Sports Traditions Package

Athlete routines are more than just superstitions

Garrison Murphy ‘15
THE ROUNDUP

Andrew Ripple 15 steps from the baseball team’s dugout and begins his walk to home plate.

He slowly edges his way to the batter’s box, surreptitiously eyeing the infield at the same time maintaining complete and utter focus.

Determination and confidence radiate from Ripple as he tightens his batting gloves for the final time.

He is in the zone.

The pitcher checks the runner at first base before giving his full attention to the batter.

Just before leaning into the plate, Ripple stands tall and touches his bat to the outside of home plate before taking two practice half-swings, all the while never taking his eyes off the pitcher.

With conviction and focus he finally puts the bat behind his head.

In the baseball world, ritualistic quirks in a batter’s routine are commonplace from the Major Leagues all the way down to Little League.

For Ripple, his habitual touch on the outside corner of home plate before swinging his bat twice has become an essential piece to his batting game.

“Without the routine I don’t feel as prepared and as comfortable at the plate, a little off and not in the right mindset,” Ripple said.

While baseball is the sport most well-known for superstitions and its players practicing less than ordinary rituals, many other athletes are found to have similar peculiar habits.

In the heat of the moment many basketball players look to pre-free-throw routines for added comfort and focus.

“Every free-throw, every kid has their specific ritual … I like to spin the ball off the ground, bounce it three times and shoot,” said Zach San Roman 15. “It’s huge; if you don’t do your ritual you are not doing your same shot.”

While it is common place and accepted for entire sports teams to have ceremonies before tournaments or functions, the personal “quirks” or superstitions that athletes abide by may be on a much deeper and more psychological level.

“It’s almost like placebo medication … what happens when you believe that a placebo is going to work is that there is actual change that happens in not only in your brain, but your body,” said athletic trainer Mr. Chris White.

The source of many questionable habitual behaviors in sports may also be linked to an underlying psychological issue such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

 

“If someone has a compulsive or obsessive tendency their brain is used to patters and rituals … it can be pathological where as in order to create a certain feeling there is a sense that they have to do something,” Mr. White said. “It’s fulfilling some physiological need that they can’t get normally.”

While Ripple habitually taps his bat on the back corner of home plate and San Roman spins the ball and bounces it three times, many other players including big leaguers have much more bizarre habits.

More famously, Caron Butler of the Milwaukee Bucks was known to chew dozens of soft drink straws while sitting on the bench until the NBA denied him of his obsession in 2010.

According to Mr. White, no matter how eccentric the superstition, it is done with similar intentions.

“I absolutely believe 100 percent that it is a control thing … it absolutely boils down to control,” Mr. White said. “It’s comforting.”

Whether a ritual is absolutely bizarre or subtle, a lot of athletes rely on them and many believe that it makes a difference.

“I believe that there is a higher chance of getting on base for me if I do what I usually do when I go up to the plate,” Ripple said. “For me it’s comfortable, and if I don’t do it I feel off.”