Rituals not just for athletes

By By Amanda Vinner Features Editor

Senior Emily Shapiro waits expectantly in the girls’ locker room before a soccer game. She receives a single piece of paper, and now she is ready to play.
Whether it is wearing a special bracelet, having team dinners, dressing up or listening to a specific mix of songs before a game, many sports teams at CHS have special rituals that they do before every game. These rituals are rooted in the desire for a way to increase the chances of success.
“Before every game our coach gives us a pep talk and an inspirational paper that we all keep,” Shapiro said. “We also do dance moves while we stretch on the field.”
Girls soccer uses other words to keep their focus before a game.
“We believe in our core  values, so as we leave the team room for our  games, everyone slaps a copy of our cory values that are taped onto of the door for good luck,” senior captain Rachel Marincola said.
Although everyone has his or her own personal routines, not everyone believes that they hold any real value.
“Rod Strickland, a former player for the Wizards, used to eat a hot dog before every game and would sometimes get sick,” said local psychologist Patrick Mitchell, who coached lacrosse at The Heights School for 10 years. “That can’t be good.”
While not everyone’s routines actually help them perform better, some people still believe they are important for other reasons.
“The dancing might not actually help us stretch, but it’s tradition,” Shapiro said.
Though following traditions may not completely change the result of a game, some people think that the feeling of mental preparedness that these rituals give athletes is worthwhile and can actually help increase performance level.
“Listening to music in the locker room before hockey games gets us all pumped up and ready for the game,” junior ice hockey player Derek Gritz said. “It’s important to be ready mentally as well as physically to play well.”
“In sports, mental preparation may be most important as the difficulty of the task increases,” Mitchell said. “Bouncing back from mistakes requires more mental toughness than anything else.
According to Mitchell, mental preparation can be applied not only to athletes, but to students as well. It may be worthwhile for students to invest some time in mentally preparing themselves for tests with routines other than simply studying.
Healthy routines, superstitions and other repetitive behaviors such as deep breathing and listening to music…probably relate to keeping athletes and [even students] taking tests calm, confident and focused.”