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  • Hayk Gyokchyan

Struggles of Athletes with Superstitions



One of the key components of basketball and sports in general is the mental struggle of the game. A player’s mental abilities has the ability to make or break a career. Mental abilities have a wide range from resilience to confidence to emotional intelligence. Getting mentally ready for each game is a necessity for a player to perform at his peak. Each player has his own unique of preparations. One of the major steps to preparing mentally for a game is a seemingly irrelevant and minute set of things a player does called superstitions. Superstitions might not be noticed at all by others, but they are actions a player must perform in his mind in order to be ready. A huge part of sports is the aspect of ‘luck’ and athletes do everything in their power that could possibly bring luck to himself and the team. All athletes go through a struggle of trying to be in control of the situation around them.

Arguably the 2 most famous athletes in history had major superstitions: Tiger Woods always wore a red shirt on Sundays and Michael Jordan always wore his North Carolina shorts under his uniform for every game. Superstitions are not scientific reasoning for achieving success but the ‘juju’ of each athlete could be messed up if he didn’t do things a certain way. The movie Major League also depicts a humorous take on the character Cerrano’s superstitions of praying to different gods or wanting to sacrifice a whole chicken so he can hit a baseball. At some point in their career, all basketball players can say that they switched their seating order on the bench when their team was losing and stuck to a certain one when the team started going on a run.

There are specific superstitious actions I perform before every game I play. Before leaving my house to go to a game, I need to touch the horseshoe next to a picture frame of my grandparents with my right index and middle finger. If my team is staying at a hotel or traveling, then I would touch it before leaving the house and hope it lasts for the entire trip. I need to get my right foot taped and then the left, put on my right sock before the right, and wear my right shoe before the left. At the conclusion of warmups, I need to make my last shot before the game starts. What would happen if I don’t follow these steps exactly? The answer is something I do not want to find out. Call me crazy but it would throw me off mentally for reasons I try to but cannot explain. Would wearing my left sock first really affect me making a shot during the game? The obvious answer is probably not, especially if I don’t think about it. But sticking to my superstitions provides me with a state of mental comfort that allows me to put all distractions aside. Performing these small actions enhance my level of focus on the task at hand.

Some superstitions last a lifetime while others change or cease to exist. Sometimes, if a player is in a slump, but keeps training harder without being able to perform better, he resorts to supernatural activities hoping to turn things around. Touching the horseshoe was a suggestion from my dad. Before the start of the 2017/2018 season, my dad told me touch the horseshoe before leaving for my first game. I went on and had a great game... thus I decided to keep the ‘tradition’ going. That year my team won the Lebanese League for the first time in my career. I won the league the next year also... All because I started touching the horseshoe? (Seems crazy huh). If I don’t win it next year will I stop touching it? Probably not... because in my mind I will have done everything in my power in order to maximize my chance of success.


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