Athletes say rituals help boost performance

Anne Walkup, Opinions Editor

Many of the top athletes in the world follow a pre-game or -meet ritual, which studies have shown to improve their performance. Likewise, several Linfield athletes share that they feel following a routine can help better prepare them for competition.

 Cameron Dole, ’20: Men’s Swimming

Cameron Dole is a transfer junior who is competing in his first season with the Linfield swim team this winter. Although he’s been swimming competitively for 15 years, he started following a routine to help him prepare for his races about seven years ago,

Dole keeps his pre-race ritual simple, as most of his routine takes place behind the starting blocks just before his race. “[My routine includes] turning up my favorite jams, jumping around and visualizing my race. Remembering the beat of the music helps me get a fast pace from the start,” Dole said.

“I find myself worrying about my races and getting too tense, so jumping around and shaking everything out helps me relax,” Dole says.

Ashley Guldager, ’22: Women’s Soccer

“I have always been superstitious, and once I started doing a routine, I’ve always stuck to it,” freshman Ashley Guldager said.

Guldager’s pre-game ritual involves a number of steps throughout the day, all of which lead up to the game itself.

“When walking to the field I play my own music, then switch to a warm up CD. I put my shoes and shin guards on in a certain order every time. Before we stretch, I always chew a certain kind of gum. I have an electrolyte drink before the game and a gatorade at halftime,” Guldager said.

Guldager has been playing soccer since the age of five, but she first began her routine as a high school sophomore and has continued with it in her first season as a collegiate athlete.

If she ever forgets part of her routine or does it differently, Guldager she says she worries that “something is off.” But she said she is always able switch her focus back to the game. Even so, Guldager  said she feels following her ritual the same way each time helps her feel better prepared prior to each game.

Juliet Arnswold ’21: Women’s Track & Field

Juliet Arnswold, a hurdler on the track team, follows a pre-meet routine centered around visualization. Though she has been running track since sixth grade, Arnswold said she became more serious about her sport during her freshman year of high school. At the start of her junior year, her coach suggested she try visualization to help her prepare for her races—a practice she has continued into college.

“Before going to sleep two nights before my race, I visualize myself going through all of the steps that I take on race day,” Arnswold said. “This includes what I’ll eat for breakfast—oatmeal and a piece of peanut butter and banana toast.”

Arnswold said she then imagines herself arriving at the meet, running through her warmup of drills and jumping over hurdles. She then visualizes her entire race, from positioning herself in the starting blocks to finishing the race with the mark she had hoped to attain.

“The visualization process gives me a plan of what I want to accomplish and helps me feel less anxious,” Arnswold said.

Madison Hicks, ‘21: Women’s Lacrosse

“I listen to a set playlist before going into the locker room, lay out my uniform the night before, and get my hair braided by a teammate,” Madison Hicks said of her pre-game routine. Hicks, who was a volleyball player in high school, began her lacrosse routine when she started playing the sport last year.

“I started my routine because it got me into the game mindset, and I started to see improvement in the games,” Hicks said.

Hicks said her team also has a ritual they practice together before each game. They all gather in the locker room and dance to music before having a pep talk prior to going onto the field. She said many lacrosse players follow individual routines as well. Hicks said she has even heard of players sleeping with their lacrosse sticks the night before a game.

Hicks said her own routine certainly helps with calming her nerves and as well as putting her in the right mindset for competition. “It gets me super pumped and ready to work hard,” she said.