From Practical to Weird: Supersitions in Sports

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If you talk to any athlete at Bates, you’ll find that each has their own unique pre-competition routine. While many of these actions are practical and are done out of necessity, others may seem odd and nonsensical. People in all walks of life hold personal superstitions. However, athletes may be the most fanatical of them all.

For most athletes, these superstitions seem to develop out of small habits: what they eat, the music they listen to, and the way they prepare their gear before a game. Then, what once was an unmentionable routine begins to take on a new significance, something that may even border on spiritual.

Even as athletes recognize the futility of these actions, they often continue to follow these customs until they are either forcibly broken, or when there is a significant change in the athlete’s life, such as the transition from high school to collegiate sports. Yet, it would be erroneous to believe that personal superstitions remain unchanged over the years.

Three-time All-American Katherine Cook ’18, a member of both the cross country and track teams, says that her pre-race routine and superstitions are always changing, though some have remained the same.

Before a race, Cook notes that she always has to have at least one coffee, drink water with several dissolved electrolyte tablets, and eat a banana an hour before her race “every single time.” Additionally, she makes sure to add a downward-dog stretch to the usual warm up routine and wish everyone at the start line good luck.

“Sometimes, I think of some kind of mantra before running. Depending on what I think my biggest struggle at the moment is, if I’m feeling extra nervous about the race, my mantra might be ‘courage,’ which I would repeat over and over before racing.”

While many of these current habits may seem practical and useful for settling nerves, she explains they have not always been this way.

“One of my earliest traditions was that I had to wear a pair of bright-green, leopard-print spandex under my uniform, and I did that every single [race]. I was on a relay, and my coach said ‘you can’t wear those, because you don’t match,’ and I basically panicked. [I said to myself] ‘How am I going to run without these bright green leopard print spandex…’ That was my first time diverging from my superstitions.”

Similarly, Brianna Karboski ’21, a member of both the cross country and ice hockey teams, says that she feels compelled to re-tape her hockey stick before every game, whether it needs it or not.

“Before a hockey game, I always re-do the tape on my hockey stick, because I think that I play better and handle the puck better with fresh tape. The tape job has to be perfect. If it’s not, then I get super anxious.”

For her, this simple superstition has continued for years: “I got serious about re-taping my hockey stick probably about three hockey seasons ago. I would practice handling a ball with my hockey stick, and I just liked doing it with new tape rather than old tape.”

No matter how strange or impractical these habits may be, each holds a special significance to the person who practices them: championships won, personal accomplishments, and mental preparedness, to name a few. There may be little to no science backing the validity of these actions; however, what matters most is that people believe in them and, in turn, themselves. This sense of comfort can be invaluable to anyone.

 

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