Blasting out Rihanna or Kanye West could give England that crucial psychological edge over Tunisia on Monday, suggests research from Brunel University London.
Which tracks Gareth Southgate spins the squad in the dressing room to psych them up to peak performance may be key to getting England to the top of their game.
Scientists at Brunel have long banged the drum for music’s performance-boosting powers in sport. Now for the first time they’ve studied its pre-match effect in Premiership football.
The right music can supercharge team spirit among elite players, helping heighten bonding and strengthen feelings of togetherness, they found.
“Our study illustrated how music plays a pivotal role in enhancing group cohesion in elite football,” said psycho-physiologist Marcelo Bigliassi.
The results serve as sound advice for the Lions’ boss, says Bigliassi: “Gareth Southgate could use pre-match music to boost feelings of unity, increase group cohesion and create a positive team atmosphere.”
Pre-match prep without music can put players on the back foot by making them feel under-prepared, never mind how much they’ve trained, researchers found. And the game-changing positive emotions from the right pre-match sounds last long after the players walk out of the tunnel.
The same positive effects of musical prep might stretch to other team sports such as basketball, rugby and hockey, Bigliassi reckons. “I believe that a similar cluster of psychological responses would be identified for players in other team sports.”
The study tracked 34 academy players at a Premiership team, aged 16–23, over a season. Upbeat tunes players knew gave the most positive vibes before a match. One surprise was how ready younger players were to go along with senior players’ picks. Post To Be by Omarion, Pour It Up by Rihanna, Blood On The Leaves by Kanye West, and The Catch Up by Drake were players’ top tunes for feeling totally in the zone.
"Our findings provide a vista into the emotional, behavioural and cognitive responses to music in young elite players,” said study leader Dr Costas Karageorghis.
“The role of music in soccer is perhaps more symbolic, imaginative and figurative than previously thought,” he added. “Music appears to intersect with the narrative of players’ lives and the way in which bonds are formed among players both on and off the pitch.”
A grounded theory of music use in the psychological preparation of academy soccer players is published this month in Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology