Sunday, April 5

Some superstitious rituals UCLA athletes carry out before, during games

(Nitya Tak/Daily Bruin)

With the final Friday the 13th of the year upon us, Daily Bruin Sports talked with some UCLA athletes about superstitions that have followed them through their collegiate careers.

Many professional athletes act out rituals before or during games that they say help them succeed.

LeBron James throws chalk dust in the air on the sideline to say its game time. Ichiro Suzuki points his bat toward the pitcher’s mound while touching his sleeve with his other hand as he settles into the batter’s box. Sidney Crosby wears the same hat to every postgame interview throughout the season.

UCLA athletes are no different.

Some players start their pregame rituals long before the game starts, like women’s volleyball sophomore setter Devon Chang, who said before she even starts warmups, she prepares for matches with a shower.

“I like to shower right before matches, when I put on my jersey and get ready for the game, I like to be nice and clean, do my hair,” Chang said. “The shower also clears my mind and gets me ready for the game.”

Redshirt senior forward Anika Rodriguez of UCLA women’s soccer said she also gets ready to take the field with a specific action.

“If I step over the (sideline), I clap, just to reset before each half,” Rodriguez said. “I feel like I need to reset before each half and the clap does that.”

But while many superstitions are thought to be restricted to pregame rituals, junior outside hitter Jenny Mosser said the entire women’s volleyball team has an in-game ritual.

Mosser said she and her teammates have each developed their own preserve routine that is designed to lead to a good serve.

“Serving, I always do three bounces, and then I spin it on my hand, and then I serve it, always,” Mosser said. “(The coaches) just said ‘You need to have a routine!’ and so OK, three bounces it is.”

Tennis is a sport well-known for the complex pregame rituals of its brightest stars, including Rafael Nadal, who drinks from two separate meticulously placed bottles and constantly pulls at certain parts of his uniform before each point.

UCLA men’s tennis junior Keegan Smith said he always walks onto the court the same way, stepping left then right on each mat outside the locker room. At every break, he also completes a series of actions to prepare to restart play.

“Coming out of every changeover, I have to do four butt kicks and four high knees, and then jump over the baseline with my left foot,” Smith said. “Also I have to throw the racket in the air and catch it while I’m jumping, but my foot cannot touch the baseline. … And if my calf grazes (my tennis bag), and I feel it when I’m walking back from a serve or on a changeover, I have to go back and touch it again.”

But Smith said these intricate rituals have become part of his game, and are no longer something he does consciously.

“Honestly I don’t even remember half the stuff,” Smith said. “When you’re playing, you’re in your own world, so you don’t even know you’re doing it.”

In contrast to Smith’s elaborate actions, women’s soccer freshman forward Mia Fishel is one player who said she does not like any superstitions to affect her game, instead, believing that relying on them could actually negatively affect her game.

“I don’t really have superstitions,” Fishel said. “I try to stay away from them just because if I do, something might not happen, so I don’t put too much into anything.”

So while fans might wear the same dirty socks and jersey to every home football game, they aren’t the only ones who indulge in superstitious behaviors, as UCLA athletes are doing the same thing.

Assistant Sports editor

Smith is currently an assistant Sports editor on the softball, gymnastics, women's volleyball, swim & dive and rowing beats. She was previously a reporter on the softball, women's volleyball, rowing and swim & dive beats.

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