Superstitions and Team Rituals: Athletes’ Edition

By Khrystyna Tsybulya.

Like walking under a ladder, a black cat crossing your path, breaking a mirror, or, even, the expression “knock on wood,” athletes have superstitions, too. When “athlete superstition” comes to mind, your mind might go right to a pair of lucky socks that athletes might wear to every basketball game, or you might know that football coach that chews on turf before each game. But, in reality, that might not always be the case. Athletes have fallen into routines and superstitions that they believe will put them in a better position to win every game or meet.

Some famous athletes are known for their jersey number. LeBron James, for example, is a big contender. Still to the big “no sports” fans, those not interested in sports (even if it is the NBA Finals, and the Golden Warriors blow a 3-1 lead), when the number twenty-three comes to mind, the name LeBron James should flash in neon signs in your head.

“Your jersey number is a huge deal. It’s the number that will follow you around for the rest of your sports season,” said Alex Velgush, a ninth grader who plays tennis and basketball, and runs track. “If you don’t like your number, it’s going to feel weirder than it would if your jersey was your lucky number.”

Agreeing with Velgush, Verina Baskhron, a junior varsity basketball player, has had personal experience.

“This year, I was one of the last people to pick my jersey number. I can’t stand odd numbers. I hate them so much because I feel like they are really unlucky, but odd numbers were the only jersey numbers left in my size,” said Baskhron. “Anyways, I got stuck with the number 43 and that is absolutely not my lucky number. My lucky numbers are either 2 or 22, and now I feel like I am jinxed and will be bad at basketball for the rest of the season.”

Going along with Baskhron’s superstitions, Olga Vasylynuk has her own superstition.

“I have practice goggles, which are old, beat-up goggles that fog up within the first 5 yards of practice. Then I also have my “lucky goggles,” which obviously are lucky and magical and mysterious, but I only use them for my big races,” said Vasylynuk, a varsity swimmer. “Of course, one day I happened to be running late and had absolutely no clue where I put those goggles. That was probably the race that I had done my worst in, and now I try to never forget my lucky goggles again.”

Not all athletes have superstitions or personal, superstitious stories, like Baskhron and Vasylynuk. Some have their own team rituals or handshakes.

For example, Sabrina Kotovets said that she and her team would have to do their handshake before any soccer game, even if they were running late.

“Sometimes we were really late to the game and, even then, my team and I would have to do the team ritual running onto the field. It was corny, but when I didn’t do it, I felt like something was missing the whole game, and I wasn’t as good as I could have been.”

Many other athletes, like Velgush, also have their own handshakes.

“After every point we scored, my tennis partner and I would always have to do our own little handshake that we made up. After a while, it started to feel more like a good luck charm for the next set, instead of a good job feeling for scoring points.”

Kotovets had previously said that superstitions and team rituals come in different ways, some you may not have discovered yet, and some may never be discovered. “For athletes, a little superstitious reasoning is the added edge they need to get into the zone.”