Superstitions or Science?

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Lebrons pregame chalk toss

Felix Ladaga, Sports Writer

 

Lebrons pregame chalk toss

Pregame rituals are a sight to behold in sports. Most players do it before games, and every player that does a pre-game ritual has a different way of doing it, such as Steph Curry’s tunnel shot or LeBron’s infamous chalk toss. There are also some weirder rituals such as former football linebacker Brian Urlacher’s, who eats two girl scout cookies before every game or

 

Steph Curry performs his pregame tunnel shot ritual before an NBA game

John Henderson, a defensive tackler in the NFL, getting slapped before every game. Many players in sports have a unique pregame ritual. There are even more –  some sports fans partake in rituals before their favorite teams’ games, by wearing the team’s jersey or by having a lucky charm with them. But why do players do these rituals, and does this help improve their performance?

 

The Dallas Mavericks NBA championship (Dirk Nowitzki holding the trophy)

In sports skill, technique and talent are usually the main ways in which a player can become successful in their sport, but a less acknowledged part of sports is luck. Luck in sports is also very important, as it can also be a major factor in winning and losing. Such can be said about Dirk Nowitzki’s first NBA championship. Going into the playoffs, many didn’t think that the Dallas Mavericks would be able to get far. They would have had to beat teams such as the LA Lakers, defending champions, as well as the infamous trio in the Miami Heat of Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. But despite these odds, the Dallas Mavericks were able to sweep the defending champions in a 4-0 win in the second round and then beat the Miami Heat in the finals, earning Dirk Nowitzki his first ever championship. Many would consider this season as a perfect mixture of talent and luck combining to bring a championship to the Dallas Mavericks. This is one of many examples of how luck can play an important role in sports.

The “luck” factor is why most players do some sort of pregame ritual, as some think that it can influence their luck to have a better performance in game. But is there any evidence that a pregame ritual can improve a player’s performance? Well, there is very little evidence, but there is some psychology that can help back up the reasoning for pregame rituals. Pregame rituals are a way for players to cope with the pressure that comes with performing, as players can also become nervous in games, so they use rituals to try and keep their emotions in check.

Steve Nash leads the NBA in free throw percentage, with 90 percent from the line.

One such ritual that can be observed in the free throws in the NBA. As almost all players in the NBA have a ritual they perform at the free throw line. Players usually do the same routine when on the free throw line, as it can help with consistency in their percentage of making the shot. “Athletes…never know how they’re going to play, how the other team is going to play,” said Gregg Steinberg, a professor human performance at Austin Peay State University, in a CNN article. Doing a pregame ritual can help players get a greater sense of control in game and can keep the mind at ease while in a stressful competition.

Although it may seem important as an athlete to have a pregame ritual, it’s not a requirement to have. Most athletes do fine without having a pregame ritual, as with most rituals it comes down to confidence and self-belief. If a player believes that a certain action can help them perform better in a game, then they can do a pregame ritual, but if another player feels that its unnecessary and won’t help their game then there is no need to incorporate a ritual. Pregame rituals will always be a quirky part of sports even though there is inconclusive evidence of their helpfulness. Athletes will try anything to get their absolute best performance with a combination of luck and skill to get that extra edge in the game.