Junior guard Madison Ristovski sat in the Michigan women’s basketball team locker room with her attention directed toward the music emitting from her headphones. It was Feb. 16 of her freshman year, and her team was about to take on Michigan State. She needed a way to close her mind from the distractions.
Ristovski relaxed to the words of Zac Brown Band and Taylor Swift. Closer to tip-off, she found comfort in gospel and motivational music that spoke of overcoming difficult situations.
So when it was time to burst through the tunnel, the Wolverines’ readiness was rewarded with the cheers of 5,800 fans — an attendance record that season — and the blaring of the Michigan Marching Band.
The support paid off, and Michigan closed a 12-point deficit to defeat the Spartans 70-69 and end a 12-game losing streak that had dated back six years.
The game could’ve easily slipped away, but the atmosphere at Crisler Center — which Ristovski recalled as one of the most unbelievable she’s seen — ensured it wouldn’t happen. The crowd’s involvement, driven by the beat of a drum and the timbre of trombones, allowed the Wolverines to collect themselves, maintain their focus and earn the long-awaited win.
At a panel on music and sports last Wednesday, Michigan Marching Band Director John Pasquale said that if he’s not keeping fans engaged during a game, they quickly lose interest. The arena then loses energy and athletes lose motivation, altering the outcome of the game.
Without that exhilarating aura, which Ristovski credits as the reason her team was able to come together against Michigan State, the night might’ve had an entirely different ending.
“I had never felt that experience at Crisler,” Ristovski said. “I can honestly say that the energy coming from the music and hearing ‘The Victors’ song really does help you play.”
Aside from “The Victors,” music has continued to contribute to the success of the team. In fact, it has helped Michigan’s communication on the court during noisy situations. Occasionally during practice, the coaches will play loud music to simulate in-game scenarios, like in the game against the Spartans.
When transitioning to different parts of practice, music is used to relax players and keep them tuned in. It has become an exciting routine and, according to assistant coach Megan Duffy, having no music at all would be abnormal.
Ristovski prefers country music but has recently opened up to rap and hip-hop. During practices or individual workouts, she uses this music as a source for motivation.
Music has always played a positive role in Ristovski’s life, and it may have helped her become Michigan’s single-season record holder in three-point percentage (.466) last year.
“That’s one thing that keeps you sane when you’re going,” Ristovski said. “Having positive music and positive vibes limits you from being frustrated. If you mess up on a drill, you don’t get so down on yourself since you’re focused on what you’re working on.”
So when the time comes to play in front of a crowded Crisler Center again next month, there will be plenty of distractions: coaches, teammates, fans, family and friends.
But all it will take to put Ristovski at ease is a pair of headphones. Then it will be time to face the music and the fans to pull off another big win.