As any college student knows, the pregame playlist is the key to the main event. It creates the hype, gets the energy flowing and is decisive in determining whether the events following will be memorable or a dud. Not just anyone can be on the aux either––it takes an individual with real intuition, taste and understanding to be up for the task. It’s a hefty responsibility, and it often takes a few lineup changes to find the right person in the group to curate the appropriate combination of songs. There has to be songs that you can talk over, songs you automatically know the words to and songs you hope to hear later in the night. As a senior, my friends and I have our playlists pretty much down to a science now: some Drake, a little Britney, much Rihanna, one play of “Roxanne,” and a few doses of J. Cole. The creation took much practice, but we found a mix that works for us, and I only recently realized how important that is. As I reflected on how our playlist has evolved over the years––which songs have stayed (Calvin Harris’ “Slide”), which we have dropped (“Thotiana”)––and the word “pregame” itself, I became curious about the word pregame itself, and what that meant not only to me as a college student, but also as an athlete. Over my past four years as a varsity athlete, the literal pre–game playlist that is played over the Weinberg Field speakers, as well as in the locker room, has prepared me for some of the highest––and lowest––emotional moments in my life. There is tradition, memories and gravity carved into those songs for me and my teammates. Based on this experience, I decided to take a dive into the art of the pregame playlist for Vassar athletes.
Music has always run an important vein in sports. Joe Burrow recently admitted that he listens to Kid Cudi’s “New York City Rage Fest” before he runs out onto the field on every gameday, walk-out songs are a must-have for every baseball game from high school to the MLB, and basketball buzzer beaters will forever be indebted to Kanye West’s “Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1.” It is no different at Vassar, where different pre-game and warm-up songs have been passed down generation to generation and are also a team bonding experience. For women’s lacrosse, senior captain Ashley Roberts ’22 explained about how the last song the team listens to before stepping out of the locker room is “I Don’t F–k With You,” by Big Sean, to which they replace the “you” with their opponent’s name. The song is a passed down tradition, and is not only a song that gets the energy up and inspires adrenaline for competition, but reminded Roberts of all her experiences with her former teammates and the song. She said, “This year, as a senior, [the song] just reminded me of freshman year, when all the seniors in that class would sing it and it just brought back really good memories of being with their teammates and dancing in the locker room.” Men’s and women’s basketball also have similar rituals, with the men’s basketball team playing to “Dixieland Delight” by Alabama after every league win and women’s basketball queuing “Hey Ma” by Cam’ron after every victory. “It’s been tradition for longer than I’ve been at the school,” described men’s basketball captain Neville Lee ’22 via text. “It’s a good way to celebrate and is a motivator for us to win league games.” Women’s volleyball also carries on a few go-to songs as explained by senior Camille Donald ’22: “Some of our go-to songs are ‘Game Time’ by Flo Rida and ‘Feel Good’ by Gorillaz but what we can always rely on to get the team in a great attitude is hearing ‘Hey Brother’ by Aviicii.” As songs get passed down year by year, new ones additionally earn their rite of passage. For women’s lacrosse, the team recently took a dance class with a team alum during spring break and have now incorporated their lesson into the locker room with new favorites such as Elvis Crespo’s “Suavemente.” “Our team just kind of adopts different songs like ‘Suavemente’ [every year], just the ones that we’re kind of feeling and are popular at the moment and just songs that connect us all and get us all hype,” noted Roberts.
Even if teams don’t necessarily have particular songs that are program staples, the curation of their warm-up playlist is a process in itself that brings the team together. For women’s basketball, senior captain Sarah Gillooly ’22 described via text messaging how a captain usually starts off with creating the playlist, but it soon becomes a collaborative group activity. Roberts additionally spoke about a shared team Spotify, while men’s tennis senior captain Mathew Yee ’22 mentioned that his team also has a team playlist, but one of the sophomores has taken over duties. Men’s basketball also has one clear point man, Zev Katz ’23, for their playlist, a big responsibility, but Lee assured Katz was up for the job: “Our guy for the music is usually Zev. He has great music taste and knows how to get us hyped. We have song requests, but we usually look to Zev to get us going.”
Just as the pregame playlist for a night out is essential to loosen up and galvanize excitement, the music before any game is important for athletes to lock in to the right mentality before walking onto the court. “It honestly sets the tone for the match,” elaborated Yee. “Having a good warm up is essential for a good match; the music helps create the right mood and a good mindset.” Gillooly commented on similar meaningful aspects: “I think playlists are very important for game day preparation because they get everyone excited and pumped up for the game and bring the team together which is important before playing a different team. Music allows our team to get ready and focused for the game while also being relaxed and having fun!” Lee further spoke on how imperative music is for allowing athletes to focus both individually and as a team: “I have read studies where music has helped individual athletic performance when it comes to running or lifting because it gets you more focused. In terms of its impacts on a group, I think it creates a sense of unity off the court by bonding together and preparing us to have that same chemistry during play.”
Some of my favorite songs (songs that I have adopted into my own going out pregame setlists) I have stolen from my team’s pre-game playlists, and everytime I come across “Sicko Mode,” “Touch the Sky” or now “Suavemente,” I think back to those moments of dancing, screaming and warming up with my teammates. Those playlists prepared me to beat 22nd-ranked Ithaca College my freshman year to help us reach the playoffs for the first time in four years, and they also braced me for losing against Ithaca this year. Most of all, these playlists have become another anchor to tie me to my school and team pride. So when I am out at a bar next year post-grad, I will always think of running out onto the field when I hear “Goosebumps,” and I will always remember which Liberty League schools rhyme with “I don’t f–ck with you.”