When you consider the sound of sport you may think of the grunting of a tennis player in the midst of a shot. You may also think of the twack of a golf swing or the blare of a time out horn among the squeaking of shoes on a basketball court. There are sounds which necessarily recall a memory of sport. From the smashing of shoulder pads in American football to the crack of a baseball bat, sounds are not only prevalent but integral to our conception of sport.
Still, I would like to consider another facet of sound in sport. That facet is the unobserved sound. The sound of cadence. A rhythm but also a tune to follow. Many sports if not all have a rhythm whose mastering entitles the player a pass into a secret world, a world where the actual sounds of the game seem to disappear into the ether.
Tennis instructors use cadence to teach the rhythm of the sport as far as positioning and squaring yourself to an oncoming shot. A simple “Bum-ba-bum” in the forefront of your consciousness can properly align a player. Almost like a dance to a song in your head, the physical technical movements flow and become rout.
Sound does not necessarily have to come with a rhythm to be effective in sport. Sometimes simply a past memory of a voice can spur you. My favorite example of which comes from one of the legends of soccer — Zinedine Zidane. The sound which propelled him had no specific music or cadence. His running soundtrack was that of a sports announcer whose voice drew Zidane to the sport and catapulted him to elite greatness. A scene from the film Zidane : a 21st Century Portrait expresses his attraction and focus on this voice, this sound, this cadence. Here’s a clip.