The clock slowly starts to dwindle down: ten, nine, eight, seven. Just a few seconds left to make the game-winning point. You feel the pressure of your team’s win riding on your shoulders: five, four, three, just enough time to score—but the pressure of the win is starting to take a hit on your mental game. As your body wills you to make the point, it is not enough to prevent you from succumbing to the pressure. The pressure of the win is enough to knock you off balance, allowing you to fall on the floor. Blocking out the stress with music will allow you to ignore the pressure and maintain a steady balance.
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Dr. Fitni Destani, who has a PhD in Psychology Social Aspects of Sport and is assistant professor of physical education, said, “Music has a great potential, from my experience, of getting you in an optimal level of arousal and it also helps you feel like you are managing your anxiety and stress. It’s able to calm you and it’s also able to get you going if you are too complacent.” Music has the ability to alter your state of mind and create a stress-free environment. According to the article, “Music in Sport and Exercise,” by Costas Karageorghis and David-Lee Priest, “In the hotbed of competition, where athletes are often very closely matched in ability, music has the potential to elicit a small but significant effect on performance.” Before a big game, many athletes can become anxious and stressed, however, by determining where you are mentally before a game, you can decrease the anxiousness you feel.
According to Destani, “When it comes to arousal, stress, and anxiety, you have to determine where are you currently right now? Are you in comfort zone within that arousal, stress, and anxiety? “ he continued, “If you are low, you are not necessarily uncomfortable, but you are also not ready and prepared. ”
However, Destani said rather than listening to a new song before a game, listen to it during practice to see how it optimizes your performance. This way, music will become part of the routine. Erin Taylor, junior goalie of the Keene State College women’s lacrosse team, said that before she heads out onto the field she listens to the same three songs every time: “Murder Business,” by Iggy Azaela, “Cudder is Back,” by Kid Cudi, and “White Panda Remix,” by Stereo Hands. “Up until 10 minutes before a game I will listen to what is ever on my iPod and then I will listen to those three songs,” Taylor said. Listening to the same three songs before a game allows Taylor to not only block out stress and anxiety, but it also allows her to enhance her performance. “People are creatures of habit; they tend to do things over and over again and that is not good. We don’t want to get to the point where if we don’t do this we are not going to perform well. It is just there to help us get ready; it is not there to threaten our performance in any way,” Destani said.
James Chesebrough, associate professor of music, said, “Because so much of physical activity is repetition I think that when you are in the repetition part that is when you use the music. If you are having to think, then the music could be a distraction.” The only way music will be detrimental to your performance is if the athlete allows it to be anything but an enhancement. According to the article, “Effects of music interventions on emotional states and running performance,” by Andrew Lane, “Music listening can function not only as an effective emotion regulation strategy, but also as a strategy to improve performance.” However, music is not only used as a stimulant before playing a game, it can also be used as a form of celebration. One KSC club team listens to the same song after every victory. Dave Robicheau, a senior defenseman on the KSC hockey team, said that his team listens to the song “Good Vibrations,” by Marky Mark and The Funky Bunch .
Robicheau said, “After every win we listen to ‘Good Vibrations’ because it is a feel good song after a good win.” For the hockey team, “Good Vibrations” is their celebratory music because of the repeated passages and the beat that is present throughout the song. When it comes to selecting a song to either amp up your performance, or to celebrate your victory, it is important to choose a song that focuses primarily on the beat rather than the lyrics. “[In music] there are a lot of repeated passages, the words are sometimes cool but they are not the primary thing, it has different sounds,” Chesebrough said. These sounds are what increases the motivation amongst student athletes.
For junior infielder of the KSC baseball team, Nick Vita, music acts as a way to not only motivate himself, but to also keep his head in the game. “Throughout the game I’ll be singing songs in my head. It gets me away from the stress of baseball,” Vita said. The songs that Vita recites in his head as he plays are mostly beats by rappers Kanye West or J. Cole. In fact, every time Vita walks up to the plate, the song “Good Life,” by Kanye West can be heard throughout the KSC Owl Athletic Complex. “I didn’t want something that would get me too energized. It relaxes me before I go to the plate,” Vita said. “It [music] gives you something to focus on other than the activity at the moment,” Chesebrough said. Some of these moments are captured through a tradition. For the KSC women’s field hockey team, junior Katlyn Simula said that before every game, the team listens to the song “The Way You Make Me Feel,” by Michael Jackson. For the field hockey team, this song is a way to enhance their performance. It’s not just KSC athletes who look to music as a way to motivate themselves prior to competition; Olympic athletes also use music as a way to channel their adrenaline. Rolling Stone Magazine recently published the playlist Michael Phelps used during the 2012 London Olympic Games. “I’m Me,” by Lil’ Wayne, “No Beef,” by Afrojack and Steve Aoki, “Levels,” by Avicii, “Go Getta,” by Young Jeezy, and “Right Above It,” by Lil’ Wayne, are the songs that pumped up one of the most prolific Olympic athletes ever. “What activates your stress and anxiety levels is your perception of something that is a fear or a challenge. You have to challenge your skill level. Music is helping you stay in control and not doubt yourself,” Destani said.
Next time the clock slowly starts to dwindle down: ten, nine, eight, seven–there are just a few seconds left to make the game winning point. As you feel the pressure of your team’s win riding on your shoulders, block out the mental game and harness the power of music and focus on the physical game: five, four, three–there’s just enough time to score—two, one: swish.
Michelle Berthiaume can be contacted at
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