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Wednesday, August 12

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Locker Room DJs: What Princeton teams are listening to

The Daily Princetonian spoke with members of 10 varsity athletic teams about their music selection during games, warmups, practices, and in the locker room. Whether for a sport played on a field, on a court, on the ice, or in the water, each team follows its own unique traditions and must-play songs.

If you want to listen along to some of the teams’ favorite songs, you can find a Spotify playlist containing 30 songs here.

Let’s take a look at the music that keeps the Tigers at the top of their game.

Football

Most Played Genres: Hip-Hop, EDM, and Rock

With over 100 players listed on its roster, the football team has to be far more strategic about their music selection — attempting to coordinate all of the different opinions is no small task. The ‘Prince’ spoke with fifth-year captain Jake Strain and Director of Football Creative Content Jared Montano.

While Montano processes all music requests for the locker room, practice, and warm ups for the team, Strain and junior Jeremiah Tyler create the playlists with the help of the other players. 

Strain explained that he’s always had a pull toward the “aux” and that throughout his junior and senior years, he would try to mix it up from the top hits, including some rock songs, older rap, and even country (though he did receive some heat for the latter).

As a captain, though, his role has changed.

“It’s on the captain’s shoulders to pick clean songs,” Strain explained. “It isn’t hard to accommodate the people who are against the music, but one or two guys have a very particular old-fashioned taste in music, and it’s hard to please them.”

Despite this, Montano said that Strain and Tyler do a great job of accommodating different music styles.

When it comes to the team’s favorite song this year, Montano explained “Baianá” by Bakermat has played in the locker room after every game and served as the team’s pump-up song. 

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Women’s Volleyball

Most Played Genre: Pop

Women’s volleyball won the Ivy League championship this year and advanced to the NCAA tournament. Can their success be attributed to the team’s talent or to the players’ choice of music? Perhaps both.

Sophomore Julie Schner took on the role of DJ for the team during her first year. At the beginning of every season, each player gets appointed to a particular job or a role; she volunteered to take on the music — something she about which she quickly became passionate.

The team begins the season with members sending in a song or two that they want to be on the playlist.

Schner explained that while the team leans more toward pop songs and top hits, the players retain their own unique traditions.

“We also have a lot of songs that have been like in our programming for forever,” she explained. “Those traditions definitely stay with us.”

One of the most important traditions started with a random song called “Electric Church” that nobody on the team knew except one person.

“It’s still like our biggest pregame warm up. We have a full choreographed routine to it that we do for every single home game. We also have a ‘Sweet Caroline’ remix that we have a dance to, so they are definitely our two biggest team favorites,” Schner said.

Men’s and women’s volleyball also have a unique connection. The women’s team runs the men’s games — controlling announcements, music, and helping chase balls — and vice versa. Schner was reflecting on the process of choosing music when she remembered how strict the men’s games can get.

“I remember their coach told us that if they are losing, he wants no lyrics, just intense — like Game-of-Thrones-type vibes — and then if they’re winning, it’s something that goes with the pace of the game,” she said.

When they aren’t on the court, the women’s volleyball team likes to let loose with “Woman” by Kesha, and one of their biggest inside jokes is related to the song “Girls Like You” by Maroon 5.

“Someone brought one of those mini-floating disco balls, and we turn the lights off in our locker room,” Schner explained. The team always manages to stay hyped up before games.

While they’re serious on the court and bring home championships for the Tiger family, the women’s volleyball uses music to channel their fun, exciting side.

Men’s Volleyball

Most Played Genres: Rap and EDM

While the men’s volleyball team isn’t in season just yet, the players are always thinking about their playlists. The ‘Prince’ sat down with junior Niko Gjaja to discuss the team’s traditions, rules, and inside jokes.

When Gjaja sat down in Frist Campus Center, he seemed defeated. It had started pouring rain just a few minutes before, he didn’t have an umbrella, and the table we were sitting at was lopsided. The second we started talking about the team, however, his demeanor transformed.

This explained everything to know about the tight-knit community that is men’s volleyball. 

“We are fortunate enough to have a smaller team,” Gjaja explained. “Because we spend a lot of time together, people will find a song, and it becomes popular between us.”

Unlike the fall sport teams, men’s volleyball takes advantage of its preseason and captain’s practices in the fall, which act as an incubator for the pregame playlist.

“When it comes to making the playlist, a couple upperclassmen sit down and with everyone’s input select the music, and from there it’s just trial and error,” he said. “We are pretty strict about no [profanity], but you can’t always catch everything, so we’ve definitely had a few awkward mishaps in the early season game warmups.”

While the team enjoys the songs that they are playing, the coaches aren’t always on the same boat.

“Our coach hates Jimmy Buffett and Taylor Swift, so we have to make sure we don’t play those, but sometimes we do like poking at him as much as we can,” Gjaja explained.

Gjaja touched on making a collaborative playlist with all of the players on the team on Spotify and how that’s changed the dynamic of picking songs.

While they have changed former traditions, such as switching from playing “Wagon Wheel” by Darius Rucker to playing “Heaven” by Los Lonely Boys after home matches, Gjaja feels like transforming those traditions has not only made their connection within their team stronger but also their connection with the broader Princeton community. 

Women’s Water Polo

Most Played Genre: Rap

On land and in the water, women’s water polo keeps the good vibes in their music choices. The ‘Prince’ sat down with junior Maddie Pendolino to discuss the team’s music tastes.

“At some point I had this huge speaker that we would take to the street, take to the locker room, and take to close away games,” Pendolino explained while reflecting on how she began helping with music selection for the team. “So once I got that, I was always connected to it.”

Pendolino explained that while water polo listens to a range of music, they always listen to “Ayy Ladies” by Travis Porter, “Outta Your Mind” by Lil Jon, and “Lemon (Drake Remix)” by N.E.R.D. and Rihanna before a game.

“We just like — well, basic rap,” Pendolino explained. 

The players are a bit strategic about this music, though. Pendolino explained that they usually play their “pump-up” songs toward the end of their time in the locker room, right before they’re about to get warmed up.

“When we are at DeNunzio [Pool], it’s definitely the best because we are all in one room, and we have a giant speaker, and we’re all just dancing right before games,” Pendolino told us. “I love that.”

Similarly, they are strategic about the type of music that they play depending on their opponent. They will have more intense EDM style music when they play big teams, such as their rival Michigan. They also have a specific playlist for halftime and quarter breaks of games.

While some teams have extremely strict rules about music and others have very few rules, the water polo team falls right in the middle.

“If we’re in the locker room, we definitely just play whatever, but if we’re at a different pool or on the pool deck, it’s definitely PG-13,” Pendolino said, laughing. “You know, have some class.”

As a graduate of a Catholic high school, Pendolino says she’s had some practice using Spotify to find the clean versions of songs to play when needed.

Along with their efforts to find clean versions of popular rap songs, water polo is also starting to build traditions within their team. They recently got control of the music that plays at their home games, so they’re taking advantage of this moment to start something that could last longer than just their time at the University.

Men’s Soccer

Most Played Genres: Pop, Latin

The ‘Prince’ was fortunate enough to talk with senior Cole Morokhovich, who went into depth about serving as the soccer team’s DJ.

“Normally, the job falls on the senior class of the team, and we make a playlist with the input of the rest of the team,” Morokhovich said. “If anyone really likes a song, we try to fit it in.”

This process is a lot easier for the team, though, because their coaches have strict rules about what they can and cannot play.” As Morokhovich put it, They are not allowed any music with profanity alluding to “certain acts.”

Morokhovich explained that the team enjoys listening to upbeat songs to get them ready for the games, and they have recently moved to playing more Latin music in the past two years.

“A lot of the guys on the team relate to that kind of music when playing,” Morokhovich said. “You can even find a few guys dancing before the game as well with that kind of music, which is just fun.”

The locker room music is constantly changing for the team. Whoever arrives first to the locker room will connect their cell phones to the speakers.

“Anything goes in the locker room. It could be an old school sing-a-long song or something more contemporary,” Morokhovich said.

While each player does their own thing before games — whether sitting alone with earbuds in or getting rowdy in a group —  they also try to use these moments to connect as a team.

Occasionally, players complain about the music choices. Cole explained that while there can be anxiety around connecting your phone for the first time, most people just become comfortable with it.

The men’s soccer team also has their own little tradition of playing “Bad” by David Guetta and Showtek after every win, a tradition that has secured the bond between current and former members of the program.

“I remember even doing it my freshman year, and I don’t know when it started, but it’s just always been a fun tradition,” Morokhovich said.

Men’s Hockey

Most Played Genres: Hip-Hop/Rap, EDM

Men’s ice hockey is in a unique position: it has a DJ on the roster. Colin Tonge, also known as DJ CTE, is a recognized DJ on Princeton’s campus. He has worked formals, eating club events, lawnparties, and the Orange and Black Ball. Tonge is a junior at Princeton, but his love for music started far before he came to campus.

Tonge has been into music since he was just a child. Growing up in a “musical” family, he had the opportunity to learn how to play the piano, guitar, and drums. He eventually switched to only guitar and has been playing it for 10 years now.

Prior to coming to Princeton, Tonge made the decision to take a gap year and knew that he needed to find a hobby outside of hockey. He found his older brother’s turntable at his house and decided to pick it up.

“My musical background helped me transition to understanding how to use the software, how music is built,” Tonge said, attempting to use his hands to show how the turntable works. “You have to know what to play and when and what works with what background stuff. I just thought it was cool, fun, and refreshing.”

He played with the turntable in his free time for roughly a year before the club that he was working at had an emergency with their DJ and needed someone to play. Tonge, who frequently arrived to work early to practice on the club’s equipment, stepped up.

He played at the club a couple more times and picked up different events before coming to Princeton and bringing all of his equipment, both hockey and DJ, with him.

When the hockey team found out that he could play, Tonge said that they started providing him with gigs at eating clubs, which sprouted into him playing at almost every eating club, lawnparties, formals, and more.

Aside from just the men’s hockey team, Tonge helped create playlists for the women’s soccer team at Princeton, as well as the hockey teams at Quinnipiac and Union. 

Tonge records all of his mixes live, so if he makes a mistake, he has to restart. He downloads the recording, uploads it to a USB drive, and that’s how the teams get their music for games.

Tonge had back surgery over the summer and is not playing with the team this season, so he wasn’t completely sure what music the team was playing in the locker room.

“Really, any time that an aux [cord] is involved, whoever gets there first will put music on. It’s not anything crazy, either hip-hop, rap, or country. Sometimes someone’s feeling old rock but it ranges as far as what guys listen to before games,” he explained.

Outside of the locker room is where he gets to have his fun, though. 

“I usually ask for suggestions and make sure everybody is happy with the song selections. After I make [the warm-up playlist], I play it for the guys and get their approval. It’s not for one person and I want everyone to enjoy it,” Tonge said. “But once I send it in, I don’t get to change it.”

If you’ve been to a hockey game, you’ve probably noticed their lights. The lights and effects are programmed to the music, so they became a lot more strict about changing the music.

Even if this wasn’t the case, Colin explained that it only takes him about 30 minutes to make a warm-up playlist for a team.

“Well, if you don’t mess up, it’s only 20.”

Field Hockey

Most Played Genre: Pop

Field hockey made it to the NCAA National Championship this year and had the beats flowing until the very end. The ‘Prince’ sat down with junior Marge Lynch to discuss the music that has pushed them so far.

“We have a speaker in our locker room, and one day when I was a freshman I just connected to it, and I stayed on because I play a lot of throwback songs that everyone knows,” Marge told the ‘Prince'. “So people just let me keep going, and here we are.”

While at practice, field hockey plays a wide range of music. Marge explained that half of their songs are “like old Justin Bieber songs” while the other half contains more modern pop music. They try to play any music that is upbeat for practices. 

In the locker room, though, the team has more opportunities to have fun.

“I’ll just put on the ‘Big Booty’ playlist while we are in the locker room before we head out because it’s easy and also gets everyone pumped up.”

They also have traditions, though. In fact, it dates so far back that Lynch didn’t even really know what the song was called.

“[We have] a tradition on our team called the ‘Squeeze,’ where we put this Scottish or Irish lyrical song, and we all just kind of squeeze each other’s hands, and it gets us focused,” Marge explained. “We play it before every single game.”

To show how important that tradition is to the team, the one time they couldn’t connect to the internet when they wanted to play the song, the entire team just hummed the song with one another.

Lynch says she does a lot to try to cater to the desires and needs for every player. If any member of the team requests a song to her, she almost always puts it on the playlist. 

Lynch doesn’t do the pregame warm-up music, however. Instead, a senior who had an injury and couldn’t play on the team had the opportunity to stay on as a team manager and control the music before the game.

Their playlist before games is always changing, too. 

“Before bigger games I always try to get people up and moving with fun remixes. It’s so different while we are in our own space at home, though, so we want to try to bring our own space on the road.”

Lynch says that she thinks her biggest downfall is getting too excited about certain songs and playing them over and over again.

Even with the repeated songs, they still managed to make it all the way to the NCAA championship game.

Women’s Lacrosse

Most Played Genre: Rap/Hip-Hop or Pop

The ‘Prince’ spoke with two members of the women’s lacrosse team. Seniors Maddie Staczek and Katie Reilly help with the music selection and shared their experiences and the importance of dancing to their team.

“Usually anyone can take control of the speaker in the locker room, but once someone starts playing a lot of music that others enjoy they get asked to stay in control of the speaker,” Staczek explained in an email to the ‘Prince’.  “I typically select music that I think would fit the mood of the locker room, whether that is intense rap/hip-hop music at some points or more [dance] oriented music at others.”

Both Staczek and Reilly emphasized not only how much the team likes to dance, but also how the music changes based on the mood. Despite this, they still have the music integral to the program’s traditions.

“We do have a few fun traditions when it comes to pre-game music in season. We have a lot of girls on the team that love to dance and before every game, we will have girls perform dances to a select few songs. It’s become a ritual before every game no matter if we are home or away,” Staczek explained.

“We always play a final song after all of the dancing in order to get into the right mindset before we head out onto the field, and we all close our eyes and meditate as the song plays. The song is ‘Your Hand in Mine’ from the popular show Friday Night Lights.”

Oftentimes, the songs that they “perform” are songs that have been passed down throughout the history of the program.

Much like many other teams, Reilly emphasized that the team is flexible about playing their own preferred music in the locker room. When in public, such as during practices or games, however, the team always ensure that the music options are appropriate.

Men’s and Women’s Swim and Dive

Most Played Genre: EDM, Pop, Hip-Hop/Rap

Men’s and women’s swim and dive have a wide range of opinions and voices to attempt to accommodate to which is why they have a strategy around selecting music. Junior Courtney Tseng had the chance to talk with the ‘Prince’ over email to discuss this process.

“We have ‘committees’ on the team with a specific function, and a couple of teammates and I are on the ‘sunshine’ committee. This means that we bring the spirit on the pool deck and in practice, either with competition, cheers, or music. Our team has a collaborative playlist of music that we jam with — with over 300 songs! — and we usually play that during meets, practices, and lift,” Tseng explained.

Having such a wide range allows Tseng and other members of the “Sunshine” committee to ensure that every “floater” has their tastes represented.

“[The playlist] could go from solid ’80s songs like Queen and Hall and Oats to EDM remixes,” Tseng said, discussing the variety of music that they play. “Our team’s favorite song usually changes from year to year, but I would have to say that ‘Mr. Brightside’ has always been a consistent one.”

Because they have over 300 songs on their playlist, they never change it up based on different events or practice days. Instead, it’s a game of surprises whenever they press play.

Women’s basketball

Most Played Genre: Rap, Pop

Women’s basketball went through a transition this season after losing their previous head coach and adding their new head coach Carla Berube. While this adjustment may have been initially difficult for the program, they still had their music on and off the court as a constant to keep them together.

Sophomore Lexi Weger sat down with the ‘Prince’ to talk about the team’s music and also the adjustment this season.

“I mean, for games the seniors will send out a message asking what we want for warm up music and it typically consists of all rap and a little bit of pop,” Weger explained, referencing the process for determining pregame warm-up music. Once a game-time playlist gets made, it remains the playlist for the rest of the season.

Weger said that while they could change it, the team is extremely superstitious. The members try to ensure that everything, including the music, stays consistent.

When it comes to practices, they don’t actually play music. They were able to get around this, though, because they practice in Jadwin Gymnasium and oftentimes can hear music played in the weight room.

“Sometimes we’ll sing along but it’s never intentional,” Lexi said. “But I honestly think that in the locker room is the most fun because we have such an eclectic group of people who have different music tastes.”

In the locker room, the team plays anything from a Disney playlist to Top Hits or simply segments from specific rap songs.

Unlike many other teams, the women’s basketball team has a themed day as a new tradition that they are trying to build: Country Fridays.

“It’s so different, and I really love that,” Weger said, laughing as she explained how most people at Princeton don’t listen to country music, so they take advantage of their one day a week to blast their country playlist.

There are a few players on the team from the Midwest, and one day, they just started playing it on the speakers. It started with basic country songs with a bit more beats to them like Carrie Underwood — and from there, they simply added songs to the queue.

Weger explained that in situations like Country Fridays, they actually don’t have any pushback. Even the coaches join in with the fun from time to time.

Previously, the rules about music were more strict, but Lexi said that, this year, the coaches will put on rap songs, country songs, and Disney music while the team is stretching.

“Our head coach has three young kids, so she’s big into Moana,” Weger said. “And, I mean, we all know the words.”

With their season already underway, I guess we'll just have to hang on and see “How Far [They’ll] Go.”

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