Ritual Behavior

Dictionary.com definition: Ritual (noun)- any practice or pattern of behavior regularly
performed in a set manner.

Rituals; we all have them, whether
it’s conscious or sub conscious. Whether you wake up and step with your left
side out of bed or lace up your right skate first it’s a major contributor in
how you play the game. To the ordinary person, ritual is going about your day
to day life in a string of reoccurring habits. To an athlete ritual becomes an
often overlooked necessity. For some players it can make or break a game. It’s often been said that goalies are the
most ritual plagued member of a team. Turns out they aren’t the only crazy

With the
Bruins playing so strongly in the playoffs, I began thinking about ritual and
how our beloved black and gold prep for the race to the cup. Are the pre-game
preparations set each day or can it fluctuate? 

recently played my first tournament and while the team was the same, the
pre-game prep was not. Twenty women who act normal on a regular practice day turn
into twenty crazy women with the expectation that to win you must complete
“lucky” steps. Our team song (I didn’t even know we had one) was played five minutes before heading out onto the ice. Our goalie needed complete locker room
radio silence for two and a half minutes, try putting on equipment soundlessly. It’s
impossible. But with the crazy actions of my team mates it sent me to wonder
what other athletes do in preparation for success.

No sport is exempt from the concept
of ritual. It happens in football, baseball, basketball, soccer and of course
my beloved hockey. It becomes a perfect combination of team and individual
practice that if executed correctly can almost unknowingly boost the moral and
even possibly the success of a team.

If you play a sport have you ever
considered your own rituals? The consensus between players was pretty similar,
everyone practices this art, and it’s become almost a second nature whether you
think you fall subject to this practice or not- no one is completely free of
its practice.

Were you aware that a point guard
in basketball needs to bounce the ball 15 times consecutively at center court
during warm ups to play effectively. Or that soccer players warm up with a
partner to keep up moral or find themselves putting on the left shin guard
first always. Some baseball catchers need to sit on there glove for six minutes
in complete silence or else they already know the outcome of the game. A
football player needs to get some grass on one article of equipment before
heading onto the field.

Every sport is subject to traditions that help the
athletes feel alive and secure in there ability to play. While many of you will
find the other sports of interest, it probably doesn’t compare to your interest
of the rituals played out before a player hits the ice.

I’ve been lucky enough to meet
quite a few hockey players from all levels of play; men, women and children who
love the sport and learn young that to be a player you need to submerge
yourself into the team. Ritual for hockey players was compared most often to
religion. You eat, sleep and breathe hockey. The more time spent with your team
the better effect it has on your overall play. Common knowledge, but the more
time spent with your team the crazier and complicated your rituals become. 

many kids, the simple pre-game ritual is to show up to the rink on time; that’s
when you’re young. When you get older it turns into wearing a special number,
using a certain color tape or making sure your stick is taped to perfection. These rituals carry over to become more bizarre as the years and levels
increase. Some players require a specific amount of nap time, a meal of ziti
with half Alf redo/half red sauce, a lucky hat, lucky tie, special song, a
specific route to get to the rink and that’s before they’ve even touched the
locker room. 

Once behind the sacred doors whether you’re extraordinary in skill
or extraordinary in your love of the game preference turns into necessity and
the necessity of comfort becomes ritual. When you step out onto the ice forget
about it, you might realize it, you may not.

But any of you who have played
hockey step onto the ice the same way each and every time.

You may skate red
line to goal line during warm ups or place your water bottle in the same spot
on the bench every game. I’ve brought the ritual of wearing a pink tape x on
the inside of my skate, I don’t know the significance, really it might not even
have one. But I never skate without it. 
Roll into the locker room at my rink and you’ll find 19 other women who
bear the same mark. I challenge you to
take a minute and think what you do that makes it comfortable to play both
mentally and physically.

No matter the sport, each team is
compiled of extraordinary members, if not in skill definitely of the heart.
Whatever sport you play, have you wondered if you have similar or different
pre-game rituals.

Each sport is different in execution but the same in premise
a ritual for one player often turns into a necessity for the entire team.


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