Music has the unique power to influence our emotional states and mindset, and can equally be used to relax us or get us pumped up in the face of a challenge. Understandably then, most professional athletes have thought long and hard about what tunes put them in the right frame to achieve victory. The cost for miscalculating can be disastrous, as when Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios blamed his poor start in 2014’s Wimbledon tournament on his decision to listen to Canadian rapper Drake before his opening match. We take a look here at the tunes that have successfully propped up some of the world’s great sporting champions.
Tiger Woods has certainly stumbled across a winning formula, as his 82 All-Time PGA Tour wins roundly testify. Known for his lucky red shirt, Tiger likes to listen to a huge playlist of some 300 hip-hop tracks when he’s training, though when he really needs to get the blood pumping he opts for 80s glam rockers Van Halen. When questioned on the subject, Woods admitted that he wants to do nothing more than rock out in his later years. His love of Van Halen led to him striking up a friendship with late front-man, Eddie Van Halen. The band even headlined Tiger Woods’ fundraising concert Tiger Jam XI back in 2008 and raised $1.5 million for the youth advocacy with the Tiger Woods Foundation.
Professional poker player Fintan Hand relies on the power of nostalgia in order to perform at his best when the chips are down. He says he loves listening to the classics he was raised on, from rock acts Queen and Bruce Springsteen to Swedish pop group Abba. But when he really needs to get into the zone he goes for Irish electronic music producer Mark McCabe’s number 1 dance hit, 'Maniac 2000'. Hand says he’ll always listen to this track if he makes it to the final of a tournament.
Former Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney scored a total of 253 goals during his time with the team, making him the highest goal scorer in the illustrious football club’s history. Perhaps the secret to his success is his love of the Welsh rock band The Stereophonics. In 2008 he immortalized his fandom of the 90s garage rockers by tattooing the name of their third album on his arm. The title 'Just Enough Education to Perform' can arguably be read as an inspirational slogan, reminding Rooney that he is perfectly possessed with the requisite faculties to win the day.
Tennis champion Serena Williams is partial to a bit of Kelly Clarkson and P!nk when she’s training, but favors one song above all others when it comes to setting the right vibe for match day. She states that she’s always singing the same song in her head, the admittedly catchy theme song of the 1983 movie Flashdance. The song, titled 'What a Feeling' and performed by American singer-songwriter Irene Cara, is one of the all-time great motivational tracks. Williams points to its empowering and intense lyrics as well as its upbeat rhythm as reasons why it’s her go-to pre-game tune.
Basketball superstar Michael Jordan is no stranger to peculiar game-day rituals. It’s widely reported that Jordan used to wear his UNC college basketball shorts beneath his Chicago Bulls kit in major games. The shorts took him to the NCAA championship in 1982 and had served him well through no less than 6 finals with the Chicago Bulls in the game’s top flight league, the NBA. But Jordan didn’t solely rely on a pair of magic shorts to seal the deal. In the wake of his match-winning shot against the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1989, he disclosed to a curious reporter that his pre-game theme song was R&B singer-songwriter Anita Baker's 1988 hit 'Giving You the Best That I Got'. Jordan, explaining the sound reasoning behind this choice, states: “Just go out and give it your all, and that’s what I did”.