support personnel across the region devoting time and energy to helping young people be all they can be. It would be wise for all to remember these band performances aren’t just something to fill the void between halves of a football game; they are important moments in the lives of each and every band member as well as their families.

We hope more people than ever before will not be in such a hurry to grab a soft drink and bag of popcorn during intermission and instead remain in the stands to acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of gifted young musicians participating in marching band.

Your support will no doubt be music to their ears.