(Click Image Above to Flow Tiktok)
Imagine your favorite movie without the soundtrack. What would it be like going to your favorite coffee shop in complete silence? The experience would be completely different. The impact music has on the world is often under-represented. We all know that artists have motivated change in many areas of life through their art, their words, and their influence but let’s not overlook the direct impact music has on our human psychology and emotional systems as individuals engaging with the art. Especially in the world of sport and performance.
Sports and music have a harmonious relationship. During most sporting events, music is playing in the background.
This is especially the case for athletes who are warming up before a competition. More times than not, they are listening to a playlist composed of their favorite hype music. There is a reason why playlists like “Beast Mode'' or “Locked In” on Spotify have millions of likes across the platform. Music helps to “psych athletes up” for the task at hand, raising their levels of arousal as well as their determination to put forth their best effort. Because of this, listening to music can promote the ability to play in a flow state.
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 (Karageorghis & Terry, 1997). Music also provides an ideal accompaniment for training. (The Sport Journal).
While some athletes have a playlist of their favorite warm-up songs, others have a single track. For Mets closer, Edwin Diaz, his go-to music is the sounds of “Narcos” as he jogs his way from the bullpen to the mound. When he hears those trumpets, he’s locked in. Music serves an important role in focusing Diaz’s attention on the moment in front of him. It’s difficult for athletes to go right into the heat of the moment without any sort of routine or preparation beforehand, which is why techniques like listening to music can help center the mind for the action ahead.
This article wouldn’t be complete without sharing one of the most iconic walk-out entrances in baseball history.
Outside of baseball, notable athletes who’ve incorporated music into their pre-performance routine include Michael Phelps, one of the greatest Olympians of all time. He has cited hip-hop artist Future as a constant source of inspiration for him as he’d go into his races. If listening to “Stick Talk” helped Phelps win gold, it might be worth it to add that track to your warm-up playlist. Also, former Los Angeles Rams Running Back Todd Gurley has a playlist of tracks he listens to which can be found here.
While the application of most mental skills has the end goal of awareness and relaxation, listening to music serves a slightly different function. Music, in the way it’s discussed above, serves as fuel to amp yourself up before a performance and direct your energy. However, raising levels of arousal can also help ease some game-time nerves that may be lingering by turning anxiety into excitement, and channeling the energy this energized state creates. Research from The Sport Journal on music’s application in sport and exercise explains this process in more detail:
Music alters emotional and physiological arousal and can therefore be used prior to competition or training as a stimulant, or as a sedative to calm “up” or anxious feelings (Bishop et al., 2007). Music thus provides arousal regulation fostering an optimal mindset.
Similar to other mental skills like mindfulness, self-talk, and visualization, music is another method to center attention on the present moment; to be ready to perform in an energized yet focused and confident and optimal state. Playing in this state, also known as playing in flow, is all about having balance; a degree of challenge yet feeling confident in your ability to handle that challenge. Think of these mental skills as an anchor for inducing the ability to play with the flow. The more these skills are practiced, the easier it will be to play your sport in this mindset.