Basketball Beats: Music Keys Players Pregame Preparation

“The Times They Are a Changin'” – Bob Dylan 1964

And so it continues.  Perhaps in no area has the culture changed more than in the arena of music.  Each generation has generally had disdain for the music of those who follow.  The gyrating hips of Elvis Presley from the 1950’s brought shock and horror to the teens’ elders.  So the refrain continues with the popular rap and hip-hop styles preferable to many of today’s youth.

Just as the style of music has changed over the years, so has the way we listen to and consume music.  Tunes became portable in the early 1980’s with the advent of Sony’s Walkman.  Portable CD players became the mode of listening in the 90’s.  No more fast-forwarding on the cassette to get to your favorite song.  Simply press a button and move to the next track.

The 2000’s revolutionized the music industry with file-sharing computer software and the MP3 player.  With the advent of smartphones anyone can listen to any song, anywhere, at any time with just the click of a button.

While music and sports has been intertwined for a great period of time, the MP3 technology has been instrumental for the athlete.  Key to many players pregame preparation is getting oneself in the proper frame of mind to compete.  For a number of players, music is an important component to that.  Check out any preliminary contest and you will likely see many players sporting headphones, zoning in, getting ready for their game.

Now more than ever, it is much easier for players to select the right pregame playlist to get in the proper frame of mind.  With just a few clicks and keystrokes, athletes can choose just the right playlist to fit the mood they are in or what they desire.  This optimum mindset can vary from player to player.  Some listen to music to relax, others I spoke with like to listen to music to get frenzied and aggressive.  So what do kids like in their heads before the big game?

The Washburn girls collectively keep it old school in getting ready to compete.  They seem to have their pregame ritual down pat as they have just won their fifth straight gold ball, setting a state record.  According to senior Joan Overman, the team likes to sing along in the locker room to old 70’s hits such as Marvin Gaye’s Ain’t no Mountain High Enough, Bill Withers’ Lean on Me, and The Pointer Sisters’ We are Family.  Basically, they like to keep it fun and sing songs to help get the nerves out.

In speaking with many of the guys during tournament week, the consensus pregame tunes consisted of the genres of hip-hop and rap.  Houlton’s Kyle Bouchard recently listened to a new album by Drake in order to get him relaxed.  Van Buren’s Joe Canwell tends to keep his pregame playlist the same, also featuring plenty of Drake.  Music plays a big role in his preparation as it allows him to get in the proper mindset and focuses him on the game to come.

Brewer’s Jared St. Thomas typically likes to zone in with his music during the first half of the junior varsity game before heading into the locker room to change and shoot at halftime.  Plenty of hip-hop and rap is on his playlist but he tends to mix it up from game to game.  He’ll often arrive at the gym on game day and hit shuffle to change it up.  He picks tunes which get him hyped and fired up to play.

Many others echoed St. Thomas’ sentiments in what their pregame music does for them.  Machias’ James Mersereau said the music he listens to gets him pumped up to play.  He tends to mix it up although has a few standbys such as We Dem Boyz by Wiz Khalifa and Lifestyle by Rich Gang (featuring Young Thug & Rich Homie Quan).  Shead High School’s Steve Morrison typically will listen to some pop and/or rap to get himself pumped up and focused for the game.  He particularly likes to listen to the artist Kid Ink.  He generally has the same three to four songs in his mix but might change it up some if he’s coming off a bad performance.

Most I spoke with talked about how music gets them in the proper mindset before a contest.  Such is the case with Bangor Christian’s Dennis Farnham, Hermon’s T.J. Verrill, and Fort Fairfield’s Josh Ricker.  Farnham, like Brewer’s St. Thomas, will typically hit shuffle on his playlist, filled with rap music.  He also talked about how important it is to get pumped up prior to the game.  Verrill stressed how his music gets him in an aggressive frame of mind.  He typically listens to a lot of rap before the game, anything that has an aggressive beat to it.  While he likes the artist Jay-Z, he has been known to mix it up from game to game.  Ricker, on the other hand will often go with the same ten to twelve songs for each contest.  In addition to listening to Jay-Z, he also likes Eminem.  Like others I spoke with, he said his music sets the tone before the game.

Machias’ 1000-point career scorer Logan Wood goes a bit old school with his pregame beats.  He prefers 80’s rock and earlier hip-hop.  He generally likes to keep the tunes the same each time, getting him pumped up and ready to play.  Prior to game time he likes to get into his own zone with his music and doesn’t like to talk much.

While many of us may not like or even understand much of today’s music, there’s no denying music plays a huge role in the current culture of the high school basketball player.

*****

While basketball coaches compete against each other during the season, there is often a brother and sisterhood that exists within the group.  Such was the case Friday night at Penquis Valley High School in Milo.  Roughly forty coaches played in a benefit basketball game to raise funds for the Mills family.  Some came from as far as three hours away to take part.  About a month ago, Penquis Valley Boys Varsity Basketball Coach Jason Mills’ eleven year old son Zak was found with a cancerous tumor around his wrist.

Zak was in the hospital on Friday night undergoing his second round of chemotherapy treatment.  He was able to watch the proceedings via Skype from his hospital bed.  Operating the iPad most of the evening was former Penquis standout Trevor Lyford, who is home on break from Brown University.

The coaches played to a packed house.  Jason, who originally was not going to suit up for the contest, had a change of heart when Zak called him out on a feature done by Channel 5 News.  An evening of fun and laughter was had by all in attendance.  Just the gate receipts alone netted over $5,600.  I as well as many others send our best wishes to Zak and the entire Mills family.  Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

Bob Beatham

About Bob Beatham

Bob, a lifelong Bangor resident, has just completed his 21st season as the Public Address Announcer at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor. Bob is also the public address voice for John Bapst Crusader football. He also currently serves as the scorekeeper for John Bapst basketball. Bob is an avid follower of Maine high school athletics, particularly football and basketball. The University of Maine at Farmington graduate is the service coordinator at Aging Excellence, which provides in-home care for seniors..