Step to the Beat: How Tennessee is Using Music To Change Gamedays and Preparation

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    Tennessee football

    The Vol players at Tennessee’s 2022 training camp in Knoxville. Photo by Ric Butler/RTI

    Tennessee is constantly looking into how to turn good details into great details around the program. And when those spots are identified, they are acted upon.

    One of the aspects that Tennessee is trying to go from good to great in is music.

    Now, this isn’t talking about what songs the players want to hear while playing, although we will circle back to that topic here soon. Tennessee has been working in the offseason to perfect the way they use music – whether it be during training camp, during game warm-ups, or even the night before a game in order to wind down and focus.

    The whole process started with a challenge from head coach Josh Heupel.

    “Coach Heup challenged the player development team to come up with something that involves music,” said Tennessee assistant director of player development Travis Taylor. “The way the music is played throughout the facility, the way it impacted the guys from a move standpoint. And we thought about Vol Vibes. We thought, let’s create something that can impact these guys from an audio and video standpoint, to promote energy for the game.”

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    Taylor routinely worked with Dr. Joe Whitney, Tennessee’s director of mental training to figure out the best steps to enhance the Vols’ audio department. The two collaborated in finding the right balance of giving energy without also being a distraction.

    “We want to have the right training environment where energy is optimum for the task at hand,” Whitney said in the VFL Films production. “Then we start looking at things we were already doing, and then strategically, can we do them a little bit better? And music became one of those things. Relaxation the night before games became another way to do that. So my role was just to work with Travis and look at those little things.”

    For Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker, music is something that is woven into each aspect of gameday. From getting ready for the game to being on the field, Hooker uses music to help get his mind right.

    “Really kind of my approach to the game,” Hooker said about where music impacts his day. “The build-up, the anticipation, different moments to where we’re riding in for the Vol Walk and being amped up to kind of me mellowing down right before we run out of the T. Then at the end of the game, we get a win, it’s a dance party in the locker room. So it definitely plays a huge part.”

    Music does have a big impact on Hooker off the field, too. During SEC Media Days in July, Hooker spoke about the rivalry that he has with wide receiver Cedric Tillman on the best rap artists in the game.

    “He’s kind of like an old soul,” Hooker said about Tillman with a grin at SEC Media Days. “So he likes Kayne [West] and stuff like that. And I’m saying, ‘Come on, bro.’”

    Ric Butler is a Knoxville based sports media personality who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since 2017. Most recently, he served as the lead writer for the website of a local radio station. Ric also helped create and host a daily radio show called “The Blitz." Ric’s passion for sports, smooth vocal, and infectious personality have made him popular with both his peers and Vol Nation. Originally from Dallas, Ric didn’t grow up riding horses to school. But he did dream of the big city lights. When not chasing down the latest Tennessee story, Ric can be found watching the WWE, often attempting their moves in an embarrassing fashion.