Tag Archives: Sports Tradition

Swim Team Shaving Party

--Informant Info--
Nationality: White
Age: 22
Occupation: Student
Residence: San Dimas, CA/Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/19/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece

Informant: When I was on the Dive and Swim team we would always grow out our body hair for prelims, which is the race that qualifies you for finals. So you would grow out our leg hair, arm hair, armpit hair haha. Sometimes boys did facial hair. But, if you made finals then we would have a shaving party. The finalists would have a shaving party, so you were seen as like a star if you were invited. It was an honor to go to this party, so everyone would help each other shave to get ready for finals. 

Interviewer: Where did you learn this from?

Informant: It has been going on at my high school for a very long time, probably decades before I went there. 

Interviewer: Why would your team this?

Informant: Shaving helps you swim faster, and I think it was a mini celebration that you made finals.

Interviewer: Did you ever get to go to one?

Informant: I did! At first I was a little weirded out, but when I went it was surprisingly fun. 


My informant is a good friend and housemate of mine from USC and is a senior at the University of Southern California majoring in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention with a minor in Health Care Studies from San Dimas, CA. She says that a lot of her mannerisms and sayings come from growing up in San Dimas which she describes as being a very small town outside of Los Angeles that feels more midwest than the West coast. She attended summer camps throughout most of her life, starting as a camper and becoming a counselor in high school. 


After willing to participate in an interview to collect folklore, the topic of sports came up with my informant and me. She disclosed that she was on the Swim and Dive Team and we began to talk about our experiences playing sports and how some of those celebrations and traditions of sports teams relate to folklore. This celebration got brought up in the interview and the informant gave me more details. 


This folklore celebration is akin to rite of passages celebrations, as it is intended to congratulate and prepare the swimmers who qualified for the final races. In another sense, it also promotes unity and cooperation within the swimming team as they are doing something that has potential benefits for their results taking into account the belief that less hair on the body allows swimmers to swim faster. 

After some research, I discovered that many swim teams have similar shaving parties, and some have been documented online. One of these parties is mentioned and written about in the  following article:

Bara, Scotty, and Sapir Frozenfar. “Shaving In Sports.” The Viking Magazine, vikingsportsmag.com/features/2011/10/10/shaving-in-sports/.

Ultimate Frisbee Lingo

--Informant Info--
Residence: Washington D.C.
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/29/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

J is a member of USC’s ultimate frisbee team. In Ultimate Frisbee there are many terms that are used during a game to talk about strategy, they are:

“Laying Out” is when you jump forward and go parallel to the ground to catch the disk

A “Bid” is when someone jumps to get a disk

A “Blade” is a frisbee that’s thrown really vertically

“Bookends” are when you block the disc from being caught by the other team, then you catch it to score a point

“Cutter” is the catcher, “handler” is the thrower

“Chilly” is what you say when you want someone to calm down and not just throw the disc immediately.


J is a sophomore at USC and a member of USC’s Ultimate Frisbee club team. He has competed on this team for two years and enjoys the sport very much. This was taken from a text chat with him discussing ultimate frisbee.


While at USC I had played with the Ultimate team for one semester before quitting to focus on other things. One thing I hadn’t learned are the terms above. I find that they would definitely be confusing to any new fan or player that has not heard of them before. The only term I knew from J’s list is “Chilly”. During one of the games I played in my one semester on the team, I remember people saying “Chilly” right people got the disc, and I was unfamiliar with what it mean. However, since it sounds similar to “chill” like “chill out” I understood that it meant to calm down. Other terms don’t make much sense to a new player like a “Bookend” for instance. How would one know that it is a term for blocking a disc? I think that this language reflects the culture of Ultimate Frisbee and its uniqueness as a sport as a whole.

Ole Miss “Hotty Toddy” Cheer

--Informant Info--
Nationality: american
Age: 24
Occupation: Sale representative
Residence: San Fransisco
Date of Performance/Collection: April 19, 2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): none

Main Piece: 

Informant- *Loud Shouting Voice* 

Hell yeah, damn right!!!

hotty toddy gosh almighty

who in the hell are we HEY!!!

flim flam, bim bam


Interviewer- Is there a specific time you sing the song? 

Informant- The song is a response to the usually shouted phrase “Are You Ready?”. It is sung every football game before kick off. As a student, we sing the song in The Grove, the Ole Miss tailgating area, and all over Oxford. I would sing the song with students in bars and on the streets of Oxford. 

Interviewer- Do you feel connected to the song or people who sing it?

Informant- Yes! This song shows my pride for my school, Ole Miss. I feel connected to our city and school and everyone who sings it. We all clearly love our school and football team. Each time we sing louder. The song usually gets pretty rowdy and the crowds go wild. HOTTY TODDY !!! 

Background: The informant learned the Ole Miss cheer song as an incoming freshman to the University of Mississippi. She learned it from peers and word of mouth. She learned that the song is sung with a loud confident gusto and usually with a group of people. A sorority member and fan of football, the informant feels great pride for her school, especially when singing the song. The song represents the community camaraderie for the school and football team.

Context: This piece was collected by the informant on April 19, 2020. She is currently an Alumni from Ole Miss and graduated in 2018. She sang the song alone in an outdoor setting. She explained that the song is usually sung in large groups at a sports gathering. 

Thoughts: The song has been sung by Ole Miss fans for generations, dating back to the mid 1900s. There is no official copyright or creation of the chat and melody. It is a fight song representing folk music of Ole Miss community members. 

Ring the Chapel Bell

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 19
Occupation: College Student
Residence: Athens, GA
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/16/2013
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish, French, Hebrew

“Uhh…I guess we all know the..to…you ring the chapel bell after…Like after, um, a team wins or just like after something good happens to you like if you get an “A” on a test or something. Ummm.  Like after football games, if we win, there’s like an hour wait to go ring the bell. Ummm.” (I asked if she had rung the bell.) “Yes.  Well it’s a tradition for my like sorority family to go do it on big little reveal night, and we also do it on bid night.  And ummm. I have never done it after a football game just cause it’s too long.”

The informant attends the University of Georgia, and she loves football like most of her school, which is probably why the line is so long at the bell after a team win.  The bell allows everyone to take part in the joy of winning the football game.  The informant told me that the university talked about the ritual on the tours for prospective students, but it is also just something that everyone knows.  Ringing the chapel bell and knowing what that means is an initiation into the university community, and as she said, it has been adopted by her sorority as an initiation ritual for new members.  In addition to celebrating what good thing has happened to you, no matter how small, ringing the bell becomes common knowledge that helps the new members of a sorority or freshman at the university make the shift from being outsiders to insiders.

Thunder Dome

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Italian American, African American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Pasadena
Date of Performance/Collection: April 16, 2013
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Um, okay, so I guess I’m talking about Thunder Dome, which was a ritual thingie for my water polo team in high school. Um, uh, so, basically, it was like this exercise we did every week for hell week, which was like the most intense part of practice, I guess. It’s before the season starts, like a week. Anyway, this particular exercise, um, basically what they would do is, they wouldn’t tell you what it was until you were about to start it, so for like the freshman it was like this big deal. So what they would do is wheel out this big speaker system. And they’d start playing “Thunderstruck” by AC DC, like really, really loud, on the pool deck or whatever. And then, uh, they would have to uh line up in two different rows on each side of the pool. Basically the rules of the game is you have to stop the other person—you were like matched up with someone on the other side—you have to stop the other person from scoring any way you wanted to. And if you didn’t you had to keep going against another person, and another person, another person, another person, until you do. And, yeah, that was basically the game.

This sample of folklore describes a rite of passage. The secrecy and fear of the mysterious “Thunder Dome,” is a way for older high school students to intimidate, and allow new freshman team members to prove themselves in order to be accepted as part of the team. The game is an extreme version of water polo that allows freshman to show the team what they’ve got. If one performs poorly at Thunder Dome, they are off to a bad start as a member of the team. Doing well can increase one’s standing in the eyes of older players. This tradition can lead to acceptance by a niche peer group.

“Post-Race Ritual”

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Korean-American
Age: 23
Occupation: Banking Analyst
Residence: San Francisco, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: March 2013
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Korean

            The informant rowed for the University of California, Berkeley’s lightweight crew team for four years before graduating. He rowed in numerous regattas throughout his athletic career in college, and describes a ritual that he observed―and practiced―at the end of every race. The informant continues rowing recreationally and recounted the practice of the ritual in his apartment, where he had just returned from an early morning row out in the Oakland estuary.


            After a race, if you lose, you are traditionally supposed to remove the tank top that you wore during the race and give it to the winning crew. Why do we do it? It is almost like you’re paying tribute to the winning crew. In most crew races you don’t receive a medal, so it’s almost like the honorable thing to do if you lose is to give something of yours to the winners. It’s a very long-standing tradition. I learned very quickly after I lost my first race. I just observed some of the older varsity members take off their tanks―well, traditionally the practice began with taking the actual tank off of your back. That’s kind of gross in a lot of ways because you’re sweaty and it’s a bit nasty so what most people end up doing is bringing extra tanks to any given regatta so we can hand out fresh tanks if we lose. You go over to the opposing crew and you meet the guy who sits in your seat. So, let’s say if I was in the bow, then I would go up to the bow seat in the winning crew. I would introduce myself, make a little awkward small talk, and then hand my tank to him. The winners might collect a lot of tanks depending and how many boats were in the race. Some boats don’t abide by this tradition, but then they’re considered as assholes.


            The collection of the informant’s story immediately following his morning practice is of particular importance because of the informant’s demeanor during his retelling. He spoke softly and his eyes looked distant, as if he were recalling the memories of former races with nostalgia. This suggests that, despite the fact that the informant surrendered many of his own tanks to opposing crews, the ritual itself was more important as it functions as an integral part of the rower’s experience. Similar practices are seen in other sports―notably, soccer―but not perhaps as formalized as the ritual the informant describes.

            It is also interesting to note that the ritual has adapted over the years and teams now bring a fresh set of tanks to the regatta, raising the issue that hygiene has perhaps taken precedence over the value of the losing rowers’ hard work manifested in his sweaty tank. In this case, it seems the act of surrendering the tank may now be more significant than the tank itself as a symbol.

Dirty Jersey and Trophy Helmet: Sport Customs

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Italian- American and "mix of other ethnicities"
Age: 58
Occupation: General Surgeon
Residence: San Diego, California
Date of Performance/Collection: 3.23.12
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

A Rugby ritual and a Football tradition as told verbatim by informant:

“One of the team rituals we had playing rugby in college was that we wouldn’t wash our jerseys from the beginning of the season to the end of the season. Um, and so, um, I I don’t know what the why it started but that’s how it was told to me and and uh some people believed it made you look like a rougher tougher team um it certainly made us smell worse. And you know I stuck to that tradition um and you know rugby of course can be a very dirty game and particularly if you play in the rain you’d get incredibly muddy and so you know your shirt you could hang outside if it was really full of mud and then it would dry and cake and you could beat your shirt and get the mud off it but still you had to put it on for the next game, so. I tried to instill a similar tradition uh you know when I played rugby in medical school but the, the other guys weren’t as interested in keeping the tradition. (wife interjects, they both laugh, and he repeats) Some of them did it. It bonds you as a team but also again it was for some players a form of intimidation. If you went out there with a clean jersey you looked like a rookie. But if you went out there with a dirty jersey you looked like you really knew how to play the game.

There was a tradition in football too where in um in football you wear a helmet and in the beginning of the season usually the helmet’s nice and clean, it’s been freshly painted. Well, during the season your goal was to collect as many marks on your helmet as you could uh because we use our helmet to hit people and so you wanted to get scratches and scuff marks and you wanted to get at least a color from every team you played against. It was like a collection of trophies from the other team so you wanted to get a color of every single team you were playing against. And that showed you were always hitting people, that you were a tough guy. And you never wanted the coach to re-paint your helmet during the season. In college it’s a little tougher to do because they wanted to re-paint your your helmet all the time. So literally you had to sometimes take your helmet and keep it with you against team rules so that they wouldn’t paint it. I did it in high school for sure and then I tried to do it as much as I could in college.”

While both customs hold little symbolic or abstract meaning, as the informant suggests the factors of team bonding and intimidation signified by the dirty jerseys and marked up helmets play a big role in physically brutal sports like rugby and football. These traditions provide solidarity while still playing the mental game inherent in any competition. Rugby and football also are particularly dangerous, difficult, and “macho” sports, thus jerseys and helmets function like war-paint in battle, as players animalize themselves in the face of their opponents.