Superstition plays a large part of Pioneer athletes’ routines

 

Athletes live in a world where the endless repetition of a specific skill collides with high levels of stress and pressure in game situations. Usually the more experienced or skilled an individual is, the less stress he or she will experience with their area of expertise. Not so with athletes.

Senior Alex Steinmetz hits a return during a match in the spring of 2012. Steinmetz has many special quirks he must do before a match like bouncing the ball seven times, once between the legs, before his first serve. (Photo courtesy of Andy Smith)

No matter how many times they shoot a free throw, run a 400 meter dash or hit a baseball in practice, there is always something different about the actual game that threatens to deter the athlete’s focus and ability to perform.

Out of this need for stability and consistency within the high-pressure environment of a game comes superstition and ritual.

Many athletes would claim to be very superstitious.  Others would claim to not believe in luck or chance. While some approach the word “superstition” with varying levels of caution, the truth is that every athlete has routines in place to help them focus, relax and be at their best.

“Everything gets put on right to left,” freshman baseball pitcher Dillon Stertzbach said. “Right glove before the left glove. Right sock before the left sock. Right shoe before the left shoe. And the belt is always last.”

He even gets  meticulous and ritual in something as simple as warm ups.

“I will never warm up to pitch with a game ball,” Sterzbach said. “I always make sure the first pitch with the game ball is the first pitch of the game.”

Baseball players seem to be notorious for superstitions, particularly pitchers.

“After I throw every pitch, I need to adjust my hat in some way. Every time,” sophomore pitcher Tyler Whitlatch said.

For the Pioneers baseball team, the whole team shares in certain superstitions.

“Some baseball players rub the bill of their hat when the count is two balls and two strikes with two outs, until the pitch is thrown,” Whitlatch said. “After the pitch is thrown, you take off the hat with the button facing down and shake the hat.”

As silly as it sounds, players on the baseball team swear that this ritual greatly increases your chances of getting a hit.

[pullquote]”Some baseball players rub the bill of their hat when the count is two balls and two strikes with two outs, until the pitch is thrown,” Whitlatch said. “After the pitch is thrown, you take off the hat with the button facing down and shake the hat.”[/pullquote]

Wacky rituals and beliefs are not just limited to baseball, however.

“In high school all four years I would eat Velveeta Mac and Cheese at 4:00 p.m. before games,” sophomore basketball guard Michael Shull said.

Junior basketball players Isiah Elliot and Che Richardson, who were also basketball teammates in high school, have done some type of special handshake before every game for the past four years.

Superstitious behavior stretches beyond the diamond or the hardwood to the cross-country course as well.

“A lot of female runners wear their hair the same way for race day,” junior cross-country runner Katie King said. “Also when we ran at Akron this year I ran a good race and felt relaxed while listening to “Losing” by Tenth Avenue North the whole race so now this season I listen to it before races to relax and try to sing it as I run.”

Senior tennis player Alex Steinmetz isn’t immune to the superstitious bug either; he has a specific routine he follows for every match he plays.

“Before my first serve I bounce the ball seven times, once between my legs and six times in front, Steinmetz said. “Before my second serve I bound the ball three times.”

He said the routine helps keep him focused during the match.

“We get three balls for a tennis match. I always use the same ball for my first serve every point and the same ball for my second serve every point,” Steinmetz said.

These routines and superstitions may seem strange to some, but to the athletes who invent them and hold to them, it mentally and physically focuses them in a personal way that pre-game speeches can fail to do.

So while not all athletes may be superstitious, many are at least a-little-sititous.

Cory Veldhuizen is a contributing writer for The Aviso AVW.

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