Superstitions in Sports

Illustration by Madison Cohen

Superstitions, which are beliefs and traditions that are considered irrational, can be seen in everyday life but especially in the lives of athletes.

Someone might brush their hair to the right for good luck or may believe in a lucky number. These traditions are vital in the world of sports, and some athletes refuse to step away from their rituals.

The two-time NBA champion Ray Allen is perhaps the best example of a superstitious athlete. Allen would follow the same schedule for every game day. According to EXACT Sports, Allen would take a nap from 11:30 to 1 and then eat chicken and rice at 2:30. He would follow this by shaving his head and walking on the court at 3:30. Finally, he would start his pregame warmup three hours early. Allen’s game day activities were locked in place with little wiggle room.

Superstitions can be small, such as a pregame meal, or they can be midgame habits, like for Amanda Bennett, a senior defender on the NAU women’s soccer team.

“Every single time I mess up on the field, I tighten my hair. I have to,” Bennett said. “Before I take a corner kick or set piece, I have to push my shin guards up.”

Audiences can catch a glimpse of athletic superstitions if they look closely.

However there are, of course, the people who do not believe in superstitions, such as sophomore midfielder Rylee Mitchell on NAU’s soccer team.

“I don’t have any superstitions at all,” Mitchell said. “I just go for it.”

For some athletes, this is the preferred approach — not having rituals can make life easier and relieve stress. Women’s soccer head coach Kylie Louw knows that some of her coaching staff have superstitions, like wearing certain types of socks or not shaving, but she does not do anything out of the ordinary on game days.

“We have to put that in our favor,” Louw said. “We can’t leave it up to the gods.”

Superstitions may seem silly to some people, but in reality, they can be quite important to the mental side of sports. Games can often be chaotic and unpredictable, which can be overwhelming for some. Superstitions give athletes something that they can control before a game begins.

While some athletes have abnormal superstitions, others have simple rituals. Take NAU club hockey player Zach Friday, who has to put on his gear in the same order, at the same the time before every game.

Whether or not superstitions are pet peeves of the gods, they can sometimes be interesting to observe during the game.

International soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo has seven rituals that dictate his game day activities. This includes who he sits with and what foot touches the pitch first.

Superstitions are a part of everyday life and are even more common among athletes. They give players a feeling of control they lack in the heat of competition and ways to calm down before a crowd starts cheering.