PHOENIX — Football now comes with a soundtrack. From high school to the NFL, athletes can be spotted before games with a popular piece of equipment.
In the Valley, the music high school players and coaches listen to ranges from hardcore rap by Tupac to easy listening by Bette Midler.
“Football is definitely and mostly business, but music puts the emotion in it and gets you going and gets you hyped before the game,” Goodyear Millennium wide receiver Aidan Diggs said. “(It) definitely gets your mind right depending on the song, and just makes you want to go out there and do big things.”
Rap is a popular choice among players.
For Diggs, defensive tackle Frankie Hollinquest and quarterbacks Ernie Pina and Zareq Brown, rappers Lil Yachty, 21 Savage, Lil Uzi Vert, Playboi Carti and Young Thug are their motivation tool of choice.
“I think music (plays) a big part on your performance,” Desert Edge offensive lineman Max Wilhite said. “Before a game, you’re trying to get your jitters out, and the music really helps you with all the teammates together dancing, so it really gets you motivated for the game.”
Not everyone turns to rap, however.
Millennium coach Lamar Early has adapted to the music his players listen to, but he turns to more relaxing music on his pregame playlist.
“I’m a gospel guy, so oldies,” Early said. “Fred Hammond, all day. It kind of soothes me, it calms me down.”
And then there’s Gilbert Perry assistant head coach and former NFL offensive lineman Adam Snyder. He has one specific song that he loves, and the answer might surprise you.
“You know what got me going, it was ‘Wind Beneath My Wings,’ ” Snyder said about the Bette Midler classic. “That’s a great song. That just pumps you up, I don’t know why. I guess as a kid, it just got me going.”
The idea that music can enhance an athlete’s performance is one backed by scientific studies. According to author Costas Karageorghis, who spent 25 years studying music and its effect on the brain, music can enhance mood, improve muscle control and help the brain build key muscle memories.
“When the brain is listening to music, it lights up like a Christmas tree,” Karageorghis told PBS. “It’s an ideal stimuli because it reaches (parts of the brain) that can’t easily be reached.”
Listening to music activates various major parts of the brain at once and causes those parts to work in harmony, according to Karageorghis’ research,. The areas of the brain it stimulates are areas critical to athletic performance: the parietal lobe (motor functions), the occipital lobe (vision and coordination), the temporal lobe (pitch, tone and structure), and the frontal lobe (emotion).
Another study done by researchers at Brunel University showed that music can enhance endurance by 15 percent.
High school athletes’ thoughts on music seem to line up with the research findings. Karageorghis said that music can enhance mood and increase confidence. That appears to be the case with Perry quarterback Brock Purdy, who is a fan of rap but more of old-school hip-hop.
“I’m a ‘90s sort-of-rap kind of guy,” Purdy said. “I like to listen to Public Enemy and stuff like that, (it) gets things going, but I mean the music nowadays, I don’t really listen to before the game. I like ‘Jump Around’ and ‘Welcome to the Terrordome.’ ”
Purdy’s teammate, offensive lineman Zach Neff, does not share Purdy’s interests.
“Before games, I like to listen to AC/DC stuff,” Neff said. “I don’t know, just like upbeat tempo stuff that gets the blood flowing and the energy is good. Personally, I’m not a big fan of all that rap stuff.”
Goodyear Desert Edge coach Jose Lucero said music is something his team uses quite often.
“We have music on at every single practice,” Lucero said. “It keeps the rhythm up a little bit. On game days, I think it helps most of the kids get their minds right.”
For Lucero, he said his players’ music is not “too terrible,” but still tries to mix in some of his music here and there.
“We always make sure we put on the clean versions, but we do try to mix in our old school stuff,” Lucero said. “We’ll try to mix in a little Tupac radio every now and then, and things like that for some of these young kids, but that’s about it.”
Not everyone turns to pregame music to get their adrenaline going. Desert Edge wide receiver Treyvon Williams watches videos of athletes he respects.
“I watch Deion Sanders, I watch Kam Chancellor’s highlights, players that inspire me to do better and be a great player,” Williams said.
At Buckeye Union High School, quarterback Joseph Perez said he listens to rappers Lil Uzi Vert, Kodak Black, Eminem and Kanye West for his pregame music, while wide receiver Albert Buelna also stays within the rap genre.
“The song I listen to before we get to the game is ‘White Iverson’ by Post Malone,” Buelna said. “That one really pumps me up. It’s pumped me up since last year.”
Karageorghis’ findings also revealed that syncing the tempo of music to an athlete’s heart rate can improve stamina, speed and athletic performance.
“I think it does,” Purdy said. “I think a lot of the athletes get focused and everything depending on the type of music they listen to. It makes them focus up and again, get into their zone.”
Although players might believe this to be true, some coaches have a different perspective.
“I definitely think it’s inside their wheelhouse, in their culture, or so they think,” Buckeye High coach Kelley Moore said. “I think the major issue isn’t the music, it’s the matter of thinking they can concentrate while the music’s playing.”
“For the kids today, it’s a pretty big deal,” Lucero said. “They love their music. We bring their speakers with us, to road games even, so they can listen to music in the locker room. I think that’s something that probably in the last five years or so, that’s really kind of taken off.
“When I was in high school, we sat in a silent locker room and nobody was even allowed to talk, so things have definitely changed.”
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