Can Sports Superstitions Actually Hurt Your Youth Athlete?

2012-11-29T16:32:46+00:00 November 29th, 2012|Coaching, Health & Safety, Parenting|

Anyone who has ever played sports probably has a sports superstition or two. Maybe you had a lucky pair of socks, a particular warm-up routine, or a little token or medallion you hooked to your gear bag—whatever it was one thing is for certain; it worked (otherwise you would have found a new pair of lucky socks!) Considering how much of an athlete’s confidence on the field comes from their mental attitude, it shouldn’t be all that surprising that a lot of athletes, from pros all the way down to youth baseball, have a superstition or two that helps them get in the right frame of mind before a game.

For as long as their superstition holds true, an athlete is going to feel on top of the world and probably have confidence to spare. But once their “lucky streak” is broken and their talisman no longer works what happens then? Can a sports superstition actually hurt your youth athlete’s confidence level when it works against them?

No lucky item means no confidence.

Let’s say your daughter is the goalie for her soccer team and she has a particular pair of Can Sports Superstitions Actually Hurt Your Youth Athlete?gloves that she wears every game because they are her “lucky gloves.” What happens if one day you’re in a rush and those lucky gloves get left behind? If your daughter really believe that her talent and ability are inherently tied into her gear she might not have that usual pep in her step when she walks out onto the field and she might start doubting her ability to perform. A little superstition is fine, but you don’t want it to have so much influence on your youth athlete that it actually hurts their self-confidence is something goes wrong.

A missed routine can throw off the rest of their game.

A routine to get ready for practice or a game is good (especially if you’re prone to forgetting gear!) but sometimes your pre-planned routine and reality don’t always mesh. If your child’s sports superstition involves a complicated pre-game routine what happens when something disrupts that routine? If they have to skip a step or reorder the way they do things is it going to throw them off their game? Are they going to be so upset about their routine getting messed up that they won’t be able to concentrate on the field/court?

What happens when their superstition stops working?

We all know that superstitions aren’t actually based in reality, but athletes put a lot of faith into their rituals and lucky charms. When all the stars align and an athlete’s sports superstitions work out perfectly it might actually give them a little extra boost of confidence during their game. How can anything possibly go wrong when they’ve got their lucky socks on, right? But what happens if they’ve got their lucky socks on and they miss a key shot/pass/goal etc? When their lucky charm is no longer lucky how will your athlete respond?

Everyone is entitled to a little sports superstition or pre-game ritual to help get them “in the zone” before a game, but don’t let a youth athlete’s superstitions overshadow their own hard work and talent. They are the reason they are successful, not a pair of socks!