Win the warmup: a guide to pregame pump-up music


There are many reasons to be excited for the upcoming high school basketball season that officially begins today. For starters, there are ample storylines to follow: new coaches at Cottage Grove, a strong returning group for the Elkton girls, the North Douglas boys trying to take another step forward (read about all these and more in next week’s winter sports preview!).

But the actual games are not what this is about; this is about something far more important. This is about the most exciting element of any high school basketball game: the pregame pump up music.

The 20 minutes before any given game are a real joy. An excited announcer welcomes the home team and they run on the court and someone hits play on some random playlist for the game. And as someone who spend a lot of time in high school gyms, I have grown fond of those random playlists. But I want more from them.

From gym to gym and team to team, it is a real mixed bag on any given night and they certainly are not all good. A good pump up mix has the ability to set the tone for the upcoming game and tell the crowd about who this team is. But instead of a well-crafted playlist, some mixes are being forgotten entirely and reduced to a bland Spotify mix.

I will accept this no more. I want teams to play the hits and be creative and have fun and make a great mix. Is that too much to ask? Maybe? I’m unsure. (This would be a good time to note that the Cottage Grove girls soccer team has the best pregame mix of all the area teams and I don’t think it’s close. I would describe their mix as a blend of today’s hits with a splash of 2006. They bring the fire every single time.)

To make matters easier, I have decided to give my unsolicited advice on how to make the ideal pregame pump-up mix. If you follow these easy steps, you, too, could be like the Cottage Grove girls soccer team.

Keep it fun

What really shouldn’t be lost in a good playlist is that this is a game and it is fun which means it is okay to keep things light. Every song does not need to be a reminder that this is the most important moment of your life and that everything depends on this game. The reality is that after some random non-conference midweek game, there will probably still be homework to do and things will be fine. So maybe ease off the overplayed clichés such as “’Till I Collapse”, “Remember the Name” and “The Final Countdown.”

The 80s were a long time ago

According to analysis by The New York Times, the music that has the biggest impact on an individual is what they were listening to at around the age of 13 or 14. What this means is that that the individuals on the court, who were born this century, were most likely influenced by a combination of artists like Drake, Nicki Minaj and Ariana Grande. So if a parent is the one deciding the playlist, just reflect and think about if someone who was born in 2003 would want to hear “Welcome to the Jungle” before the game. Maybe they would, but I bet you can find something better.

Mix in a wildcard

Have a song (or songs!) that no one else would have. It’s easy to play just the top hits of today or some really aggressive EDM song, but find that gem that is unexpected and fun to sing along to.

Add in some Rihanna

Every single playlist in the world can be made better with at least one Rihanna song on it. This is just advice for life, really.

Someone’s mom is at the game

While the ideal playlist would most likely just be “Mo Bamba” on repeat for approximately five hours, some songs are just not crowd-friendly and that’s just a reality that you have to deal with. Don’t fight it, just find another song and move on; it’s going to be okay.

Just do you

Don’t settle for playing “Happy” by Pharrell or “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake but find a range of songs that make you happy. If you can’t win the game, at least win the warmup music.

And if any of that is too hard, never fear, just pass me the aux.


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