Singing vs Basketball


How does one train for Basketball Season? I won’t pretend to know all the details, but I read Sacred Hoops  – a fantastic book by the way and I used to play pick up games at UCLA, so I’ll venture to say a few things about BBall and how it relates to singing.


There is physical training – weights, ballet (for flexibility and grace and catching air), diet. warming up before scrimmage.  Then there’s the mental work – watching other teams play, talking and looking at the chalkboard, going over strategy and plays. There is spiritual and emotional work – pep talks and tough talks from the coaches, meditation  – yes, Phil Jackson had his teams meditate, never touching a basketball on some days!

No one goes into a champion season out of shape… they’ve played game after game all season. And before going onto the court they have warmed up in the locker room gym. Some players stay warm all game, riding the bike rather than sitting on the bench between game time minutes (Dennis Rodman).

If a great player has a cold shot (isn’t making baskets) does that mean the game is over? NO! That’s the time to play defense, make a screen, pass to your team mates - use other skills to have a winning game.

So, how do you get in shape as an artist?   It’s the SAME!

Mind, body, spirit. Singing is athletic – you need to be working your voice out regularly. And one must warm up before doing the challenging work out. Break apart a song, a workout – pick one thing you need to improve – the game of music is made up of many parts – work on them in layers. The voice, the interpretation, the emotional delivery, the dynamics, the performance… each layer getting its own attention and direction building on the last layer.

Listen to great singers, watch live performances, see a show… don’t sing. LISTEN. And learn. Get instruction, an outside eye. Take it from the privacy of a practice room to the world. Before doing a full show, perform your songs in little out the way spots one – three songs at a time. Discover what works and what doesn’t with the audience. Record and Video your performance. Playback is invaluable.

Do you audition? Don’t think you can just “jump” into that game without a bunch of run throughs. Better to build your repertoire, train with an instructor, a coach, work with a pianist, sing at open mics – any opportunity to do your “audition” many times before you’re in front of the casting agents.

So how does a singer have a winning game? First, you have a GREAT TIME!  You need to be having goosebumps, surprised by moments and when something isn’t working, pull out every other something. You can’t sing powerfully today? Be emotional, be gentle and see how much you can caress a nuanced performance, play with the rhythm and dynamics… you can have your BEST GAME on an “off” day.

So here is to you, your creativity, practice and a lifetime of winning games! …and losing ones, because they make us learn and appreciate ourselves, our gifts, our humility and talents. If we won every time, we’d just be bored. It’s the overcoming that builds our spirit.

I was so privileged to go to the most recent US Open’s Women’s Finals where I witness Serena Williams losing to herself. Her opponent (the obstacle placed in front of you so that you can win, overcome and evolve. ie, your opponent – any challenge is actually rooting for you to WIN! – except in the literal sense of this game, the opposing tennis player clearly wants to win. Get it? a challenge is there to HELP you not STOP you!

Well, what I witnessed was Serena making unforced errors and serving 110 mph serves! remarkable. And when the energy was so low and it really looked like it wasn’t her day, she kept fighting, her perception, her own attitude, reactions… working to play a better game point by point, moment to moment. She rallied and even to the last, it was a struggle, a battle, a personal battle and she WON! She overcame herself and her opponent and won the finals. It was so inspiring, a life lesson.

OH! one more relation between basketball & singing. The HIGH NOTES! when you anticipate hitting the high notes, one usually stops all the good technique that works. But the high note is like a layup… the MOST IMPORTANT moment is the “step and a half”. The PREP is what gets you the basket. The moments BEFORE the high note is what sets you up for ease and success or not “making it”.