September 27, 2006

Field Hockey Rituals Calm Players

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Michael Jordan never played an NBA game without his Tarheel shorts underneath his Bulls uniform. Tim Robbins character in Bull Durham wore women’s undergarments while pitching. From fiction to reality, sports is littered with athletes who have all kinds of weird superstitions. The range is as wide as it is deep, spanning all levels of teams and athletes around the world.

The women’s field hockey team is no exception. According to sophomore midfielder Katlyn Donoghue, the ritual starts the night before.

“A lot of us go out to get milkshakes, or ice cream, the night before a game,” she said. “It’s weird because [assistant coach] Blair [Corcoran ’06] started it a couple years ago when she got an ulcer. She thought she needed something to help it out, so everyone went with her to get ice cream. When she healed, people just kept doing it. It doesn’t matter whether we are on the road or at home: we still do it.”

The Red’s home games usually start around noon or 1 p.m. on the weekends. This means getting up around 8:00 a.m. for an 8:30 a.m. breakfast, often at the Appel dining hall on North Campus. After breakfast, the Red players head to the field where they congregate in the locker room, away from the eyes and ears of head coach Donna Hornibrook. While the entire team is preparing for the same event, each player has her own method of preparation.

“I have to use pink prewrap in my hair before every game,” Donoghue said.

“I never wear prewrap in my hair,” said sophomore Brenna Gulotta. “It just doesn’t fit on my head. As I got older, though, everyone started to wear it, so I felt like I should continue not to. I just always put my hair in a ponytail, while some of the girls braid it or do pigtails. Also, I never wear one of those molded mouth guards. Although, I just got a new one from the dentist that I have to mold, so I’m a little scared.”

Not every player claims to have an individualistic preparation process, however. Sophomore goalie Shannon Prescott says she outgrew superstition.

“I used to be superstitious in high school,” she said. “I just feel like, in college, I grew out of it. When you’re superstitious it’s too easy to blame it on something. I do go through the same warmups with [junior goalie] Lizzie [Goldblatt] before every game, though.”

[img_assist|nid=18576|title=field hockey|desc=The field hockey team listens to senior Sarah Miller’s (above) mix tape before every game.|link=popup|align=left|width=60|height=100]
As the team prepares, there are some standing team traditions that take place in the locker room before every game.

“We have like a dance party before each game,” Donoghue said. “Last year as freshman, we were made to do it by Blair. We just got used to doing it and kept going. Oh, and we always make Brenna do a little dance, and she has to do her one special move.”

“They always make me do this spin move,” Gulotta said, laughing. “Last year, we had a dance off with me and Blair and I did this spin move that everyone liked. Now they make me do it every game, so they can mock me I guess.”

While the team dances around the room, their moves are always set to the mix tape put together by senior co-captain Sarah Miller, and played from the boom box that Corcoran received for her 16th birthday.

“Certain people have certain songs they have to sing before the game,” said senior co-captain Lindsay Moyer.

“Lizzie always has to sing that song Shoop [by Salt-n-Pepa] before every game,” Donoghue said. “The mix tape mostly has rap on it in general, I guess.”

“We just enjoy each other so much,” Moyer said. “It’s a good way to pump ourselves up while taking out minds off the game a little. Sometimes we break a little sweat in there.”

Players also admitted to being very particular about what they eat before a game, with peanut butter and bananas appearing to be a key ingredient in preparing the game. Moyer, who will wear the same underwear and sports bra, if possible, for each game, always has a bagel with peanut butter for breakfast before an afternoon game. Donoghue, as she has done since her high school days, eats peanut butter and jelly on toast along with a banana.

“In high school someone told me that peanut butter was good for your muscles, that it would make you have more energy during the game and make you go longer,” she said. “I’ve been eating it ever since then.”

Gulotta, who sometimes will eat just half a banana, says she needs something to settle her stomach before a game.

“I always have part of a banana, but only after I’ve put my uniform on and right before we go out on to the field,” she said. “I just started doing it and now I have to do it.”

While the mystery remains as to what would happen if the players stopped their rituals, these routines appear to serve the same purpose.

“It just gives a sense of comfort,” Moyer said. “It gives you a sense that ‘I’ve done this before, everything is going to be fine.’”