How to Cheer Safely

Top Tips on preventing voice loss at school swimming/athletics carnivals.

I have lost count of the number of times a school-aged singer has arrived for their after-school lesson with so much hoarseness following their sports carnival that we have had to entirely abandon their singing during that lesson.  

The most common type of cheering that we tend to adopt in Australia is rough, compressed, low-pitched and loud.  It doesn’t take long for some form of phonotrauma to occur.  Adults also experience this from cheering at live music or sporting events.

“Phonotrauma, also known as vocal abuse, is defined as trauma to the laryngeal mechanism (vocal folds) as the result of vocal behaviours that include yelling, screaming, throat-clearing, and sound produced during play.” – Janet H. Middendorf

You may wonder whether this injury matters.  It’s temporary, right?  Sure…maybe…hopefully.  But we don’t willfully sprain an ankle or slam our finger in the car door with the confidence that human soft tissue bounces back perfectly…so why do we think it’s ok to willfully damage our voices?  And in particular, a voice that it is growing and changing daily.

Rather than discourage cheering altogether (after all – the school actively encourages this esprit de corps), there are some simple ways that the activity can be managed safely. 

1. Develop a “safe cheer”.  Try a higher-pitched “Woo-Woo” that is a bit sing-songy and starts in the belly rather than the throat.  It will be louder anyway and much kinder to the voice.

2. Drink plenty of water during the event to keep the voice lubricated.  This will reduce the wear and tear and fatigue overall.

3. Remember that the school’s sports captains have been asked to coach your sporting house to cheer madly.  Save your “safe cheer” for when it really counts and mime instead when they just want you to practice.

Of course, there are other tips that might help, but these three thoughts are more than enough for our young singers to take along to this week’s swimming carnival.

Image by Morgan Basham (Unsplash) 

Middendorf reference: https://doi.org/10.1044/leader.FTR4.12152007.14

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