Many sports have their athlete superstitions, but hockey may be one of the most colorful. The legendary Wayne Gretzky would never get a haircut on a road trip Goalie Patrick Roy would be seen talking to his goal-post. Players from Stanley Cup finalists Chicago Black-hawks refuse to step on the huge Indian head logo on their dressing room floor.
Many baseball players refuse to shave during the playoffs. In fact, a recent study found that 75 percent of professional baseball players engage in ritualistic behaviors either before or during games. The most common among the players were wearing the same article of clothing including under-shirts, socks, batting gloves and underwear. One player was 'going on four years' with the same athletic supporter.
Other behaviors included brushing with a lucky toothbrush, chewing three pieces of gum at the start of the game, retying shoes in the sixth inning and removing the hat with only the right hand.
According to sports psychologist Jerry Burger who authored the study: "Because outcomes of baseball games are determined somewhat by uncontrollable forces, players appear to be doing what they can to lure some of those uncontrollable forces to their side."
Note: if a player is going to have a routine, make sure they don't alter it very often. Even if the routine has actual little impact on their performance, anything that makes them feel more mentally comfortable is a positive.
Do superstitions actually work? Do they help or hurt performance? There is no definitive study done either way to quantify this. But in most cases, if an athlete perceives getting even a small benefit from following a certain ritual or superstition, in most cases they should be encouraged to do so.
Example: In the closest thing to real evidence that lucky charms may have an impact on performance, a group of 50 golfers were told to try and make a putt. The first group was told, "Here is your ball. So far today, it has turned out to be a lucky ball." The second group was simply told: "This is the ball everyone has used today." The performers (all very close to equal in putting ability) who were told they were putting the lucky ball were 35 percent more likely to sink the putt.
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