USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘tennis’

Team Cheer

Subject: A traditional cheer preceding my high school tennis team matches.


Collection: On the Dana Hills High School’s tennis team, we had a tradition before every tennis match to say the same cheer to boost our team’s confidence and to also psyche out our opposing team. In the traditional cheer, we first began by creating a small tipi on the court with all of our rackets so they’re standing balanced and bringing us all together. Our team captains lead us through the letters of our school’s mascot: dolphins. They shout “D-D-DOL” followed by the rest of the team’s recitation. Then, the team captains shout “P-P-PHIN”. We move through the spelling of DOLPHINS two more times and end with a loud “Go Dolphins!” and each reach for our own rackets and bring them once more together, held high in the air.


Background Info: C. Stuart is a freshman at the University of Southern California and is majoring in Screenwriting. She has played tennis all her life and was a part of Dana Hills High School tennis team all four years of school.


Context: A written transcript shared via email after assigned to share a piece of folk practice, belief, or informally passed down tradition with a classmate.


Analysis: Cheers, especially those performed by those participating in the sporting event, act as expressions of identity and allow for a sense of unity within a team. In this case, the assertion of one’s own identity depends on the existence of the “other” or the other team that clearly does not know the ritual or cheer. The fact that people in physical proximity are alienated then allow for an increased sense of belonging and essential exclusivity. This sense of belonging when combined with the creation of the “other” would be comforting in the face of an unsure outcome, such as an impending sporting match. Asserting one’s team identity also helps alleviate the pressure off one individual; if one person makes a mistake, the team makes the fall with them with the potential, depending on the sport, of another person picking up the slack or recovering the mistake. Therefore, a cheer is both a way of asserting a sense of belonging and soothing anxieties when facing an unsure result.

Folk Beliefs

Superstion – Irvine, California

“During tennis matches, don’t drink red Gatorade.  Also, during breaks, only drink one sip of Gatorade and one sip of water each time, if at all.”

As a tennis player with two years of highly competitive Varsity high school tennis under her belt, Charlyne said that she developed these superstitions after personal experiences in a plethora of doubles matches.  She explains that early into her high school tennis career, she began to form these beliefs when she and her partner drank nothing but red Gatorade sports drinks during matches and consequently played horribly each time.  So horribly, in fact, that she even attributes what she considers the worst match of her entire life to the consuming of red Gatorade.  Charlyne even went on to say that red Gatorade was initially an aversion to her because of its bright color and prominence whenever it would accidentally spill onto the team’s light-colored uniforms.

In this way, Charlyne demonstrates several practical reasons for not drinking red Gatorade and for only drinking one sip each of water and Gatorade during matches.  She reasoned that the sip of water would wash down the Gatorade’s aftertaste and not leave her mouth sugarcoated and parched as she continued to play.  However, her belief that only one sip of each beverage should be allowed is unique to her, but again it derives from personal experience.  Charlyne relates that during one match, both she and her doubles partner drank two large gulps of the drinks during their break and afterward would consistently feel cramps and never play to the best of their abilities.

It is interesting that Charlyne’s personal superstitions are not simply superstitions passed down from family members or picked up from friends, but were formed of her own accord.  Personal experiences and bouts of bad luck led to her creation of these rules, proving that the formulation of superstitions and folk beliefs can be entirely dependent on the individual and his or her own identity, without the influence of society and already widely-held beliefs.