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5 Things Vocalists Can Learn from Professional Athletes

Woman stretching in the sunset

For many years, the arts have been jealous of the sports industry because of how professional athletes train – says Dr Dan.

Professional level sports like football, swimming and basketball all attract large viewing audiences. With high-level viewing comes high-level funding; from both government and private sectors.

Some of the monies raised by professional sports have been directed to research in a bid to achieve better performance results. While the arts may not garner the same level of funding, we can glean from our professional athletic compatriots understandings about how the body works.

If you want to get the very best out of your singing voice, you might like to consider the following five areas proven by sports science to improve your performance:

1. Treat your body like a temple

High-performance athletes understand that their performance is 100% reliant on the overall well-being of their body. Late nights, poor diet and loose lifestyle habits (e.g. tobacco and alcohol) all detract from the body’s capacity to achieve all that the athlete might require of it.

As singers, we are no different. Our instrument (our body) can only perform to its optimum when we treat it like a temple. Garbage in, garbage out. Fortunately, the opposite is also true.

2. Be disciplined

This is a game of discipline and delayed gratification.

One cannot treat their body like a temple five days a week and then abuse it the other two days. No, this is a game of discipline and delayed gratification.

We often hear Olympians commenting that their celebrations, after their final race, will include a beer and a burger, followed by a nice ‘sleep-in.’ Why? Because they have disciplined themselves to go without these things for the past months (and years) in the lead-up to their Olympic dream.

Dare I ask the question: what do you need to go without to achieve your vocal dreams?

3. Warm ups & cool downs

You cannot go without your vocal warm ups and cool downs. Some of you are already rolling your eyes at me because you know that this point is a familiar soapbox for most singing teachers.

Yes, we do go on about it, but that is because so few of us are disciplined enough to do them! Sports science has known for decades (perhaps longer) that a poorly warmed-up up body is at a high risk of injury. Furthermore, the poorly prepared body will suffer from higher levels of fatigue as well as slower recovery rates.

If you want to get the very best out of your singing voice every time you sing, warm ups and cool downs are a MUST.

4. Check your attitude

Learn to be satisfied with your current achievements

Your attitude will determine your altitude! A bit cliché, but it is true! Every professional athlete knows that if they lose the mental game, they may as well pack up their bat and ball and go home.

How many of us as singers expend mental energy berating ourselves and our performance? Artists can find themselves ruled by perfectionism.

Read this carefully: THERE IS NO ROOM FOR PERFECTIONISM IN ART! We all want to be excellent at what we do, but we should not be ruled by an attitude that accepts nothing less than perfection.

Instead, learn to be satisfied with your current achievements as you continue to pursue further improvement.

5. Continuous improvement

The journey of self-improvement never ends. Become a life-long learner. I once heard the captain of the Australian cricket team say that every time he plays the game he learns something new. What a fabulous attitude! None of us has arrived. There will always be something new to learn. Surely that is half the fun!

It is a funny thing, the longer I am in this ‘singing industry’ thing, the more I realise how much I do not know. That is exciting because that just means there is still so much to discover and learn.

Singers can learn so much from professional athletes. We may not be headed for the Olympics or the SuperBowl half time show, but every time we step onto stage we need to know that our voice will be able to perform in a reliable manner.


Daniel RobinsonDr Dan is a freelance artist and educator. He is the principal Singing Voice Specialist for Djarts and presents workshops to singers across Australia and abroad. He has served as National Vice President (2009–11) and National Secretary for the Australian National Association of Teachers of Singing (2006–11) and currently sits on the national board of the Australian Voice Association. Over the past two decades, while maintaining his performance career, Daniel has instructed thousands of voices. This vast experience enables Daniel to effortlessly work with voices of all skill levels: beginners to professionals. You can join Dr Dan every Tuesday on his YouTube Channel: Dr Dan’s Voice Essentials. Dr Dan is also the creator of 7 Days to a Better Voice: a FREE one-week technical detox for your voice.