Spartans showcase superstitions

Spartan soccer player Justin Hepburn shows off the feather he wears for good luck while playing soccer.
Alexandra Johnstone/Castleton Spartan

Boston Celtics guard Jason Terry’s superstitions include wearing the shorts of the team’s next opponent to bed the night before playing them and wearing five pairs of socks in each game.

Kevin Rhomberg, who played with the Cleveland Indians, had a phobia of being touched. If Rhomberg’s teammate touched him by accident or the other team tagged him out, he had the compulsion to touch them back. His compulsion wasn’t a liability, but made for some awkward situations.

But you don’t have to be a famous athlete to have a superstition though, as many Castleton student athletes illustrate.

Shelly Audette, a senior on the women’s cross-country team, says she always eats oatmeal and a banana before a race. She also always says a prayer and reads an inspirational quote to motivate her.

Co-Captain of the women’s ice hockey team Anna Daniels says she “has some odd ones that are pretty girly,” but she always does them anyway.  Painting her nails pink the night before is one of her rituals, along with shaving her legs just in case she has to be taken off the ice on a stretcher, like she has been in the past.  The motto she likes to play by is ‘look good, feel good, play good’.”

Paula Stephens, starting goalie on the women’s hockey team, said she loves to be rushed. Stephens likes to stay in her dress clothes as long as possible, and then have to rush to get changed fast. She also always chews gum throughout the game, and if she doesn’t have it, she gets anxious. She says she always puts her left pads on first and always stays on the left side of the ice while doing warm ups on the ice. And something she absolutely has to do before every period is hit the left post, then right post and then cross bar with her stick. And for each period or overtime, she adds a rotation to her cycle.

Justin Hepburn, a junior on the men’s soccer team, said feathers are his thing. It started this summer while playing in a pick-up league up in Burlington.  He found a feather by the sideline one game and put it in his sock. During the summer, he started doing some research and found out that in the supernatural world, feathers mean honor, and represent protection and good luck.

“By honoring my bird totems, I call upon the wisdom of the birds,” Hepburn said.

Hepburn said his grandmother is closely related to Native Americans in Utah, so he feels even more connected to them. He now always has a turkey feather in his sock for good luck, in case he doesn’t find a feather on the sidelines or on the field first. That has never happened, by the way.

Meghan Blossom, a psychology professor at Castleton, says she’s not an expert on this topic, but thinks superstitions have to do with a different element of being out of control for people. She says that people like to have control in their lives and superstitions are something you can control.

 “Blocking out other kinds of distractions helps them focus on a routine or task at hand,” she said.  

According to Damon Burton, a sports psychologist at the University of Idaho, a lot of superstitious routines begin after an athlete has a good game  

“However, more and more sports psychologists are trying to push athletes away from superstitions and instead encourage them to develop strategies and mental plans that give them that consistency in their athletic performance. The concern is that, should the ritual/superstition/lucky item get interrupted or fail, athletes won’t be able to trust themselves and their own skills on the field, ultimately undermining their performance,” he said in an “Outside The Lines” article published online.


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