In my work as the national Voice Consultant to the ASA (Amateur Swimming Association) I find that nearly every teacher/coach has some sort of problem with their voice as a direct result of shouting. Many have had to have surgery to remove nodules on their vocal cords before they had the benefit of the Loud&Clear! preventer training course.
It is not only in the world of swimming that this problem occurs. Only last week I held a meeting with the director of a major Leicester based company who have 2,000 employees. The majority work on the factory floor and need to communicate against extremely noisy machinery – I know because I heard it! They are concerned for their staff and the efficiency of their operation so they are setting up a series of Loud&Clear! workshops to help them.
In these sort of conditions we get into the habit of forcing the vocal cords and straining the voice to make ourselves heard but unfortunately this does not work. The tension that results in the neck and throat makes the voice harsh and the message unclear. It also weakens the vocal cords and causes them to become tired more quickly. If abuse continues over a period of time then damage can result and the voice can be permanently lost – not ideal if you need it to work.
It is interesting to note that in the world of sport everyone thinks about the fitness of their body but very few think about the fitness of their voice, which is strange, as it is by using your voice that you earn a living!
So, how do you make sure you’ve got it right? Well, you need basic knowledge of how the voice works.
Breathing - this is absolutely vital in making all this happen and it is also important to understand the difference between shouting and projecting. So, breathe deeply (control requires a technical method of breathing which can’t be explained here) and remember to use the amplification system in your head to strengthen the voice naturally.
Exercise for Clarity - perhaps the most obvious assistance you can give to the voice is to release the jaw to let the sound out. Remember that we need to lip read as well as listen to speech. The muscles of the mouth (lips and tongue) need exercise to do their job well. Be aware of clarity – complete all words (this is much harder than you think) as poor precision in speech will result in poor understanding, especially in a noisy environment.
Use your Full Pitch Range - we pick out key words much more when the vocal notes are interesting. If you master all of this you still need to remember to use your facial expression to reflect all of the meaning and your body language to show you are confident, welcoming and enthusiastic.
Warm-up - finally, would you try to run a 100 metres or play a rugby match without warming up your muscles? No, of course not. Well, if you are using your voice training or coaching for several hours you need to do exactly the same thing for your voice before you start.
Here is a simple version of a warm-up:
Remember, during the working day, cut down on caffeine, hot spicy foods and drink lots of water at room temperature.
Do these simple things and your voice will become a well oiled tool in your working toolkit.
Don’t forget - VOICE MATTERS!
Priscilla is the National Voice Consultant to the Amateur Swimming Association for 12 years and has delivered 100’s of CPD accredited ‘Voice Protection & Projection Workshops’ to teachers and coaches throughout the UK.