Race Day Rituals and Superstitions

Many athletes have quirky race day or game day rituals. From professionals to weekend warriors, athletes of all abilities are calmed by competition day routines and habits because they offer us something known as we walk into a day full of unknown outcomes. A simple google search will turn up dozens of videos chronicling Rafael Nadal’s habit of always stepping over court lines with his right foot first and his pre-serve neuroses of grabbing shirt-nose-ear-ear-shirt.  Numerous Champions League soccer players will touch the field before kick off when they run to their positions. Even Michael Jordan played every game of his Chicago Bulls career wearing his UNC college shorts underneath his NBA uniform.


A study co-authored by researchers at Erasmus University (The Netherlands) and Free University (Germany) found that rituals can have a profound effect on reducing stress for athletes, allowing them to perform better. In executing tasks that can be reliably completed, athletes create order in their world on a day of high anxiety. States the study: “Rituals ‘work’ because the person believes in them.”

Like everyone else, the BATWomen have our share of race day rituals. We thought we’d share some of our favorites and invite you to share some of yours.  

Hannah always wears new black socks on race day. Always new. Always black. She says she just feels faster in black…and “who doesn’t feel their best in a new pair of socks?” This seemed to work for her when she not only won her very first 70.3 last summer but also finished first for non-pro women!  Keep wearing those new black socks Hannah…


Juliet walks to the start line reciting the prayer from Chariots of Fire in her head. She’s not particularly religious, but she figures if it worked for Eric Liddell in 1924, it works for her.  She likes the part that says, “they shall mount up with wings as eagles” the best. When she gets to the line all that goodness evaporates as she turns to the women on her right, then her left, and tells herself “I’m going to blow you out of the [insert expletive] water!”  This ritual originated when she rowed on the Olympic team against the enormous, undefeated, and unbeatable East Germans. They seemed so big when she lined up next to them on the starting line that when Juliet mouthed this same mantra, it was tough not to giggle at the absurdity of it all.

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Amy is a big believer in tater tats for good luck on race day.  She first discovered these adorable little tattoos on a triathlon club trip to Santa Barbara with a teammate who later became her husband. That Santa Barbara race she wore a “leek for luck.” Later came an asparagus for the Boston Marathon and carrots and snow peas for other races. Her favorite is the one she wears for Ironman races…a beet…because she has to beat the competition. We think Amy is on to something here. For her Ironman Santa Rosa race in May, we’re recommending a squash…

Rachael has a Lion King towel that she uses in transition. Her mom gave it to her when she was learning to swim at age 5, to give her the courage of Simba in the pool. Now she uses its bright colors to help her find her spot in transition and to remember that nothing can be as scary as jumping into the deep end where the water is twice as deep as you are tall.

Cymon talks through both her transitions - from swim in to run out - out loud with her boyfriend the night before her race. This helps her remember everything when her nerves turn her brain to oatmeal. By seeing it in her head and detailing her plan, Cymon remembers everything from her pre-race gu to her towel and goggles.

So that’s what’s running through the brains of the BATWomen on race day.  Please share some of yours!