Do Rituals Really Help Athletes

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Athletes and rituals go hand in hand. They offer familiarity and comfort. Rituals go the whole gamut from unusual to bizarre. Dunking a hockey stick blade in the locker room toilet before a game, wearing the same shorts under a uniform, bouncing the ball a specific number of times or chewing drinking straws during games. These are just a few of the rituals reported by athletes.

The pros are not alone. Athletes at all levels create rituals hoping to put luck on their side. Let’s face it, so much is out of your control when competing. Doing something to tip the odds in your favor might be a good thing. People will put up with an athlete’s bizarre behavior as long as boundaries are maintained.

Rituals, as defined by the dictionary, is a detailed method of procedure faithfully or regularly followed.

They serve a purpose, mentally preparing the athlete for the game or keeping focus during the competition. Do they work or not? That is a mindset question. If the athlete believes it helps, then most likely it does.

Most rituals are harmless; they don’t hurt anyone. Every now and then, however, when they cross the line a coach, or higher authority, has been known to intervene. Chewing on straws during games and touching other athletes at the end of an inning were some of the behaviors ruled as unacceptable.

Athlete’s rituals differ from pre-performance routines. The routines are thought out, have a specific purpose and commonly practiced. Consider your pre-game routine. Team meals, the coach’s pep talk, checking your sports bag beforehand, your warm-up or sitting in a quiet place to visualize your routine are pretty common practices. The psychological and physical benefits of a pre-performance routine are obvious.

Superstitious rituals have personal meaning, offer comfort and are not logical. They do, however, help an athlete to feel more in-control. Biting nails, a certain number of taps or not stepping on the lines, is comforting to some athletes.

So why would an athlete follow some strange ritual? Like many superstitions they lower anxiety, build confidence and are found to reduce the feeling of uncertainty. The rituals themselves don’t truly impact the outcome. Instead it is the meaning an athlete has created. If something worked one time, then keep on doing it because it is going to work again and again. Have you done that too?

Athletes live by rules. And by luck. If they are going to compete, then they are going to follow specific action steps. No questions asked, that is just how it is. After awhile practicing the ritual becomes a habit.

The greater consequence occurs if an athlete were unable to follow a familiar ritual. Doubt, anxiety and worry would escalate. It would be easy to believe performance suffered because a familiar routine didn’t happen. In reality, the athlete’s pre-occupation with not following their routine interferes with their focus.

If you are going to develop a routine, go for the pre-performance routine and skip the ritual. Take control of your warm-up, learn how to focus your mind, develop confidence and trust your skills. You can control those qualities.

Put the time, effort and energy into practices with known benefits. At the end of the game, when you performed exceptionally well, you want to know it was because you deserved it. Acknowledge the win. Don’t give away your achievements to your lucky shirt or dirty, smelly socks.

Challenge: What is your pre-game routine? Consider how much is physical and what percent is a mental pre-game routine. If they are about equal, then congratulations. Most likely your know your warm-up well but your mental warm-up could use some help.

Here is one of my favorites. Settle down in a quiet place about ten minutes before your start time. Get comfortable and quiet. Close your eyes, take a couple deep breaths and then vividly visualize your performance. Experience the competition with rich detail using as many of your senses as possible.  If you want more about bringing visualization into your warm-up check out this link to successfully use visualization http://expertsportsperformance.com/visualization/

Do you swear by your lucky socks, favorite glove or the number of taps you take before you’re ready to swing? You believe these moves have power over your performance. You felt if it worked one time then that must be the secret to your win. So now you re-create it before each of your events.

Well, what if you could boost your confidence and feel more in control without the ritual? It is possible to create those feelings on your own. Preparing mentally and physically for your event is necessary. The Expert Sports Performance System is an easy step-by-step process helping you to focus your energy on high performance, building your confidence to give you a winning edge. Winners act with speed. If you are reading this and it feels true for you, then get in touch with Loren for a FREE Discovery Session at info@expertsportsperformance.com

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