According to a recent study of one hundred student-athletes, ninety seven percent of them utilize music as part of their mental training.
Furthermore, ninety six percent of the participants felt that music helped them to stay in the zone.
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Only three of the people surveyed did not use music as a performance enhancing tool.
The subjects for this study were forty two high school athletes, fifty two undergraduate athletes and six graduate student-athletes.
These student- athletes represented a wide range of sports including baseball, tennis, track, hockey, lacrosse, wrestling, basketball, swimming and soccer.
All of these participants listened with headphones.
The most popular kind of music for the athletes was pop. The second most popular music for these athletes was rock.
The survey was conducted by Marissa Mastrocola. Marissa is one of the author’s interns and she is currently a graduate student in psychology at a New Jersey university.
In the author’s years of experience in working with athletes he has noted that music can be a useful tool to improve athletic performance.
A PGA golfer who came to see this write because he lost his tempo, rediscovered his timing by being hypnotized and by imagining his favorite Beatles song playing throughout his body.
An older golfer utilized a Sinatra tune in the same way to improve his swing and end his tendency to over swing with a lot of body tension.
A boxer found that his energy and timing improved as soon as his trainer turned on the music in the gym.
A long distance runner relied on music to keep her energy up.
A basketball player described the game as kind of a symphony with sneakers squeaking on the gym floor.
Football line man have told the author that they listened to classical music to calm themselves down prior to a game.
A fencer who the author coached, would listen to music and then to a series of hypnotic tracks which were created to help him to maintain his confidence, focus and aggressiveness.
Many patients ask the author to create short audio clips that include words of encouragement, imagery and their favorite musical compositions.
Many athletes use tracks in which the author’s voice is placed over the athlete’s favorite tunes.
Some researchers may believe that music activates the same parts of the brain that house the zone.
There is no question that music can instantly change our moods. Just notice what happens when a disc jockey asks, “What were you doing when one of your favorite songs was popular?”
Your mind goes back in time and your mood shifts. In this author’s view, you are in a hypnotic state or mind or an altered state of consciousness. This state of mind is very much like the zone.
While the sample size of this study is small, it indicates the valuable role that music can play in mental training. More research is needed as to how to best use music in the field of sports.
Issues which should be addressed include: the kinds of music which are best for particular athletes, the points in training that should music be used, the use of music as a team building tool, the impact of music on recovery from injuries, the effectiveness of traditional headphones as compared with noise cancelling headphones.
Neuropsychologists can help athletes by studying the relationships between music, the mind and the body.
Despite the need for more research, coaches, trainers, athletes, sport psychologists should definitely consider the use of music as part of their mental toughness training.