Pump up the jams!

The arena is filled with cheering fans, fierce competitors and knowing that all of your hard work comes down to this moment. Your heart is pounding out of your chest as your body fills with adrenaline.

Eyes closed; deep breath. Get completely lost in sounds coming out of your headphones. This is just part of the routine some athletes go through to perform their best during competitions.

A study published in the Human Kinetics Journal found that music had a positive effect on flow and perceived performance in male soccer players. In conclusion they believed the findings suggest that this strategy has great potential for athletes during pre-competition (2010, Pain, Harwood, Anderson).

Although, not all athletes would agree with this study’s conclusion, two players from the Marshall University (MU) men’s soccer team have different views on what music truly affects, if anything at all.

Kendall Sutton, one of MU’s former players, says, “I don’t think it affects performance, at least for me. I try to come ready to play my best no matter what, but it doesn’t hurt to have music to block out distractions and get you focused on the task at hand.”

Sutton’s former teammate, Devin Perkins, has a different view and believes music helps his performance saying, “Hours before we had to be in the locker room I would listen to classical music such as Beethoven. It calmed me down, got me relaxed and got my head cleared. I usually played better when I made time to listen to it before games.”

While people debate if music really affects athletic performance, some athletes, scientifically proven or not, believe that when they listen to music, it enhances their achievements and motivation.

Two-time Olympic gold medalist, Dame Kelly Holmes, listened to the songs of Alicia Keys in her pre-event routine at the Athens Games of 2004. While the physiological processes tend to react to music’s rhythm, it is often lyrics or extra musical associations that make an impact on the emotions of the athlete (2008, Karageorghis and Priest).

Music’s effects also vary depending on the sport. Some sports are more high endurance while others require more concentration and deep breathing leaving a broad range in the genre of music played.

While runners and cyclists need to concentrate on their breathing throughout their events, swimmers and gymnasts have one event at high intensity then a break before their next event, making their genre of music change dramatically depending on the intensity of the event.

Former Marshall University swimmer, Jenae Moreno, says, “I always listen to music before my events…Up-beat music is the best. Specifically because I would continue to hear the fast beat in my head during my race, and I would try to sync my arm-speed with the beat.”

Some athletes don’t have a particular genre of music they listen to, as long as there is the distraction to get them focused on their event rather than focusing on everything that is going on around them.

“Most of the time I listen to music before track races. It all depends on my mood. In high school, I would rock out to the sounds of Foo Fighters and Taking Back Sunday before every race. I’ve chilled out since then and now try to use music to talk my nerves down instead of jacking them up,” says Hannah Morgan Henderson, a runner for Lees-McRae College. “Now I just put my iPod on shuffle and see where it takes me.”

When it comes down to music affecting an athlete’s performance, it varies depending on the psychology of the athlete and what works best for each athlete as an individual.

Florida State University swimmer, Tyler Ball, says, “Some people need music to help block out other things and some don’t like music because it gets them to over think their races. It just takes a couple meets to figure out what type of athlete you are; music or not.”

Leave a comment


  1. Devin Perkins

     /  March 2, 2012

    Guess who has 2 thumbs and feels like a celebrity…THIS GUY!!


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