We can all probably impersonate our favorite baseball player as he walks up to the mound, or know our basketball heroes’ movements before they take a free throw shot or maybe it’s a quarterback before he takes the field (oh hey Tim Tebow). Everyone has a signature move, something he or she must do before they take a shot, serve the ball and dive into the pool. Have you ever seen Kevin Youkilis before he bats, he’s got one great stance. But we’re not here to talk about the stance, we’re here to talk about the specific things players and athletes do before they can compete.
Many of our favorite athletes have rituals.
Some baseball players adjust their gloves and have to perfect their stance, some even have to draw something in the sand by the batter’s box. For many athletes from across all sports, their pregame rituals revolve around food, whether it be a certain thing they have to eat or drink before the game or during the game. Some revolve around music and having to hear a specific song or artists, others have to reenact an action, and some athletes just have weird obsessions that really puzzle us.
Some have superstitions and rituals they have to follow if they’re in a slump, and those have even passed on to others.
Some of these rituals are more famous than others, like Michael Phelps’ pre-swim headphones and arm flapping, others, like favorite foods before each game or Serena Williams’ socks, are less known to the public.
Regardless of what they are and whether or not we’re aware of them, we hope they keep at it and keep working so our favorite players can continue to succeed. Here they are, the 31 most unique pregame rituals followed by athletes throughout history:
The GOAT, Michael Jordan, also has his own superstitions and pre game rituals, perhaps that’s what helped him win six NBA titles, six Finals MVP awards and five regular season MVPs. So what is it so other people can mimic? Jordan would wear two pairs of basketball shorts. Obviously he’d wear his white or red Bulls shorts, but underneath he’d wear UNC shorts from his college days. Is that why he couldn’t get into the majors in baseball? There isn’t much room for another pair of pants underneath those.
Here is a player with too many superstitions and rituals to count before he begins a match and during the match. Rafael Nadal’s antics have become famous and could probably fill up this entire list if we needed it to. What does the tennis legend do? First he walks onto the tennis court with just one racket in his hand, he has to eat an energy gel in the exact same way each time and he drinks his water and recovery drinks in a certain order, placing them in the exact same position and location each time.
Like so many other athletes, Wade Boggs’ pre-game ritual involves food. The third baseman had to eat chicken before every single game he played in. According to some, his wife had dozens of recipes that she would prepare for him so at least his meal was somewhat different every day. But Boggs had one other ritual, one a bit different than other athletes: The Hall of Fame baseball player would write the Hebrew word “Chai” in the batter’s box during at bats. Chai means life and perhaps helped him tally over 3,000 hits.
This one will get anyone going before a game, and pretty angry too, which is probably what helped the former defensive tackle during his NFL days. Henderson would have a trainer slap him across the face before games to get him revved up and ready to play. But we’re not talking about some light tap on the cheek, we’re talking full on face slap, no holding back. If it doesn’t get him going, videos of the ritual will definitely put some fear into the opponent, so it helps in one way or another.
Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins has become well known for his pre-game rituals and must haves for game day, and let’s just say if that’s what’s working for him, these are ones to follow. First, he must wear jersey no. 87, symbolizing his birthday, August 7th. Next is his hat, he wears the same sweat-stained hat to post-practice and interviews for an entire season, kind of like a fan with his lucky jersey. Finally, he’s been using the same equipment for years, and has his own way of handling his stick when he’s off the ice.
This is another example of a lucky piece of clothing. The greatest women’s tennis player of this generation, if not ever, wears the same pair of socks throughout a tournament, as long as she’s winning of course. Which means that by the time she finishes a tournament, those socks are probably so worn out they should probably be tossed out, or enshrined somewhere near the trophy. But that’s not her only ritual, she also has to make sure that every member of her player box sits in the exact same box for every match. A tad OCD, but if it helps her win, by any means, do it!
The long-time Boston Red Sox shortstop had a unique at-bat ritual, like many others, but this one was different. Nomar Garciaparra would adjust his gloves a few times while walking up to the plate and before every pitch, then would move his bat like a windmill and tap his toes. But many players have their at-bat ritual, we’ll give you a bonus Garciaparra superstition and ritual: he reportedly would wear the same shirt while at batting practice to the game.
Brian Urlacher’s pre-game ritual is pretty sweet, and we mean that literally. The former Chicago Bears linebacker would eat two chocolate chip cookies before each game, and he’d eat them while listening to country music. We’re honestly surprised that at no point during a game did those cookies make a comeback, especially with the force he uses. When Urlacher was asked why he ate cookies ahead of a game, he just said he likes him. Don’t worry Brian, we like cookies too, and fully back your ritual (and may adopt it as our own).
It’s normal to get a little nervous and queasy ahead of a game or a match, especially when you’re at the start of your career and a lot depends on you. But for Glenn Hall, being sick before a game was a necessity. The Hall of Fame goalie would force himself to vomit before every single game. Why? During an interview in 2011 he said he felt as if he wasn’t giving everything he has to the team of he wasn’t throwing up before every time he hit the ice. This isn’t a ritual we’d like to try out ourselves.
This ritual belongs to an entire team, and one that has been around for quite some time and through several generations of players. It may also be one of the weirder ones on the list, unless you believe in magic. The Ecuadorian national team uses a witch doctor before matches. The witch doctor helps them fight off supernatural spirits, and even made a visit to stadiums during the 2006 World Cup in Germany to ward off any evil spirits.
Kayla Harrison, the American gold-medalist Judoka, has a music-themed pre-fight ritual: Harrison listens to an Eminem playlist to get herself pumped up. There’s nothing like some old school Marshall Mathers to get yourself going, right? She also wears a lucky pair of socks that her grandma made her. These rituals seem to be working, seeing as Harrison won two Olympic gold medals, one in 2012 and another in 2016 and has another gold from the 2012 World Judo Championship.
The career-long Anaheim Ducks winger has a very systematic pre-game ritual, and it’s a long one. His pre-game routine involves eight steps and starts before he even suits up. Before putting on his gear, Petty has to make certain movements with his stick near the rink, which includes touching the stick to the ice. The other steps involved jumping during the anthem and tapping the tunnel frame in the same spot every time he leaves the locker room (not an uncommon one).
Like many other athletes on this list, Les Miles’ routine and ritual involves eating and chewing, but don’t be fooled, this isn’t a post about pre-game food. The former LSU coach had a habit of eating during games, and taking his meal from the ground. Miles would actually pull out grass and turf and eat it while on the sidelines. He reportedly eats the grass because eating it lets him know he’s part of the field… We won’t comment any further.
Nothing like an ice cold energy drink before games, right? Well not for Caron Butler. The former guard would drink Mountain Dew, not energy drinks, before games and at halftime. Some people have said that he’s addicted to the Dew. According to some stories, Butler would send his wife to buy Mountain Dew before his college games at UConn also. He continued with his tradition in the NBA, until finally he was actually barred from drinking Mountain Dew.
Former NBA point guard Mike Bibby was obsessed with fingernails, and for some reason that obsession would carry on to game time. Bibby would pick at his fingernails during the game, specifically during timeouts. But his ritual eventually got an upgrade, trainers reportedly had a nail clipper ready for when he would come off the court. We just really hope there is also someone cleaning up after him and that it wasn’t left for someone else to find (those won’t be worth much on Ebay).
Kevin Rhomberg didn’t spend too many years in the majors, just three, but his antics were enough for him to still be remembered more than 30 years later. Rhomberg was borderline OCD with his rituals. If someone touched him, it didn’t matter who, even if it was a runner, he would have to touch that person back. He was also the anti-Derek Zoolander, refusing to turn right while on the field. He would have to spin left, making it even harder to play in the outfield (he was a left fielder).
We’ve all got a favorite number, the one we always choose when someone asks us to. Well, Larry Walker, former outfielder for Montreal and Colorado, had an obsession with the number three, and it came up constantly during his playing days. He wore no. 33, would wake up at 33 past the hour and was married on November 3rd. He even asked a phone company to give him a number with as many 3’s as possible. Seems fitting that he was a three-time Silver Slugger and three-time batting champion.
We’ve all heard the saying if you really want to know how someone lives you have to walk a mile in their shoes. Well, Jason Terry takes it a step further. The Jet wears their shorts to bed the night before in order to get a better feel of the team. Terry reportedly owns a pair of shorts for every team in the league. He also has a tendency to eat chicken before each game, and of course has his signature sweat band that he wears on his head.
During his 14 seasons in the MLB, Richie Ashburn would always do the same thing when he would have a hot-streak at the plate: the centerfielder would sleep with the bat he was using. Yes, his baseball bats joined him in bed. Ashburn wanted to make sure that he continues using that same bat every game, and was nervous that if he left it in the clubhouse, it would be moved around and mixed with other bats. He couldn’t risk getting it confused with any other bat that wasn’t his lucky bat at the time.
Emmanuel Sanders likes to get to know his opponents before each game, or at least the virtual versions of his opponents. The wide receiver even tweeted out a picture of himself playing Madden before a game using the hashtag #visualizesuccess. For Sanders, seeing the Madden version of the players on the screen helps him visualise what his opponents may do on the real field. If it helps the Pro Bowler, then why not, let’s just hope he doesn’t get injured from it like other players have.
Wayne Gretzky, another GOAT on this list, had a habit of putting baby powder on his hockey stick before faceoff. The Hall of Fame center said the baby powder was essential, that you have to take care of things that take care of you. Gretzky would also put on his gear in the same order every time, his bottom half then his top half, each from left to right. He would also miss his first warm up shot wide right of the net.
How many of you chew gum on a daily basis? It’s a great way to fight off hunger or even just leave a good taste in your mouth. But how many pieces of gum do you think you can chew at once? We guarantee it’s not as much as Stephan Lebeau, who would chew 20-25 pieces of gum before a game and spit them out exactly two minutes ahead of faceoff. We’re not sure why he does it, but we’re pretty sure it can’t be good for him.
Jason Kidd had a thing with free throws. The former player turned coach would blow kisses to his now ex-wife Jumana and their kids Trey, Jason, Miah and Jazelle before he took his free throws. It was a way for him to show he was thinking of them during games, and it seems the ritual worked for the guard, who shot 78.1% from the free throw line while he and his wife were together, and shot 78.5% from the line for his career.
You may have never heard of Santo Condorelli, but you’ll probably remember him from now on. The Canadian swimmer became an international sensation when competing at the 2016 Rio Olympics for his very unique pre-game ritual that you may not want to capture on TV. Condorelli gives his father the middle finger before he dives into the pool. The tradition reportedly began when Condorelli was younger and it was a way for him to get pumped up.
There’s nothing like some dirt on your uniform, even before the game begins. Former right fielder Vladimir Guerrero would dirty his helmet before the game even began, covering it with dirt and pine tar. Before every season, Guerrero would leave his helmet on the dugout floor and have his teammates help dirty it, and as the season progresses, he would continue covering his helmet with pine tar. Fans would tell him to clean it, but it’s his routine, so let’s just let him do it, for the sake of winning.
Turk Wendell is every dentist’s dream. The former pitcher brushed his teeth in between every inning, but we don’t think he was just obsessed with having pearly whites. Wendell also had a thing for the number 9, wearing no. 99 and signing a contract worth $9,999,999.99. He has a list of other antics, including having liquorice in his mouth while pitching and jumping over the foul line while returning to the dugout at the end of every inning. He was definitely an entertaining player to watch even when he wasn’t pitching.
The former goalkeeper had a little ritual that helped him save penalty kicks. The Argentine would pee on the field before. His tradition dates back to the World Cup in 1990, when Goycochea couldn’t step off the field to use the bathroom and had to relieve himself on the pitch. They won the game, and the goalkeeper decided that the urine helped them. So it began, Goycochea then began peeing on the field before every penalty shoot out.
Goran Ivanisevic’s ritual is a bit superstitious and seems like scene out of the movie Groundhog Day. The Croatian tennis player re-enacts the movements he did on the days that he won. He will eat at the exact same place, wear the exact same clothes and talk to the same people, hoping that it will end in another victory. He would also always be the second player to get up from the chair during change overs.
This one isn’t for the faint of heart. MMA Fighter Lyoto Machida drinks his own urine before he steps into the ring. Yes, his own urine. Machida and his family believe in urine therapy, a belief that urine serves medicinal and cosmetic purposes. Machida, who is from Salvador, Brazil, has said in the past that he doesn’t mention his ritual while fighting in the United States, because he’s not sure how people will react to hearing it, but it’s something his entire family believes in and does.
Many players probably have a pair of lucky boxers or at least a lucky shirt. Well, Jason Giambi, who played over 20 seasons in the MLB, had a lucky thong. The former DH and first baseman had a golden thong that he would wear if he had a hitting slump. Giambi once admitted that when he puts on the underwear he breaks the slump. Even better: it supposedly worked so well that Giambi got other Yankees to follow, and they started wearing golden thongs to end their slumps