“Music can have a profound effect on our emotional state and every facet of music can contribute towards this, including the lyrics, tempo and rhythm.”1
Hello again, lovely readers and welcome to article three, which looks at the power of music from a sports psychology perspective. For most of us, music tends to play an integral role in our exercise routine. It’s not just by chance that many of us can’t imagine exercising without a motivational playlist. Underpinned by psychological theory – in particular, theories that focus on motivation and confidence – it is scientifically proven that music helps boost performance. This article will therefore look at how this is done by focusing on the key elements of a song that can mediate performance. More specific to netball and team sports, these features may just help you identify an anthem for you personally or your team that helps you get in the zone.
Disclaimer: I am incredibly lucky to have one of the leading sports psychologists in the area of music and sport as my lectures and dissertation supervisor, so you can be pretty sure this stuff is more than legit.
So, let’s take “Eye of the Tiger” for example. An iconic song that transcends generations and is used as the theme tune for a film that perfectly embodies the grit and determination of any athlete trying to achieve. On the surface, I’m sure we can all understand why the track is such a perfect fit for the film. I mean just listening to the song is getting me ready for my game this week. Below are 5 things to take into account when selecting music to accompany an exercise, training or pre-game routine.
1. Make it Task Specific
I’m sure we’ve all experienced that random song that has snuck into our workout playlist and completely throw us off track. It’s really important that the music you are listening to is married not only to the activity you are about to undertake, but also the psychological effect that you desire. For example, loud, fast, rhythmical music may be great to listen to before you play in an important game (e.g the final of your social league or a playoff match) as it increases adrenaline, which can have a positive effect on reaction times for rebounds for example. However, such a song may not be so effective to listen to when you are warming down or on the night before that big game when you are trying to get an early night. Points to consider therefore include whether the tempo (speed) of the music and its rhythm is conducive to the activity that you are performing or about to perform as it can help set pace or course of action for the task ahead.
2. Check the Lyrics
Quite simply, you need to ask yourself “do the lyrics contain positively affirming statements?” If the answer is no, you may want to consider trading the song for a more motivational track. Of course, there are some songs that are void of words or have a relatively neutral underlying message. If this is the case then it’s more the tempo/rhythm of the song that needs to be assessed as mentioned above. Positively affirming statements within a song may be overt (e.g. “work your body”, “push it” or “run to the beat”) or may be a subtle underlying theme in a song that focuses on increasing motivation2. Lyrics also plays a key role in sport psychology as it can act as a form of self-talk (inner dialogue with one’s self) which is a key tool for mental preparation, mental toughness and confidence in sport.
3. Images are Important
It is worth considering whether the imagery that the song creates in your mind is one of motivation. For example, the majority of us associate “Eye of the Tiger” with scenes from Rocky rather than the actual music video i.e. we think of scenes of training and pushing one’s self to physical limits and most importantly, scenes of victory. Imagery is another tool that is used to facilitate mental preparation, mental toughness and confidence. This point is particularly key when identifying a song for personal use rather than team use as a song with positive personal meaning can increase intrinsic motivation.
4. Personal Meaning
This is linked with imagery and more so for creating a personal playlist, this point of consideration is important as it may reinforce the reason behind you working out or training. However, in a team sport, a song may have collective meaning which reinforces cohesion and can increase motivation and performance for the team as a whole.
5. Know Your Audience
A final point to consider is the cultural significance of music, both in terms of tradition meaning of culture and factors such age, gender and musical preferences. For example, the music choice of a team of U14s is likely to be different to music preferred by a senior team. Therefore, as a coach when playing music during a training session for example, it is important that you choose music that is relevant to the target audience. This being said, there are some absolute classics that everyone should know regardless of generational differences and such timeless pieces provide the perfect balance in any playlist.
What I love about this topic is the fact that, while this specific article refers to music in a sport and exercise context, it can be applied to any performance domain. I for one definitely listened to “Hall of Fame” by The Script moments before I took my driving test to boost confidence and motivation to succeed. There is a wealth of information online that can be used by players and coaches to help pick the most suitable music for specific activities. Why not try one of the following playlists or try finding or creating one that best suits you or your team and give yourself that extra boost towards optimal performance.
- Karageorghis, C., & Priest, D. (2011). Music and exercise: the perfect bedfellows. Peak Performance, (297), 6-8.