Even with countless hours of practice, one pre-meet ritual going wrong could throw off a swimmer’s mental game. Whether it be how you get on the blocks or if you have your lucky race goggles, swimmers are likely to develop superstitious routines. What’s interesting is that superstitions neither fade away with age nor experience. While they may change a little over time, they usually stay relatively the same. It’s the good results which followed the first round of actions which make you feel like you need to do them again.
Superstitious acts, defined as “excessively credulous belief in and reverence for the supernatural” by dictionary.com, could even happen days prior to the actual meet. As for Princeton University’s Joshua Brown, his ritual starts off with a pre-meet spaghetti with meat sauce. Eating carbohydrates has its pros that are scientifically proven to help you with the energy level at the swim meet. But it also helps the swimmers mentally, providing confidence in their nutritional intake.
The simplest act, such as stretching, can be considered a superstitious behavior. For example, stretching before a race could not only have the effect of actually loosening up a swimmer’s muscles but also be a reassurance factor for the swimmer. He or she may believe that their stretching caused them to achieve best times.
Before his race, Jun Woo Moon, a backstroker at Pace University, commits to a few pre-race rituals that help him get ready to race. Jun Woo always starts off by thanking his parents for being there. He then prays for strength. Behind the blocks, he starts air-boxing, which in his mind is “punching evil away.” This action of swinging his arms serves as an intimidation factor to his competition. He claims that “half the race is how you can scare your opponents.”
A lot of swimmers choose to listen to music before their races. A swimmer at SMST Tokyo, Aisa Takahara, says she listens to music to get her pumped up for the race. On the other hand, her teammate, Naoki Martin, says that listening to music helps him calm down and stay relaxed before his race. Music helps block out distractions around him.
Some swimmers make up their own combination of a common ritual with their own twist. NCAA Champion and Rio Olympics Qualifier, Bruno Ortiz, imagines his body being like Jell-o every time he exhales. His mentality helps release all the tension from his body. While these types of behavior have multiple beneficial effects on him, the ultimate reason for these actions is so Ortiz gets into the right mindset for racing.
Superstitions help swimmers feel safe and comfortable, which then leads to confidence at a meet. While that may seem like there can’t be any negative effects, having too many superstitions may burden the swimmer. There are many things that could go wrong during a swim meet, and having a lot of independent variables could lead to unneeded stress and discomfort. Swimmers also need to be aware that there may be things that can’t be done at away meets, in high school, and especially in college. Unfortunately, your mother can’t make you your special pre-meet meal before every meet!
Although having too many superstitions could have negative effects, swimmers should try to research rituals that are scientifically proven to help them at competitions. Whether it be eating carbohydrates, hydrating, or engaging your muscles before your race, there are a number of rituals proven to be beneficial. Swimmers need to figure out which routines have proven benefits and need to understand that some are simply superstitions which only seem to have helped you in the past.