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Got superstitions? Some athletes do, others don't

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When most people think of sports, they think of the game. They usually don't think about what the players do before game time, though.

Rituals and lucky tokens are an important part of sports. A basketball player may feel as if she needs her lucky socks to play right whereas a football star may need to do a stretch to make sure he is fresh and ready for the game ahead.

Braxton County High School freshman soccer player Quinn Hopen participates in many things before games with her team.

"We warm up together as a team, and we gather in a prayer circle," said Hopen. "Then we do 'team-on-three.'"

"Team-on-three" is where the players and coaches gather in a huddle and everyone puts a hand in the center. Then someone, usually a captain or coach, counts down from three and the whole team says, "team." Some teams may say the school's mascot name or "win."

Soccer isn't the only sport at Braxton High that gathers in a prayer circle. The cross country team, which went to the state competition this fall, also participates in a prayer circle.

"All of the girls usually pray before line-up for the races. I usually say my own little prayer also," said sophomore cross country runner Kate Golinsky.

Even the coaches get in on the action. The golf team's coach, Matt McMillion, prays for the team to ensure they are safe and they enjoy themselves.

"I want the kids to have a good time, so I pray for them," he said. "And we eat together as a team before the matches, of course."

Although McMillion has a ritual, he doesn't consider himself superstitious.

"I have faith," he said. "As long as I have faith, I don't need to be superstitious."

On the other hand, some sports players may not have any rituals, superstitions or keepsakes. Senior basketball player Cody Hilton, for instance, does not have a special item or custom.

"It had never really crossed my mind to do anything or have something before a game," said Hilton.

Likewise, freshman football player Ben Fincham believes superstitions are useless.

"It's pointless," he said. "I never play any better when I have something special with me on the field."

Junior golf player Josh Skidmore does not have a routine before matches either.

"I just don't do anything," he said.

When it comes to superstitions, Hilton, Golinsky and Hopen are sometimes apprehensive before big games. Golinsky, aside from praying, sometimes feels as if she needs her special black crew socks before an important race, but she is usually indifferent.

"Sometimes I want to have my black crew socks, but I can race just the same without them," Golinsky said.

As for Hopen, she prides herself on being superstitious. "I always say 'break a leg' instead of 'good luck,' like in theater."

(In most theatrical structures, saying "good luck" is considered the opposite: bad luck. The actors and actresses will instead say, "Break a leg.")

At Braxton County High School, sports and rituals go hand-in-hand for some players while others will simply brush them aside and stay confident in themselves and their teammates.


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