As Shontai Totten prepares to make a basket, spectators in the bleachers fail to notice the $20 bill peeking out of her sock. Had someone observed it, they probably wouldn’t have thought it relevant to the game at hand. But for Totten, a freshman on Northwood’s girls’ basketball team, that $20 bill represents a superstition that gives her the confidence she needs to play the game.
“I would like to think, the bigger the bill I put in my sock, the better I play,” said Totten.
Totten’s money ritual is consistent with a trend seen in many athletes at Northwood and around the world—superstition in sports.
Professional athletes, like tennis player Serena Williams, basketball player Michael Jordan and baseball player Turk Wendell, have all been known to have superstitions. Their quirks range from as simple as tying their shoelaces a certain way, to as odd as brushing their teeth between every inning. The way athletes come up with these superstitions seems to be a process of trial and error.
“One day I put a 20 in my sock and I played really, really well,” said Totten. “And so I was like, ‘Hey, I guess that works.’”
This seems to be the manner in which freshman soccer player Katherine Pike discovered her superstitions, too. One day, before a game, she saw her shirt was inside out and was about to fix it, when one of her teammates told her to leave it that way. Since then, for every game, she always wears her shirt inside out, always puts her right glove on before her left and always wears her socks up.
“I just feel like I’m ready to play,” Pike said.
Some superstitions at Northwood are shared by entire teams. Morgan Oldham, a sophomore softball player, says her team has a few common superstitions. For example, the team agrees that crossing bats in the dugout during games brings bad luck.
“There are a lot of games where we’ll look and the bats will be crossed and we’ll be loosing and we’ll uncross them and get a lot of runs,” Oldham said.
According to Oldham, the softball team also believes that players should never step on the white lines before a game, a superstition shared by the baseball team.
“Stepping on the white line is something you don’t want to do; that’s pretty common,” said Clark Streets, a junior baseball player.
Junior football player Maxwell Johnston talked about why teams and players need superstition.
“It’s all supporting the brain… It’s like the placebo effect,” Johnston said.
Johnston claims athletes use superstition for mind-control as a distraction to numb the nerves that come with performance.
“It gets me in the right place mentally,” said varsity football coach Bill Hall, of his own superstitious routine.
Hall’s superstition begins each new season, when he always wears the same clothes on Friday nights. He also follows a strict schedule for practices, watching film and coaches’ meetings.
“I literally try to do everything the same during game week,” said Hall.
As is the case for most other superstitious sportsmen, for Hall, it’s all about keeping things consistent.
“If I get off beat during the week, [or] get off rhythm, then I have a bad vibe going in Friday night,” Hall said.
–By Quinn Kerscher