After playing in and winning the 1982 National Basketball Association (NBA) national championship while wearing them, Michael Jordan alternated between two pairs of shorts for the rest of his career. While this may seem odd, many athletes associate positive outcomes of their sporting events with an item or habit. It often takes something superstitious for athletes to get into the right mindset for competition, and each has a different approach.
Visualization is the key to success for Sarah Darzacq, a junior in Berkeley International High School (BIHS) and swimmer for Albany Armada Aquatics. Darzacq has been swimming since 7th grade, and after a team discussion her coaches held about preparing for meets, she was hooked. “It helps me to close my eyes and visualize myself hitting my goal time as well as swimming the rest of my race successfully. … It takes away a lot of the chaos that comes with swim meets right before I dive in,” Darzacq said.
Sophia Alberga, a sophomore in Academic Choice (AC), played soccer for the Berkeley High School (BHS) girls frosh soccer team her freshman year. Alberga listens to music while focusing on her intentions for the game and what she needs to do to succeed. “I started doing this to try and help myself feel more confident in how I play, and to remind myself what I want to work for. I think it just prepares my body and my mind for games,” said Alberga.
Ayush Shah, a junior in AC on the BHS boys tennis team, employs a stripped-down version of Alberga’s ritual. All it takes is listening to upbeat music to get him hyped up. “It helps me by putting my head in the right place,” Shah said.
Superstition is a spectrum, and rituals can take many forms. Sabine Meggyesy, BIHS junior and varsity soccer player, has established a “pregame ritual [of] brushing my teeth.” From oral hygiene to possibly unhygienic rewearing of athletic clothing, athletes begin developing their personal models for success as soon as they are introduced to competition.