Inside UVic sports: Superstition in sports

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For centuries, athletes have dedicated their lives to sports training. What many people don’t realize is that this includes their mental game as well. Legendary baseball player Yogi Berra once said, “Baseball is 90 per cent mental, and the other half is physical.” Superstitions, traditions and rituals have worked their way into sports and show no signs of stopping.

From titanium lace necklaces and pump-up tunes to tattoos and pre-game snacks, athletes all around the world adhere to all kinds of weird pre-game routines. These rituals have evolved over time and can be specific to certain sports, teams or players.

Many Major League Baseball pitchers refuse to touch the baseline on their way to and from the dugout. No one really knows why, though some think it stems from a respect for the pristine quality of the lines before the game begins.

A perfect example of a sport ritual is the playoff beard. From late April to June, the sports channels feature more goatees, chops and moustaches than you see during lumberjack week.

Some hockey players tape their sticks the same way every game or put their skates on before their shin pads, but they certainly don’t say the word “shutout” during a shutout.

Despite their tough exteriors, most athletes are very fickle individuals. From a young age, athletes find out what works and what doesn’t. They figure out what food to eat on game nights and what lucky undershirt has the best winning percentage. If an athlete remembers taking 12th Avenue before winning the big game, you will likely see them on the same road again.

As an athlete myself, I can tell you the importance of a good pre-game routine. Not only does it prepare you to play, it also makes you feel the confidence of the last time it worked. The confidence a good superstition can provide could make the difference between a win and a loss.

Vikes swimmer Ella Dalling says that, although there may not be many team-wide superstitions in swimming, there are definitely things people do before every race. For example, Dalling slaps her arms and legs before a race as many swimmers do, to keep her muscles loose. She also spits water in her goggles before every race. Sometimes there doesn’t have to be a reason why. It just has to work.

Even fans get in on the action. If your favourite team lost a heartbreaker in the finals, you certainly aren’t going to that bar to watch the game again. If your team has a better record when you listen to the American broadcast, then you will be tuning into that network when your team goes to the championships. You may even have to wear the same socks for two weeks if your team is on a roll.

As we embark on another school sports season, we will inevitably run into all kinds of weird superstitions and traditions. As players and fans, we are creatures of habit and in order to keep peace of mind, we stick to those habits even if they are bizarre.

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