Pre-game Pump-ups

Chronicle Staff

As the varsity boys’ basketball team converged at center court, the crowd went silent.
The team huddled together and began stomping towards the center-court logo. The stomps were accompanied by chant-like screams, and players came together, jumping up and down with their hands held aloft.

“The main reason we do that is to get fired up for the game,” point guard Gaven Lucas ’08, said. “During away games it’s a little intimidating for the opposing team, too.”
Prior to their pre-game stomp routine, the players sit in the stands watching the first game, most of them listening to music on their iPods or Walkmen.

“The music genre has a lot to do with the energy needed for the sport,” said Shawn McCann, the head of the United States Olympic Committee sport psychology department.

“For athletes in most situations they listen to music to try and control their mood or energy level.”

Pre-game routines are a part of every sport. Athletes will do anything from team activities to pre-game power naps to help relax and get ready to play.

Some athletes use music as a way to calm down or conversely, to get excited and focused.

“It helps block outside distractions and helps players focus on their assignments and what they need to do to help us win the game,” cornerback Andy Firestone ’08 said. “There’s usually a wide variety of the kind of music we listen to. A lot of players listen to rap and hip hop.”

“I just try and relax and talk about the game that’s about to be played,” quarterback John Howe ’07 said.

“But I know that some kids listen to calming music like Bob Marley to try to relax. Other kids try to get psyched up by listening to rap or heavy metal.”

Most high school, collegiate and professional teams get introduced accompanied by a song with the aim of exciting the players and fans.

“I really like the intro music,” Howe said. “Sometimes we enter to ‘Hell’s Bells’ which is fun. Also, music is played during the game which kicks up the energy of the fans and the team.”

“As any visit to a pre-game locker room will attest, players know instinctively the importance of mental focus, and they employ all manner of methods for getting psyched up,” Andrew Cooper, an author who has analyzed the “zone”, said.  “This helps explain the often bizarre pre-game rituals of top-level athletes.”

In many sports, the whole team is involved in the pre-game preparation.

“A lot of teams do stuff to promote team activity,” McCann said. “Some athletes want to isolate themselves, but a lot of team sports emphasize the team concept and communication in order to oppress the pressure related to the anticipation.”

“We do a couple chants as a team while we’re coming out onto the field,” Howe said. “In the locker room, there’s always a prayer and then someone will talk to the team to get them fired up.”

“We get in the circle and we jump up and down and we get warmed up to get ready for the game,” volleyball player Taylor Morgan ’07 said, referring to an activity called “sha-booya” which the girls perform before every game.

Soccer player Mary Amato ’08 has an unusual tradition. Before every soccer game she goes down to the trainers’ office. She’ll lie down and talk to Trainer Milo Sini, or she’ll just try and take a pre-game nap.

“Some athletes think they should be fired up over the top, but in reality they should focus on being calm and ready for the game,” McCann said.

“When I played as a freshman, I was really nervous,” Amato said. “My coach told me to go somewhere quiet and relax. I tried it and it worked. It really helps to calm me down and get me focused on the game.”

“Getting recovery and having enough energy for the game is great,” McCann said. “If you’re able to sleep it means you’re calm and you’re not worrying too much, which is a good thing.”

All of these pre-game rituals have the objective of achieving a level of focus or concentration that will allow them to perform optimally during their upcoming event.

These athletes are hoping that when they reach this “zone” they will be able to overcome anything.

“All athletes know [the zone], strive for it, prize its attainment,” Cooper said.