Pre-Game Rituals

Molly McNulty, Staff Writer

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Every time an athlete puts on his/her jersey, steps on the field or court and plays, they are representing their team, themselves and their school. The time leading up to a game is a period of energy, determination and a test of grit. Game day is an all or nothing situation–which is what makes pre-game traditions and rituals essential for individual as well as team success.
“[Teammates] are your brothers that you go to war for every Friday night,” said senior football captain Matt Turner.
Senior quarterback and captain Matt Petercuskie gets his blood pumping before a game by riding the stationary bike for 10 minutes. “I started that a few years ago and have always felt it was a good warm up,” said Petercuskie. He usually gets a little nervous before big games but when he charges the field these nerves turn into energy and excitement. Turner gets in the zone by listening to music as he prepares himself to play. “When I was younger playing travel basketball I was introduced to Drake and Lil Wayne,” said Turner, “and ever since, they have been my pre-game music to get in the zone.” He is fueled by adrenaline and a long strenuous week of preparation for each specific game. “You always have to be excited going into [a game] with a lot of energy your teammates can feed off of,” said Turner.
Music is also an influential ritual of senior Field Hockey Captain Julia Fone. “I just need to listen to one good song to get me hyped up,” said Fone. Blasting music through headphones is a key tactic to cancel out background noise and individually focus on what lies ahead to mentally prepare. However, playing music across the entire stadium or gym is another way to boost team spirit. The field hockey team always listens to “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC when they warm up before games. The volleyball team has similar traditions centered around hype up music. “Before games I get really excited especially while listening to music with the team,” said senior captain Riley James.
Pre-game rituals are universal among professional as well as high school level athletes. Wade Boggs HOF 3rd baseman, played for the Red Sox, and ate a chicken leg before each game. “It started in ‘77. I had a minor league budget and a growing family to feed,” said Boggs in an interview for the Christian Science Monitor. “Chicken was cheap and I really felt better eating lighter food rather than a lot of heavy meat and gravy. Then I noticed my batting average going up. Ever since I’ve been a ‘chicketarian.’” On a similar extreme, Wilt Chamberlain, HOF basketball player, drank a gallon of milk at halftime.
However, some rituals can be as simple as wearing a certain piece of clothing. Senior volleyball captain Ingrid Murphy has to wear white mid calf socks every time she plays. “There isn’t much reason behind this except that one time I played a really good game in white socks,” said Murphy, “and now I wear them all of the time.” Volleyball coach Tom Turco “has to be wearing red” as a symbol of raider pride but also due to personal pre-game routine. Julia Fone has to put on a headband before she plays which is something she has done since she was little.
Everyone plays for a reason whether mental, physical or spiritual there is an underlying drive to compete. Senior soccer captain Nick Caprio plays in honor of his faith and the influence his spirituality has had on his life. “Before every game I tape my left wrist and draw a cross on the tape on the outer facing portion and a bible verse on the other side,” said Caprio. On his cleats he wrote Philippians 4:13 on each shoe as a reminder of his faith. “May I never forget why I play and for whom I play,” said Caprio.
Traditions are what keep a team united on and off the playing field or court.
“It is key that our teams bond off the court,” said senior volleyball captain Ingrid Murphy. Most teams host team dinners before every game which serve as an opportunity to get to know each player. “We have such a unique group of girls with all different hobbies and styles so it’s really cool to learn about that,” said Murphy. Getting together outside of school allows athletes “time to decompress from practice and just laugh and talk to each other.” Turco encourages team unity among the girls and one of his golden rules is being all inclusive. This philosophy translates directly on the court and field. “If you can get on a personal basis with your teammates it only boosts the confidence you have in them on the field” said Turner. “This creates a ‘I got your back’ mentality that thrives for on the field success.” Team chemistry is a huge factor in the way a team plays and accounts for a lot of teams success’ or lack thereof. “Being vulnerable with each other is the best way to build that special brotherhood that people from different families can have,” said Caprio.