Very Superstitious

SPORTS: East athlete Asher Hoyt share their pre-game rituals. (It’s only weird if it doesn’t work.) By Eli Einsman. 

You wouldn’t expect that someone who keeps a rabbit’s foot in his back pocket to be the best player of all time, yet that’s exactly the case for baseball legend Babe Ruth. The former Major League Baseball superstar, and current hall-of-famer, played every game with a rabbit’s foot in his back pocket for good luck.

If you ask any athlete, they will probably tell you they have at least one superstition. A superstition is a belief or ritual based on fear of the unknown or luck. A sports superstition is something that an athlete does for good luck. Although these rituals may have no visible impact on the game in the eyes of the spectators, many athletes believe that whatever ritual they do will make them perform better, and they might be right.

Studies in sports psychology have shown that if you believe unequivocally that specific rituals will boost performance, then they will. It’s all in your head. If you believe in them and expect them to work, then they have a better chance at working.

For lunch,  I can only eat hummus and naan.

For Junior cross country runner Asher Hoyt, rituals help his body perform better. His rituals are more about what he eats to help his body reach his peak performance. When asked about his pre-game rituals, Hoyt said, “I’m a cross country and track runner, so a lot of it is managing what I eat, because running can mess with your body. I can only eat certain things, like the lunch the day of I can only eat hummus and naan, and I have to drink a ton of water in the 24 hours beforehand. I don’t eat any dairy 24 hours before the race. The night before I always have pasta to carbo load, but I won’t have any cheese on that pasta.”

Rituals like these are definitely both mental and physical. They’re mental because he believes that what he’s doing is physically helping his body reach its maximum potential, and it’s physical because drinking a lot of water and having the right diet will help you run. When asked if he believes these rituals truly worked, Hoyt reflects, “Once I got to high school I started taking cross country more seriously. I decided to make that and track my only sports, and I quit soccer because I enjoyed running more. I started paying more attention to what I ate and I actually found that it worked. I barely get cramps anymore in meets, it still hurts, but it helps a lot.”

Asher’s rituals aren’t just related to food, he also has some related to music. It isn’t uncommon for most athletes to have certain music that they listen to before games, and Asher is no exception.

I have to listen to jazz music – and I never listen to jazz music.

Hoyt describes his own pre-game rituals with music, saying, “I have to listen to specific music the day before. I’m really nervous so I listen to music that will hype me up, but as it gets into the hour before the meet, I’m actually so nervous that I can’t listen to music that hypes me up. I have to listen to jazz music – and I never listen to jazz music. Right before the race, I listen to jazz artists like Miles Davis, but otherwise I usually listen to Kendrick Lamar and other rap artists.”

In Asher’s case, his rituals help him physically, but no matter what your rituals are they will help you perform better.