For some getting “in the zone” before a big contest is a question of psychological tricks like meditation and positive visualisation. For others it’s following tried and trusted steps which have worked in the past. Often these are weird and illogical, like always putting the left sock on first or always wearing the same T shirt under the match shirt.
Not surprisingly, the more accomplished the athlete, the more committed they are to always following the same pattern or habit – and here are five prime examples.
In a glittering career Borg won 11 major tournaments and amassed an estimated fortune of $28.5 million. Along the way he saved plenty of money on razors during the Wimbledon fortnight as he started to grow a beard just before the tournament started and wouldn’t shave it off until he was either knocked out or became champion – which he managed five years running from 1976 till 1980.
Holland and Ajax captain Johan Cruyff had two strange habits that he insisted on following before each match. The first was that he would always spit his chewing gum into the opponents’ half just before kick-off and the second, even more aggressive, gesture was to punch team-mate Gert Bals in the stomach before each game. Fortunately Bals seemed to be happy to take one for the team.
Another footballer who has written about his own weird preparations is ex-goalkeeper David James. As well as taking a vow of silence before each game he would also head for a men’s urinal, wait until he was the only person in the toilet, and spit at the wall. Even he admitted this was not normal behaviour when he said, “I was in this mad little world where as long as I did everything in the right order then anything could be achieved. Dangerous thinking, that is”.
Many consider Nicklaus to be the greatest golfer of all time having won 18 major championships in his playing years. He’s also since forged a very successful career as a golf course designer. Before ever reaching the first tee the one thing he insisted on was carrying three coins in his pocket, it didn’t matter about the currency or denomination, there just had to be three of them.
Australian cricket captain and batman who scored over 54,000 runs in his career also had to have one particular item in his pocket whenever he went out to bat – the red handkerchief given to him by his grandfather.
According to psychologists these may all sound like strange superstitions but their effects on the players’ mental states should not be underestimated. So if you have any big game preparations of your own, stick with them – they could well be the difference between winning and losing.
For more sports star superstitions. Check out the below infographic;