Sports Rituals: Community and Superstitions


Courtesy of Noah Hong

BSM Dance Team huddles before halftime performance at football game.

Superstitions and pregame rituals play a role in many athletes ability to perform at a high level. They calm nerves and anxiety and help clear minds. From pregame meals to music, and other quirky things, athletes have come up with the ability to make what some think may be meaningless, a big deal.

When pondering the word superstition, senior on the golf team Samantha Steensland related superstition with stress, but also tranquility. Rituals can have an influence on your life because if your head isn’t in the right place it makes things more difficult. “Anxiety or like calming down my nerves are what first come to mind when I hear the word superstition. I think it’s because of my superstitions to help calm down my anxiety especially before a big game,” Steensland said.

Pre-game rituals and superstitions can affect how athletes play. Samantha Steensland has many superstitions that affect how she plays and where her head is before matches or games. “I don’t take a single practice swing when I hit a drive but then every time I hit an iron, I’ll do a practice swing only one and I always have at least eight balls in my bag because the most balls I’ve ever lost has been eight.,” Steensland said.

Sophomore on the dance team, Ellie Shideman, agrees with Steensland and believes completing rituals are detrimental to how she plays. She always wears a sock on her right foot under her jazz shoes, has a handshake she completes with certain people, and she puts Aquaphor on the roof of her mouth. “I feel like if I don’t do [my superstitions], then I’m going to perform badly or something bad is going to happen,” Shideman said.

Pregame rituals aren’t always set in stone too, as the season goes on they can be affected by different things. Junior hockey player Gavin Reed’s superstitions can switch depending on the day or how he plays. “If I play well then I do the same thing game after game, but if I play bad I have to switch it up,” Reed said.

Athletes should try and find ways to avoid getting in their head. In the end the athletic ability isn’t affected. Shideman can do her best with or without her superstition, but she still does her rituals to keep her head in the game. “I think the actual superstition doesn’t do anything in terms of making me a better athlete or competitor, but I do believe that it’s just a mind game. However, these mental blocks can impact my game just as much as my ability,” Shideman said.