For athletes, superstitions are part of their success

Athletes share various routines they swear by

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Junior Elle Lewis described the superstitions she carried out before every soccer match.

Ellie Schnur, Reporter

This school is well-regarded, in part, for its numerous successful athletic programs. Adorning the Welch Activity Center walls, State championship banners display only a portion of the achievements of athletic teams over the years. Already this school year, the women’s soccer team finished as the State runner-up and the football team captured the Class 5A State title, and there may be more to come.

There is no doubt that excellence is present in its athletic programs, and for that reason, sports teams have attained a strong and impressive reputation. 

To forge a victorious team, its members must bond and learn how to play cohesively with one another. The components of success might include loyalty, effort, intensity and perhaps even love. Some athletes, however, attribute their triumphs to the careful execution of some interesting rituals and routines.

Superstitions, if you will.

Mary Kate Bedich, a junior on the women’s lacrosse team, said, “I have to put my right cleat on first, and I have to have two braids.”

Freshman Tommy Leaman, a football player, said, “I always have my music full volume and I show up in slides.” 

Lia Burnell, a senior on the women’s softball team, adds, “Before I go up to the plate or step onto the field, I do the sign of the cross.” 

And Lilah Dausman, a freshman on the women’s soccer team, has a very specific pre-game routine. “I put on my left sock, then right sock, then right cleat, then left cleat every time I play soccer. If I don’t do this routine, I feel like I won’t play to my best ability.” 

Each of these athletes swears by distinct superstitions and associates them with achieving success. As strange or silly as it seems, there is an importance behind these superstitions that cannot be defined or removed. To some, these may seem crazy.

But there’s always crazier.

Elle Lewis, a junior on the women’s soccer team, is especially and intensely superstitious. She chews “three pieces of gum per game — one for warm up, one for first half, and one for second half.” She also explains, “I have to redo or fix my ponytail after warm up or before I go out on the field. During halftime, I have to have some kind of energy gel or chews.”

However, Lewis does not stop there. “Once we found out we were going to be playing Brebeuf (Jesuit) in Sectional, I was super nervous and couldn’t fall asleep. So I moved to the ground. Then I told myself I would continue sleeping on the ground until soccer season ended.” 

Mr. John O’Hara ‘02 has a special perspective on these athletes’ superstitious tendencies. As both the men’s and women’s track and field coach and the AP/IB Psychology teacher, his knowledge of human behavior presents a scientific explanation for both the origin of superstitions and the reasons for continuing to uphold them as routine. He said, “Superstitions stem from how we learn, specifically operant conditioning. Operant conditioning is the type of learning in which behaviors are emitted to earn rewards or avoid punishments. Athletes will often wear the same socks or utilize the same routines.

“Usually this stems from doing things you know have no real impact on reality because that one time you did it, the team won.”

Maybe you find Lewis and the other superstitious athletes fanatical. Maybe you find the idea of it weird. Or maybe you can relate. Whether you agree or not, it’s unlikely that those with superstitions will soon let them go. For many, they provide the glorious key to success.