While few will admit to having superstitions, most people have small rituals they follow to get in the groove, like putting on makeup or listening to music. For athletes, whose future can depend on mere seconds, rituals are as natural as a warmup.
“I don’t know — it helps to focus,” said Louissa Ferrotti, a sophomore business major from Cologne, Germany, and Trojan tennis player. “There’s so much pressure we have, like you just have to believe in something and some ritual you always do.”
Ferrotti said that she has to bounce the ball three times before her serve.
“And I always go to grab my towel like after the point, just to have time and relax and breathe,” she said.
According to Ferrotti, music also plays a big part in setting the mind on victory.
“(It) motivates me and pumps me up,” she said. “We always do it with the team together—when we warm up, we listen to music really loud and all kinds of songs.”
Tyquae Russell, a junior psychology major from Oklahoma City, plays safety for the football team. He said he has certain songs he listens to before the game, including Lil Boosie by Mad.
“They (rituals and songs) help me win the game, and if I don’t do it, I won’t perform good,” he said. “So I make sure those songs are played.”
Corina Wieser-Cox, a senior English major from Los Fresnos, Texas, and discus thrower on the Trojan track team, said her entire day of competition has to be perfect.
“I have to be as lucky as possible,” she said. “I have to do the same ritual, the same exact warmup every meet: two-lap jog and then all of these skips that get your body (ready), and I have to do four specific stretches. Just those four because they just… I don’t know—superstitions?”
Wieser-Cox said that although she has three different uniforms, she likes to wear her black uniform and Ouija socks on the day of the competition, but it’s the moment of the throw for which she has perfected a ritual.
“I have to breathe out, and then I have to breathe in right before I’m going to start to throw,” she said. “If I do it when I breathe out, then I’m just screwed up. I can’t. Nope. It’s impossible.”
These beliefs can be more effective than they seem, according to a research paper published in Psychological Science in 2010 titled, “Keep Your Fingers Crossed! How Superstition Improves Performance,” written by Lysann Damisch, Barbara Stoberock and Thomas Mussweiler. Through a series of experiments, the research showed that “lucky charms, positive sayings and other luck-enhancing behaviors improve performance as they boost participants’ confidence in mastering upcoming tasks, which in turn improves performance.”
“I know some girls have to wear the same shin guards or something,” said Devin Gaskill, a sophomore elementary education major from Atlanta. “Because if it’s working, they think it might keep everything good, like if they’re playing good and they have something on, they think, oh, it’s because of this.”
Gaskill is one of the Trojan soccer players, and said she does not believe in superstitions but has other ways of preparing for games.
“I can’t eat very heavy before,” she said. “I have to be like in a good mood with my friends—talking to my parents or talking to them.”
Whether superstitious or not, all athletes interviewed agreed that fan presence can improve the team’s confidence, give it the extra push to victory and encouraged fellow Trojans to support them.