Athletes prep up to step up: students perform pregame rituals to prepare to compete


(LEFT) Arnav Tandon (12) prepares to throw a water polo ball. (MIDDLE) Vivian Wang (11) performs the butterfly stroke during a swim meet. (RIGHT) Prameela Kottapalli (10) plays defense in a basketball game. These three athletes partake in special pregame rituals in order to prepare for sports games.

by Alex Wang, Sports Editor

Many athletes have their own rituals or routines to focus and prepare before important games. These pregame rituals range from simply breathing to physically preparing for a game or competition.

Some athletes take time before a game to calm themselves and concentrate, including swimmer Kevin Xu (11).

“After the warm-up, I put my head on a lane line and drown out all outside noise,” he said. “Then I get in the zone.”

For Vivian Wang (11), another swimmer, the concentration for a race begins the day before.

“The day before a big meet, I usually hang out with friends, watch TV or anything that calms the nerves. Then, the day of [the meet], I try to stay positive and listen to music so I can focus on my race,” Vivian said. “I usually try to focus on my own race and not worry too much about my competitors because it helps me perform better.”

Many other athletes also prioritize this concentration and take similar steps to clear their minds before athletic events.

“I always take five deep breaths before a basketball game. Then, as a team, we all like hang out in the team room and sometimes watch videos of the other team,” Prameela Kottapalli (10) said. “When we don’t watch videos, we just hang out and then [our] coach gives us a mini lecture about what to expect before we enter the gym together. After we enter, we do warmups and our usual [preparation].”

Some athletes’ rituals are more concerned with the physical aspects of their preparation and are very specific about details regarding their rituals.

When I put my shin guards, socks and cleats on, I always start with the left side. I always have to put on the left side first because I have this superstition that if I don’t, I’ll play badly.”

— Aislinn Coveney

Athletes also establish joint rituals with teammates. Juniors Rahul Mehta and Peter Connors perform a specific handshake with each other before basketball games.

Other athletes base their pre-game routines around the environment of their home courts, using specific aspects of the courts as part of their rituals. Water polo captain Arnav Tandon (12) has a ritual specifically for the upper school Singh Aquatic Center.

“The sequence for home games is I change, go into the bathroom and wash my face, get my mouthguard and then on the way to the pool, I slap all the black poles next to the fence and the shower poles,” Arnav said. “Then I do [an] arm shake [and] stretch my legs. I also listen to music.”

While different athletes prepare for games and events in different ways, their goals are ultimately the same: to prepare for the game and have the greatest chance of winning.