Article by: Aayush Gupta
Photographs by: Ana Natividad
Sporting events induce stress. It’s human nature to get nervous before a big game or event. In order to dismiss that feeling, many athletes usually conduct some form of a pre-game ritual to provide a sense of calming familiarity. This ritual varies for each and every person; it could be some sort of a lucky token, a specific piece of equipment to use, or even something as abstract as having to eat a particular item before the game. This is true for even the most famous of athletes: basketball superstar Michael Jordan used to wear his North Carolina shorts underneath his Chicago Bulls shorts every game, and Tiger Woods always wears a red polo shirt on Sundays.
This begs the question: do pre-game rituals actually work? In short, yes. Studies have shown that athletes who participate in a ritual before major sporting events tend to perform better. Athletes believe that performing their ritual will enhance their performance, and thus, tend to have more confidence in their abilities, counteracting the nervousness they previously experienced. The effect of these pre-game rituals is more psychological, rather than physical. The state of mind of a player before the game greatly affects his or her performance during the game. Pre-game rituals provide a peace of mind, making athletes more relaxed and allowing them to concentrate on the upcoming challenge. With the first season IASAS competition coming up, athletes throughout ISM use these pre-game rituals in order to give a top notch performance.
Junior Ranbir M., cross country varsity team member, believes that the best way to ensure a good performance is to stay energized before a race or event. In preparation for an upcoming event, Ranbir claims that the best way to stay calm, relaxed, and energized is to try to sleep as early as possible, which ensures a proper rest and allows for maximum performance the next day. Another ritual that Ranbir believes has a significant impact on his performance is “drinking this running drink called Nuun the day before.” Recommended by his coach, this drink keeps electrolytes stable the next day. Ranbir explains that these rituals “help boost [his] mentality”, and furthermore, claims that “running is 90% mental and 10% physical”.
Junior Caleb O., member of the varsity volleyball team, describes an interesting ritual that the entire squad takes part in. Before every game, the team performs a sort of meditation, by focusing on “feeling the way [their] feet feel on the ground,” and “focusing on the top of our head and to stand up tall.” Caleb explains that this allows them to maintain their concentration during stressful and intense games. He further clarifies that this ritual has been implemented after “the other IASAS teams got inside [their] heads last year.” This ritual allows them to remain calm and collected, so they are not influenced by the pressure. Caleb further describes the chant that the team uses before every game. “The captain yells ‘we love our bread, we love our butter, but most of all…’ and we all yell ‘we love each other,’” says Caleb. He explains that this adds a sense of unity to the team, which he believes is one of the most important factors in playing a volleyball game.
The varsity football team also has a similar ritual. Senior Soham M. explains that before every game, the players shake hands to remind themselves that they are a tight-knit group, and to increase solidarity amongst themselves. Soham further commented that some players do a round of pushups to “get their blood flowing and get pumped up,” making them more alert and energised for the coming match.
Although the thought of pre-game rituals may seem slightly odd at first, they do have a major influence on the player’s psyche. Oftentimes, nervousness or stress regarding a match leads to a poorer performance. However, pre-game rituals allow athletes to regain their confidence, whether it is due to a lucky charm, or even just by encouraging their teammates.