“Before every soccer game I’ve played since I started playing AYSO, I have put my socks on starting with the right foot.  My best friend and I did it when we played AYSO.  I’m not sure if other people did it, maybe they were older than us, but we definitely always did it before every game, every time.  Even when I played club and played for the high school team, I always put my right sock on first.  It just became a habit, and I knew I would have a horrible game or something really bad would happen if I didn’t put that sock on first.  Obviously, I didn’t win every game, but it just would be wrong if I didn’t put my socks on in that order.”

Rachael told me that she put her socks on starting with her right foot ever since she started playing soccer.  Since that time, she has formed an association between putting socks on in a specific order with performing well on the soccer field.  In Rachael’s case, putting on socks is both a superstition and a tradition.  Although she said that usually only she and her best friend would put on socks in a specific order, Rachael knew older teammates that followed the same tradition.  When asked if seeing other teammates put on socks in a specific order provoked her to do the same, Rachael could not remember because she has been playing soccer since elementary school and does not know when the tradition began.

Like Rachael, many athletes have certain pre-game rituals that are associated with superstitions.  Whether it involves putting on socks, or going through a certain locker room door, or saying a certain chant three times, various teams have developed traditions that must be performed before they can play.  When an entire team has a certain ritual, it seems like that kind of activity would reinforce team unity and help the team to feel connected before they face an opponent.

In Rachael’s case, however, the rest of her team did not put on socks in a given order.  For Rachael, following this superstition made her feel more in control and like a better player.  Like she said, without the right sock order, things were “wrong.”   Even though it seems unlikely that breaking this sock tradition would actually impact Rachael’s soccer ability, it is possible that the ritual gives her the extra boost of confidence she needs to perform well on the field.  Also, performing the ritual allowed Rachael to focus on other things.  If she did not put on her right sock first, she would feel like she was not going to play well and would dwell on the sock issue instead of the game.  Thus, even though superstitions may be deemed silly or insignificant, they actually can impact they way a person thinks and feels if there is a strong belief in the superstition.