Sports Rituals Promote Mental Focus


By DANA REYNOLDSSTAFF WRITER

While it is a practice not understood by some spectators, it is a fairly common for athletes to perform rituals before competitions. Many athletes that implement rituals before competing believe that it can affect their performance.

One of the most common sayings in sports is, “90 percent of performance is mental.” Most athletes spend the majority of their time working on the physical and fundamental aspects of their sport, but some can neglect focusing on the importance of being mentally prepared.

Mental preparation for a race or competition is what can separate successful athletes from those who fall short of their full potential.

PHOTO COURTESY OF CLAY JACKSON ADVOCATE-MESSENGER

PHOTO COURTESY OF CLAY JACKSON ADVOCATE-MESSENGER

Although most people usually only associate rituals with famous athletes such as LeBron James, who habitually tosses powder up at the scorer’s table prior to every game, Michael Jordan, who wore his North Carolina basketball shorts under his Bulls uniform in each game that he played, and possibly the most bizarre ritual belongs to Jason Terry who wears a pair of the opposing teams shorts to bed the night before a game.

There are several athletes throughout Centre’s campus that believe rituals and having a positive attitude can help their performances.

One of the most recognizable traditions of a sports team at Centre is each football player touching the “Pursue Excellence With a Vengeance” sign prior to taking the field before a game. The sign hangs at the back of Sutcliffe Hall, in the entrace athletes typically use when entering the building.

Senior captain Teddy Reeve explains the importance the ritual has for himself and his teammates. “When I touch the ‘Pursue Excellence With a Vengeance’ sign on my way onto the football field, I shut everything out and put all of my my focus and energy toward the task at hand,” said Reeve. “Every rep, whether it be practice or a game, I push myself and my teammates toward success. And every time I touch the sign, it reminds me of our goals.”

In many instances, athletes use rituals in order to help build mental preparation for their games or races. Performing pre-game rituals can boost self-confidence and provide a sense of control.

First-year swimmer Ben McKernan has a certain routine to his preparation before he competes in races.

“I always put my goggles on first then cap on top. Then I stand behind the block and try to focus on the race. I try not to talk to anybody and tune out everything around me. It helps to look up at the ceiling so I don’t get distracted,” McKernan said.

According to first-year soccer player Megan Cavagnini, the Centre Women’s soccer team also has rituals that they do to prepare before a game.

“We all get ready in the locker room and listen to music to get us pumped up,” Cavagnini said. “Then after our coach comes to talk to us, we walk across the campus together to the field and a captain puts glitter on our feet before we step on the field.”

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of competing is being able to stay mentally focused throughout a race or game. Most athletes believe that maintaining a positive attitude is crucial in order to be successful.

McKernan believes that keeping a positive attitude can impact how he performs. “I try to think positively before a race I have had days when I have had a lot of negative thoughts and I usually perform poorly on those days,” McKernon said.

Cavagnini also stressed the importance of maintaining a positive attitude.

“It is extremely important in order to play well. I think that if you go into a game or practice with a negative attitude, you will not perform well because you are too worried about what is going wrong. If you have a positive attitude, you do better because you are playing harder and having more fun,” Cavagnini said.

Sophomore cross-country runner Cammie Jo Bolin agreed that having an upbeat outlook makes a big difference in how she performs.

“I definitely think that having a positive attitude affects how you perform. If you don’t think that you will do well in the race, then you probably won’t” Bolin said.


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