Before every game the Celtic’s Ray Allen follows the same strict pregame routine:
Nap from 11:30-1
Eat a chicken and rice meal at 2:30
Shave his head and walk out onto the court at 3:30
Begin his strict basketball warm-up for three hours before the game
Ray Allen admits to having a slight case of untreated OCD, but his pregame rituals are not considered peculiar within his realm of work. Professional athletes within all sports admit to pregame rituals even more out of the ordinary. While in a slump, Bruce Gardiner of the Ottawa Senators was told by one of his teammates that he was treating his stick too well. He told Gardiner that in order for his stick to learn a lesson of humility, he needed to dunk it in the toilet before each game. The dunking of Gardiner’s stick in the toilet quickly became a pregame ritual. A former Red Sox third baseman and Hall of Famer Wade Boggs took the exact same amount of balls in batting practice and began his warm-up at the exact same minute for all 2,240 Major League baseball games he played in. Before each at bat, Boggs would carve the Hebrew word “chai,” meaning life, into the batters’ box. Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle John Henderson, has his trainer slap him twice as hard as he can before each game, just to get him into the mood, while the Dallas Mavericks guard Jason Terry sleeps in the opposing team’s game shorts before each game.
Superstitions may seem irrelevant to some players, but to these athletes, superstition is key to their performance. Lysann Damisch, a social psychologist at the University of Cologne conducted an experiment in order to determine whether or not superstitions had any effect on a person’s performance. She found that superstitions are helpful because they improve self-efficacy due to the fact that the routines instill confidence within players, and therefore increases their performance. Whether you dunk your stick in the toilet or get slapped before a game, you have complete control over your mind and body before havoc ignites your place of competition. This is not to say that if you do not have a pregame ritual you should get one, but if you do have pregame rituals they are generally helping your performance, not hurting it. Pregame rituals are also helpful to athletes who are overwhelmed with thoughts and nerves before a game. They help to distract you from your nerves, causing you to focus simply on your routine. In the end, these rituals can cause some players to go crazy, but to others, it helps them to keep their sanity.