How Superstitious Beliefs Encourage Athletes


Junior varsity tennis player Brayden White tying his left shoe first

All athletes desire to win; they crave the rush of adrenaline that comes with victory. For some athletes, victory relies heavily on superstitious habits, things they always do before an event. The comfort of routine makes many feel more secure going into a game, match or meet.

“I wear my hat and arm sleeve and I always tie my left shoe first,” said varsity tennis player junior Brayden White. “It definitely helps and I don’t care what anyone else thinks.”

Most superstitions are a coping mechanism for stress, feeling a lack of control and frustration. This feeling is something that most athletes are used to. Superstitious habits can help athletes feel like they are back in control by setting a pre-event routine.

“I have a bandana my grandma wore when she was going through chemo attached to my swim bag. It was given to me by my grandpa per her request. I bring it with me behind the blocks before every race. I feel like she’s here watching me, and each time I forget it I tend to do bad,” said senior varsity swimmer Griffin Ayotte. “It’s probably just a mental thing, but thinking that she’s there watching me race really helps me perform at my best.”

Ayotte has been bringing his grandma’s bandanna to meets for about three years, “ever since [he] got really good at swimming.”

Many of these habits are extremely personal; athletes often do them subconsciously, without thinking. Freshman junior varsity (JV) volleyball player Carlee Pietrzak explained, “I bounce the ball four times every time before I serve,” adding, “I don’t think I do it on purpose.”

These superstitions vary from lucky socks to specific pre-game music to eating certain foods or avoiding superstitious signs of bad luck like black cats and broken mirrors.

“I listen to my favorite song of the week and I always eat pasta and chicken tenders with ketchup the night before a game,” said sophomore varsity soccer player Jett Neubacher. 

A majority of athletes have personal habits and routines before every game. Many of their habits aren’t thought of as superstitious, but rather personal preferences. They are things athletes do for “good luck.”

Many athletes have been practicing their superstitions since they started playing their sport; they’ve never played without them.

“I’ve done them ever since I started playing tennis,” White commented.

Whether these traditions are a mental ploy or a supernatural phenomenon is yet to be discovered. However, Neubacher shined some light on this debate. “They work because they make me happy, which is helpful [during] a game.” This confidence is extremely important when playing a sport because going into a game without confidence can be detrimental.

Superstitions have been around since the dawn of time. From walking under a ladder to knocking on wood, these traditions have subconsciously become a part of daily life for many athletes.