The following interaction illustrates a folk belief relating to a former student-athlete in high-school track & field relating coach/student view that dropping a relay baton during practice will bode ill for the actual race.
For convenience, the interviewee has been marked as ‘A’, and the documenter has been marked as ‘Q.’ The interaction proceeded as such:
A., I don’t know if this is true for every track and field team, but if you drop the baton like if you were on the relay team and you dropped it any time during the week before the track meets, during practice. Then you’d have to run a mile, because then for sure if you drop the baton during practice then for sure you were gonna drop the baton during the actual race.
My coach really believed it, and she would get like severely distraught any time someone dropped the baton, because it was…sacred.
I also dropped the baton and had to run a mile.
Actually, I dropped the baton multiple times. People really shame you for that.
Q. You learned all this from your coach?
Q. What does it mean to your coach?
A. What does it mean to my coach? It means we’ve just lost.
I thought it was just that particular coach, too. But we had 3 different coaches in 4 years when I was there, and all of them were like ‘you drop the baton, you go run a mile.
And I’m like, what? There’s no correlation.
I get the whole ‘practice the way you perform’ thing, but I also think that just because you drop the baton during practice that doesn’t mean you’re gonna drop it during the race.
The caution surrounding and seemingly arbitrary enforcement of a folk belief on the part of the coaches illustrated here pulls back the deep-seeded roots of those that inhabit the field of sports, in which the beliefs can take a limitless amount of forms.
As indicated here, most of them center on the matter of luck and future implications of success/victory/winning, along with their mirror image counterparts. The matter of keeping the baton in one’s hand does not determine whether one will win, but dropping it will certainly determine if the team should lose.
The most interesting aspect is the enforcement of the belief from multiple coaches throughout the years who, presumably, would not have colluded with each other for something so trivial. However, such consistency across rotation highlights the strength of certain sports beliefs no matter who or where.