Sports and Superstition

Madeline Cohen Latin knows about game day. Latin knows about the score of the soccer game, and who won the basketball game, and what track and field runner is heading down to state. But so much goes into each sport before news of the end result can be spread among the hallways, from late afterschool practices to weekend conditioning to mental preparation. And probably least known of all, a big part of game day at Latin is superstition.    Some rituals are started with a foundation of sound logic, only becoming a superstition with time. “If I don’t wear pre-wrap, I don’t think I’ll have a good game,” said junior soccer player Annika Johnson. “It’s that foam wrap that people use a lot, and I use it every game for headbands. My hair used to come loose and it would get in my eyes so I used it, but now it’s become a habit more than anything.” Other superstitions are based more on tradition, like the one of the boys’ volleyball team. “Before every game, we go to Potash and get Hawaiian sweet bread. Everyone stands around and just grabs it,” said Junior Jacob Cummis.    Others are the classic– backed by little logic but faith in that they work—superstitions. Three-sport senior athlete Keegan Barone’s got plenty. In field hockey, she says, “I had these shin guards that dug into my ankles and I refused to wear different ones because I had such a great previous season, so I suffered through the pain for two years. When defending a corner, I would always have to be the last one to speak—I would say, ‘we got this,’ and I had to knock on my head with my right hand.” And those are just a few among many superstitions she has for field hockey. In basketball, Keegan’s superstitions have changed every year. This year, “for away games, I have to be around the middle of the bus on the right and Jade has to be across from me. If the other team goes on a run (against us) I have to change where I’m sitting on the bench. And I avoid standing on court lines when I can.”   And as for hurdles in track and field? “Talking about hurdles is one of my superstitions,” said Keegan. “I can’t talk about it.” Junior Katherine Stender listens to “Eye of the Tiger” before every cross country race. Alden Sulger, Aiden Cozzi, and Alex Arkin tape their wrists before every soccer game. The girl’s basketball team always does a shouting or clapping “battle cry” before each game. And while Latin has too many superstitions to list them all, just these examples give an indication of the role they play in different sports. These superstitions might seem comical and somewhat insignificant, but in reality they say something more meaningful about Latin as a whole. According to psychologist B.F. Skinner, who researched superstitions, habits, and repeat behavior, “Superstitions take over behavior because our brains try and repeat whatever actions precede success, even if we cannot see how they have had their influence.” Superstitions at Latin demonstrate how seriously athletes take their sports, and relying on these rituals is just proof of students’ determination to reach success. ]]>