When performing in high pressure sports and mentally challenging competitions, some athletes attempt to block out distractions and carry on despite the adversity. Others turn to the comfort of superstitions.
This is no different at Loyola, where athletes partake in various pregame, in-game and postgame traditions to help them consistently compete at the highest level.
Softball requires a lot of mental strength, so there are often superstitious players. Sophomore outfielder Shannon McGee is a Loyola player who relies on superstitions.
“I’ve always been a really superstitious person and that shows on the softball field as before every game I listen to ‘Superstition’ by Stevie Wonder, I always rub dirt on my bat before I hit and I always tuck my batting gloves inside my pants instead of my back pocket,” McGee said. “I’ve had these types of superstitions in softball ever since I was little and played with my dad and he always would tell me, ‘If it worked, keep doing it.’”
These pregame rituals worked for McGee during her first season at Loyola; she started all 53 games and led the team in hitting with a .290 batting average and a .396 average with runners in scoring position. McGee attributed these numbers to a level of comfort she feels on the diamond.
“It’s a comfort thing for sure,” McGee said. “You do things and if they work then you repeat them and it’s an easy way to almost blame mishaps on the superstition, like, ‘I didn’t rub dirt on my bat and that’s why I didn’t get a hit.’ So it’s a good way to keep your confidence up and move on to the next at bat.”
Golf is another sport where superstitions are used, and men’s golf coach Erik Hoops revealed some of the different superstitious methods his golfers use to block out pressure.
“It might be the golf balls guys use that day, the songs they listen to or the clubs they use to warm up with as I’ve seen my players try tons of different things to try and find the right mindset before they play a round or while they’re playing,” Hoops said.
Sophomore Nick Welden, one of Hoops’ new transfers, said being superstitious allows athletes to feel comfortable and to better focus on their performance.
As his own tradition, Welden won’t set goals before he hits the course and rather sees where the round takes him.
“I won’t ever say I’m trying to shoot a specific score simply because I never want to hold a round to a specific number, and at that point you’re just trying too hard to get that score when you should be focusing on one thing and one thing only and that’s playing well,” Welden said.
Welden said his superstition is similar to that of many of his teammates and competitors due to the necessity of mental strength and a sound mind to play golf. This seems to have helped Welden in his first season at Loyola; he’s one of three team members this season to have competed in all five events for the Ramblers and he has the second lowest average on the team with a 77 stroke per round average.
“While some superstitions are silly and simply a state of mind, I think they’re really great at at least helping me and my teammates relax and compete as well as I can and I think that’s the case for most athletes, whether they be amatuer or professional,” Welden said.
Hoops also mentioned the need for superstitions and their purpose especially for college athletes after his time here at Loyola as a four-time letterwinner for men’s golf.
“Superstitions were so important for me and they’re very important for my guys because they help you find a sense consistency in moments, both big and small in importance, and this helps them find comfort in a moment of anxiety,” Hoops said.
Hoops and his players’ need for superstitions shows the importance of them for not just golf but all Loyola athletes as they attempt to block out the distractions and the anxiety that comes with playing college athletics in high pressure situations.