Though the use of metaphors has been shown to be useful in many domains, recent research has looked into the benefits of using song lyrics as a method for athletes to examine and describe their feelings prior to, during, and after a competition. There are two types of metaphors: client-generated and practitioner-generated. While both of these can be effective, the important thing to remember is that they have to resonate with the athlete and be personally meaningful to them. These lyrics can be used to describe various situations including transitional demands such as increased training commitments or making a new team, the athlete’s motivation for playing, or a general attitude regarding an upcoming competition.
In an article by Triggs, Lafferty, Brown & Tolley (2011), they used the song “The Masterplan” by Oasis to describe a transitional period experienced by players in an English Premier League Youth Academy who are going through a time where they may be signed or released by their current club.
Some of the lyrics are as follows:
Say it loud and sing it proud today
I’m not saying right is wrong,
It’s up to us to make
The best of all the things that come our way
‘Cause everything that’s been has past
While each athlete may perceive these lyrics to mean something different, the general trend that can be taken from this is that you should focus on what you can control right now, rather than dwelling on what has happened in the past. This is the idea that you have to make the best of what you have, and this is something that all athletes can relate to and focus on.
Another example of lyrics comes from the song “You’re the best” by Joe Esposito from The Karate Kid:
Try to believe
Though the going gets rough
You gotta hang tough to make it
These lyrics focus on the amount of effort that an athlete puts in, even with the situation is not going the way he/she wants it to. The one thing you can always control is how hard you work. If you continue to work hard and give it your all, you will be more likely to persevere in the face of adversity and be successful regardless of the outcome.
Why would we use these lyrics? For some athletes, using lyrics to express their feelings can be much easier than coming up with words on their own. For many people, there is a particular song that resonates with them for whatever reason, and allows them to relate in a way they may not have been able to do otherwise. In addition, the use of metaphors, both in sport and out, and with lyrics and without, has been shown to decrease anxiety, decrease impulsivity, and elicit positive mood changes (Triggs, Lafferty, Brown, & Tolley, 2011).
How can we use these? While the idea of using lyrics as metaphors can stand on its own, it can also be incorporated into other aspects of your mental training. You can use them similar to refocusing cues and self-talk, in which you use them as a means of reminding yourself of what you want to accomplish and bring yourself back to the situation at hand. They can also be used along with catch phrases, in that you pick a short section of the lyrics that is easily referenced in a time of a need. Finally, and perhaps the method that encompasses all others, is to incorporate these lyrics into a training and/or pre-competition routine. Many athletes have particular songs or types of music that they like to listen to when working out, training, and/or preparing for competition. Incorporating these lyrics into your routine can allow you to focus your energy at a given time on how you want to feel by having lyrics that are meaningful to you to support this idea.
Triggs, C., Lafferty, M. E., Brown, H. E., & Tolley, H. L. (2011). Metaphorical Use of Song Lyrics within Sport Psychology Practice: Targeting the Transition within a Premier League Football Youth Academy. Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, 2(3), 183-195.