What's Your Basketball Superstition?

Pilots' Peyton Dixon pulls down a rebound

Pilots' Peyton Dixon pulls down a rebound

Many athletes have a specific routine to follow for them to be able to perform. Some players never wash their 30-point game socks, or listen to a specific song on repeat until they're in their groove, or eat the same food before game time.

For non-sports fans it can look strange. But sports rituals and superstitions are widespread and common. For some athletes, their performance in competition is completely dependent on whether or not their superstition and/or ritual is executed. 

Some athletes have short and simple routines to feel ready, like Keith Durham of the Dream League Yellow Jackets who slaps the backboard after warmups.  Peyton Dixon of the Dream League's Pilots, has a very specific routine before each game.

"If I don't follow through with it, everything is off. Not just my shot, but I feel like I won’t contribute," says Dixon.

His routine before a game goes in this order:

1) He texts his mom to let her know it's game time.

2) Listens to Freaks and Geeks by Childish Gambino at least five times, and it has to be at least five times

3) Always wear black socks.

"When I do it I'm hyped, I have all the energy in the world and I don't even need to shoot. I just try to make good things happen and let the game come to me," says Dixon. 

There is strong evidence suggesting routines is psychologically and physically beneficial to performance. Damisch, Stoberock and Mussweiler (2010) researched the psychological benefits of superstitions and rituals in sport. Their results suggested activating good luck related superstitions through a common saying or action, or by a lucky charm improves the subsequent sports performance in motor dexterity, memory, and anagram games.

The study also suggests performance benefits are produced by changes in the athlete's perceived self-efficiency, which activates a superstition boost in a sports person’s confidence in successful completion on the upcoming tasks; this in turn improves there individual performance. Lastly, it suggests this increased task persistence constitutes self-efficiency and is enhanced by superstition, which improves performance. 

The real value in superstition or ritual is the boost of confidence and the sense of control that they provide an athlete. If the sports person believes that doing a specific action or behavior will make them perform better, studies show they will perform better.

Go figure.

So ignore teammates or parents when they tell you to wash your 30-point socks, or to turn off a song. Texting your mom on game day is not silly.

Feel good, play good. Embrace your superstitions.