Members of the Wolverine football team work year-round to keep
in top physical shape and avoid injuries.
But what about the fans? Can they avoid injuries when cheering
on the Wolverines? They can, say the experts at U-M's Vocal Health
Center (VHC), who recommend some healthy vocal habits for football
The first step toward producing a strong voice at the game is to
be well hydrated. That means drinking plenty of water before, during
and after the game. And it doesn't mean alcoholic beverages or those
that contain caffeine.
Just like the athletes and the marching band, fans can begin warming
up before they even get to the stadium. While driving to the parking
lot or walking to Michigan Stadium, let out some lip or tongue trills.
Just let the lips or tongue flutter as though blowing bubbles under
water or making a motorboat sound, using a gentle voice. Once you
find your section, row and seat number, you can impress those around
you by doing some slow glides up and down the scale with the sounds
of mmmmm, ooooooo, or aaaaaaaa. To get in the true Wolverine spirit,
run the scale with: "Gooooooooooo Blue!"
U-M experts suggest that you "fill the tank" before using your
voice. Take in a good breath, they say, and use plenty of airflow.
Let a slight sensation of breath escape with the voice when you
Be aware of your own voice and the effect of the noisy surroundings
on it. It's easy to lose track of how loudly you are talking when
there is a lot of background noise. Don't try to make yourself heard
above the noise in the Big House. Depend on how your voice feels
in a noisy environment, not how it sounds, experts say. Don't force
your voice; allow it to be comfortably loud but not strained.
If the action on the field is fast and furious, give your voice
a break now and then. Try whistling or clapping instead of yelling.
Once you've led the team to victory, don't forget a cool-down for
your voice. Treat it gently by doing some soft humming on the way
home. "The Victors" will work well for this, but keep the volume
on medium. Once home, rest your voice for the next 24 hours. Don't
yell at the kids, the dog, your spouse or a rival team on television.
If you lost control of this vocal health program at the game and
are experiencing some vocal distress, experts recommend soothing
lozenges. But avoid those with eucalyptus, menthol or peppermint.
Butter rum Lifesavers and Werther's are ideal, they say.
One Wolverine fan who suffered professionally by abusing his voice
while cheering on the team is the Rev. Tom Firestone, pastor at
St. Mary's Student Parish in Ann Arbor. "I yell plenty," he says.
"I used to lose myself at games."
Yelling at Saturday football games led to trouble when he tried
to preach homilies at Sunday Mass. The strain on his voice led him
to Leslie Guinn at the VHC.
Now Firestone does vocal exercises to strengthen his voice even
while driving. "It works," he says. "It keeps you more in touch
So the former high school and Xavier University defensive back
didn't have to relinquish cheering the Wolverines at home and away
games to keep his job. He is successful at both because he uses
the plan for maintaining a healthy voice.
VHC is headed by Dr. Norman D. Hogikyan, surgeon and associate
professor of otolaryngology. Working with Hogikyan is Marc Haxer,
a senior speech and language pathologist, and Guinn, professor emeritus
of music, a professional bass baritone and prize-winning recording
artist who has collaborated with otolaryngologists in the rehabilitation
of injured voices for the past 25 years.
The center offers comprehensive care for the voice and voice disorders.
Clients include internationally renowned performers, athletic coaches,
teachers, clergy, corporate executives, salespeople, attorneys,
politicians, radio and television professionals, actors, telephone
operators and public speakers.