We’ve all had a teammate who had a pair of lucky socks or gloves he had to wear for every game. He’d pull them on and instantly feel a little calmer and a little more confident. Great!
What about when he forgot the socks? What happened then?
Some athletes have superstitions. These lucky socks are one example. Other examples include stepping into the batter’s box and tapping the bottom of the bat once, twice, sometimes eight times with each hand before getting set.
Superstitions are rituals that athletes believe will lead to certain outcomes if followed (or, ensure the lack of an outcome if neglected).
Some superstitions don’t really seem to directly contribute to better performance, but they also might not hinder performance, either. Athletes might even argue that their superstitions really help performance. For example, what’s wrong with an athlete having a superstition in which she has to do the same warm-up exercises the same way, in the same order, for the same number of reps. She’s warming up and covering all her bases. That’s a good thing, right?
The Problem with Superstitions
The problem with superstitions is that they take all the power away from the athlete. Athletes relinquish control and leave the fate of their performance in the hands of the superstition gods. In the athlete’s mind, in order for the superstition to do its trick, he must have the socks; he must tap the bat; she must do the warm-up just right.
Competitive sports are full of curve balls and unexpected situations.
Athletes forget equipment and sometimes a flat tire on the game bus on the way to the game means that your team gets all of 5 minutes to warm up. There goes that perfect warm-up routine.
In these instances, if athletes rely only on superstitions, the result is panic. “I don’t have my lucky socks! I’m going to play terribly!” and “I don’t have time to do my warm-up right. This game is going to be a mess!”.
A routine, however, while seemingly very similar to a superstition, is different in two very important ways:
athletes control their routines, and routines are adaptable.
Routines to the Rescue
A routine is a set of actions you do systematically to prepare for competition, training, or a specific task in your sport. It includes strategies that help you prepare physically and mentally for your objective. Their primary purpose is to help athletes feel confident, composed, and prepared by alleviating stress and extraneous decision-making, and purposefully getting into an athlete’s ideal mindset. In other words, when athletes know their plan and follow it, they can focus on the task at hand.
We teach athletes that routines are Plan A, and that sometimes unexpected situations pop up, and you have to move on to Plan B. What is that Plan B? Often, athletes simply take small chunks of their typical routine and condense it down. If you have only 5 minutes to warm up, then what are the imperative stretches, runs, or touches on the ball that you want to get? Planning this in advance helps diffuse the stress and pressure of these unexpected situations.
So how do you set a routine? Here’s everything you need to know.