Fall Sports Teams Use Rituals to Calm Pre-game Anxiety

Hackley girls varsity field hockey celebrates each game win by taking a spot game selfie. They typically post these on the HGVFH instagram informing everyone on the stats of their game.

Across all of Hackley’s sports teams, each has its own traditions and rituals deeply rooted in its team culture. Colorful and hilarious choreographed outfits, strange but well-earned awards, and favorite songs not only provide fun team-building activities but a routine that helps to reduce stress and anxiety for its players. Hackley sports’ traditions and rituals help make memories that put a smile on the player’s face to look back on.

Girls Soccer has an annual theme that embodies the team spirit for the season. When the theme is chosen, HGVS seniors then paint the board on King Field and do a big reveal of their motto to the underclassmen. This year’s theme is “Fuel the Fire.” The seniors picked this theme because they want everyone to be fired up throughout the entirety of the season.

Another tradition that HGVS participates in are team “dress-ups.” Each year HGVS has a toga dress-up day where members tie a sheet around themselves to look like a toga. For the Fall Sting, everyone on the team dresses up in their full uniform, socks and shin guards, and all. Dress-ups vary due to senior choice that year. So far HGVS has dressed up as “preppy” for Poly Prep, security guards and celebrities, and as soccer moms. For each home game, the team walks together from the Johnson Center to the north turf. They walk in two uniform lines in silence to mentally prepare for the game.

Boys soccer wear blazers to school each home game. On home game days the boys, similar to the girls, walk out to the field together from the Johnson Center. After each big win, the boys listen to the song “Give it Up” by KC and the Sunshine Band.

Girls varsity tennis has many traditions and rituals that are particular to their team. Each practice before a game, two players who are working the hardest win the giant fork and knife. The fork and knife symbolize that the tennis team is “hungry for wins.” The person who won the fork or knife most recently gives it out in the following game.

Another tradition of the tennis team is that they give out a stuffed bagel, named Jason, to a player if they “bagel” someone or get “bageled.” Getting “bageled” means that you were beaten 0-6 and if one “bagels” someone, that means that you beat the opponent 6-0. If you get bageled and or you bagel someone you get to carry Jason around school either in victory or as emotional support.

Each match day the head tennis coach David Sykes sends out an email with a lion-themed “meme.” Each email has a bunch of hashtags to fire the team up and it is mandatory for each player to respond with other hashtags.

Cross country has a pre-race playlist that they blast on the bus to get the team fired up for race day. A new tradition for the cross-country team is post-race interviews. Two seconds after the race, as soon as the runner crosses the finish line one of their fellow teammates runs up to them to interview them.

On the football team, whenever they win, they belt “Country Roads” by John Denver in the locker room. Additionally, after the national anthem is sung before each game, the football team raises their helmets in the air.

Before each game, the Field Hockey team runs one lap around the field in two straight lines. As they run around the field they hit the goal. When they finish the lap, they run in the circle in the middle of the field and form their sticks in a circle. The Field Hockey team is also an avid participant in the tradition of dress-ups. Some examples are kings, queens, knights, and peasants, men (when they play Horace Mann), and country versus country club. Another ritual is that they take a team selfie after each game win.

Captain Avery Leighton has some rituals of her own. The night before each game she takes her jewelry off, instead of doing it right before the game. Another personal ritual is that she goes to the Tuck and gets a snack each game day. She doesn’t usually go to the Tuck except when she needs her fuel for game days.

Catie O’Rourke, the senior captain, also has some personal rituals. Before each game when the team huddles up in a circle, Catie always stands next to Coach Jenny Leffler. Another ritual of Catie’s is that she always has her wrist tapped by the athletic trainer, Kayla. Catie feels weird and unsettled if she gets her wrist tapped by someone else or does not have it wrapped at all. Catie expressed that “having pre-game rituals helps me get into the right headspace for each game.”