The Foley artist
Foley artists are the unsung heroes of cinematography. These individuals that work behind the scenes on the film set to heighten the audio experience. It’s these guys and girls make you feel the film. But what can we learn from them as coaches?
The art of Foley
Foley is the art of reproducing the sound effects required to tell the story of the film. Foley artists seek to make even the smallest of noises as powerful and immersive as possible. As coaches, I think we undervalue how much our auditory contributions can contribute the ambience of movement. If we don’t think about how we can integrate the principles of foley in our coaching, then we’re missing a big trick.
If a picture is paints a thousand words, a good sound effect paints a million. How can we use sound to get across the intent of the exercise that we’re coaching?
Here are some staples that I use:
- Explosion – to emphasise maximal rate of force development
- Loud clap – to emphasise a stiff ground contact
- Silence – to emphasise a compliant ground contact (i.e. force absorption)
However, at the risk of sounding like your other half… It wasn’t what you said, it was how you said it… It’s important we realise that how we deliver the ‘noise’ to our athletes is every bit as important as the content.
The science of sound
Sound can be characterised by four features. We can play with each of these to change the intent with which movement is executed.
Loud helps drive ‘maximal’ intent – think sympathetic activation – but this isn’t always what we want. Sounds and cues delivered quietly may be appropriate if a technical focus is warranted.
Quick sounds drive quick movements and short contact times – think rapid clapping for a quick ankling drill. Naturally, quicker sounds are likely to be ideal for stiffness and early rate of force development training. Slower sounds may be the order of the day if you’re seeking to emphasise higher forces or lengthen ground contacts. For example, a long puuuuuusssshhh in a deadlift or an acceleration drive.
Let’s take the example of the opera singer. The low-pitched tenor is booming, forceful and powerful. The high-pitched mezzo-soprano is soft, graceful and elegant. I’m not asking you to be a vocal gymnast, but appreciate how subtle differences can affect the outcome of movement for your athlete.
Think of this as the ‘quality’ of the sound. Clean, distinct sounds are always what we’re after; these provide greater clarity for the intent of movement.
Set the scene
Remember that it’s our job to create the scene for the athlete to perform in. Unlike on the film set, we don’t have a team of hundreds to help us do this. It’s our responsibility. As coaches, we tend to be well versed in scripting and directing, but how well do we use foley to really immerse the athlete in our training picture?