Music and sport have some unexpected but intimate connections. Go to any live event, from boxing to baseball, and you’ll hear tunes being played. That, of course, is for entertainment purposes or to fill in the gaps in the action. However, there are deeper connections between athletic endeavors and sport, many of which are linked to the brain. Music has been shown to aid athletic performance. In fact, the effect of music on performance has been deemed so great by some that it’s banned in certain sports. In 2007, USA Track & Field banned the use of headphones because music gave runners a “competitive edge”.
Music Feeds the Mind
This isn’t just speculation. Dr. Costas Karageorghis of Brunel University has carried out dozens of studies into the impact of music and performance. Karageorghis has found that it can optimize engagement before a task and improve performance where simple motor skills are required. The sports scientist also found that listening to music during repetitive endurance-based exercise can reduce perceived exertion and help with timing. The end result, in at least some situations, is that music can help athletes improve their performance.
Whether they know it or not, many professionals feel this. Walk into the changing room of most football teams and there will be players listening to music. If you have a vested interest in a game, this could be valuable information. For example, if you were searching through a list of online sports betting sites, it may be useful to know if a team listens to music before a game. Why? Well, the best reviews will tell you the types of bonuses, the odds, and the software you can get at the top sports books, but they won’t tell you which team is more likely to win. In other words, you can be shown upwards of 275 bookmakers, but no one will tell you which team to bet on.
A Musical Pre-Match Boost
However, if you know Team A sits in silence and Team B listens to their favourite pre-match tunes, you may be more inclined to side with the latter. Naturally, music alone won’t guarantee that Team B beats Team A. But if they’re evenly matched, it could tip the balance. In fact, the effect of music could be even more pronounced if a team’s supporters are particularly vocal. This leads us to our second link between music and sport. Just as tunes can help a team before a match, they can help during. This is where chants come in. Football fans have been singing from the terraces since the 19th century, but the modern chant came into its own from the 1960s onwards.
There are two main reasons for chants. The first is to create an atmosphere and inspire the players. The second is to create a bond between supporters. Much like a choir, football supporters singing in unison feel a sense of camaraderie. That, in turn, creates a positive vibe that players may pick up on. The end result is, in some circumstances, an uptick in performance. What’s interesting about chants from a purely musical perspective is the way they’ve evolved and, moreover, entered into mainstream culture. While they may not be musicians, football fans can be extremely creative when it comes to adapting popular songs to suit their team.
Creativity from the Stands
A great example is “Mrs. Robinson” by Simon and Garfunkel. We know that Paul Simon is a musical genius. Thankfully, all of his hits are now the property of Sony Music Publishing, which means they’ll be preserved for generations to come. However, the song is also preserved in Leicester City folklore. When the club owned Danny Drinkwater, the familiar sound of “Mrs. Robinson” echoed throughout the stadium: “Here’s to you, Danny Drinkwater, Leicester loves you more than you will know.”
It’s the same with You’ll Never Walk Alone by Gerry and the Pacemakers. Fans have even turned modern hits into terrace classics. Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes is now chanted by football fans around the world.
Sporting Tracks Become Chart Toppers
From the culture of stadium chants, we get to mainstream hits. Football teams releasing songs before a major competition was once a thing. World in Motion by New Order was one of the first proper hits from this genre but the one every sports fan knows is Three Lions. The collaboration between Frank Skinner, David Baddiel, and the Lightning Seeds was a hit in 1996. It was a hit again in 1998 thanks to some updated lyrics.
Today, the famous “it’s coming home” chorus is as much of a football chant as a part of British musical culture. So, while it may not seem like the relationship between music and sport, in particular football, goes much beyond entertainment, it does. Music can enhance physical performance, create a bond between fans and be a snapshot in time. Although the two could exist without each other, it’s clear they are better with each other. That’s why music and sport have an unexpected but intimate connection.