Sports Rituals: How do Athletes Prepare?


Jason Chen, Editor-in-Chief

Athletes aspire for the brightest lights on the biggest stages. Playing in front of sold out crowds, the noise deafening, is an experience unlike anything else in life.  

Athletes simply don’t walk into their games, hoping to perform at an elite level. They prepare, often in unique ways. 

Basketball great Michael Jordan always wore his college UNC shorts under his NBA attire. While his longer NBA shorts helped revolutionize the clothing style of the NBA, he believed having the shorts on helped him win six NBA championships.  

Like Jordan, pro-golfer Tiger Woods, paid homage to his alma mater Stanford by always wearing a red shirt when competing on Sundays, as Stanford’s school color is red. 

Sports wouldn’t be sports without superstitions, and CB South athletes are no strangers to these strange phenomena.  

“I have to listen to the same exact song before every swim meet. I listened to it once before and I swam really well after,” junior swimmer Allison D’Amico said. The song she described: “We’re All in this Together” from High School Musical. 

D’Amico isn’t the only one with a ritual. Junior basketball player, Lauren Spear, discussed the rituals she and her teammates have.

“We stand after basketball practice in a circle. We have specific spots and for the rest of the year we don’t change our spot,” Spear said. “And before games we jam out to songs. We have a huge speaker on the bus.” 

Owen Moelter, a track runner, said that rituals help athletes “prepare mentally and physically.” 

The formula for success is different for all athletes. The will to win is irresistible and athletes will do whatever it takes to reach success. Once they discover that success, they want to replicate how they got it. 

Reaching that success requires getting focused first. 

“It [routine] helps me mentally think about the swim race. It’s effective in the sense that it gets me focused,” Allison D’Amico said.  

“It gets you in the mood and pumped up to play,” Lauren Spear added. 

As an athlete, performing at a high-level stems from being tough mentally. Much responsibility falls on the individual athletes to prepare themselves accordingly before they play their sports. 

Other times, having a pre-game routine is the result of anxiety. If an athlete does a certain routine before a game, repeating it again becomes essential to their schedule. If they don’t do it, they will feel anxious throughout their game. 

Sports are filled with elements beyond your control. Rituals, lucky charms, and superstitions give you little things you can control,” said Thomas Newmark, MD, president of the International Society of Sports Psychiatrists. 

It is being able to control the uncontrollable. These routines allow athletes to stay in control mentally.  

It’s something you can do that is familiar and soothing that can help you control anxiety … and to that end, maybe perform better,” Newmark adds. 

When it comes to preparing for their own sport, athletes may do different things. However, the reason they do them is universal: it’s a mentality. 

Regardless of the sport, if it’s basketball, soccer, swimming, or track, countless athletes have their own rituals and superstitions they believe in. From an athlete’s perspective, they don’t consider it unusual. They consider it a part of their identity in their sport. 

Athletes’ routines might vary from person to person. But that’s the beauty of it: It’s personalized. 

These routines before sports, albeit sometimes crazy to outsiders, can actually reflect the personality of the player. Whatever it might be, they make their sport more interesting.  

“I know someone who kisses the track before a race,” Owen Moelter said. 

Allison D’Amico says she’s heard of someone who “eats the same meal for breakfast and lunch before a game.” 

She’s not the only one.

“Someone on my soccer team always ate a Snickers bar before every game,” Lauren Spear says. 

Even if they don’t do these routines themselves, all athletes know of someone else who does. From eating habits, to music, or kissing the ground, this is all perfectly normal for athletes.  

The crazier, the better. 

Regardless of how crazy pre-game routines can be, or what superstitions athletes believe in, the routines seem to elevate the play of student athletes. If it helps them, they stick with it. 

But for athletes who currently might not have a pre-game routine, here’s a tip of advice: make one. 

“Start a routine. It makes the sport fun,” Lauren Spear says.