Rituals for a Victory

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Rituals for a Victory

source: waltracowich.com

source: waltracowich.com

source: waltracowich.com

Hailee Lamoreaux, Sports Editor

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From the outside looking in it may seem odd and strange; however in all sports, superstitions and rituals are widespread and a common practice. From athletes who perform certain rituals before each game to those who consider certain items to be lucky or unlucky. A superstition is created when an athlete has a particularly good (or bad) performance and they attempt to find a logical explanation behind it. They will notice things like what they ate, what they wore, or even something as simple as the way they laced their shoes. If they have a great performance they will attempt to recreate said superstition before every competition.

So, why do athletes have such unique or unusual superstitions, but more importantly why do athletes continue to do things that we consider bizarre? According to Brady Mantle, teacher and baseball coach, “Winning is hard, so we chalk it up to be something else besides effort and execution. Like Justin Verlander [starting pitcher for the Astros], he has to do things in sets of three. Three strikes, when he goes to the bathroom it has to be the third stall, tap his toe three times…” A win is a win, no matter the circumstance or no matter what we have to do to obtain that. When you consider what it takes for an athlete to develop the skill and ability to dominate a given sport, it’s not hard to see why any ritual or superstition could develop. And really, there truly is no difference between a ritual and a physical movement pattern. Learning new skills requires new patterns of muscle memory, agility, and coordination. “… your body remembers what situation you are in when you do a certain routine and muscle memory handles the rest,” says Mauro Selis, Junior. It may not affect the sport directly, but it does impact the belief of the player, so maybe there is more to the game that athletes are passionate about.

There truly is a power to these superstitions. A man by the name of Damisch Stoberock researched the performance benefits of these superstitions and tried identifying their underlying psychological mechanisms. What he found suggests that these “rituals” benefit and are produced by changes in the athlete’s self-efficiency, which activates a boost in an athlete’s confidence in successful completion of the upcoming tasks; this in turn improves their individual performance.

Ritual or not, an athlete’s performance is solely based off of their mental state and they fully understand that certain actions don’t really affect the outcome of a game. But once athletes get the idea that these actions might affect their performance, they may choose to do them anyway, because there’s little downside. At the end of the day, there is no cost in doing these things, because no matter what, an athlete craves a win. So despite these irrational superstitions, there isn’t a do or don’t.