As is the case with so many athletes and sports teams, it is rather common to see many teams behaving in a peculiar manner, particularly when there is a big championship event on the line. Their belief in good luck and bad luck is widely known and practiced in a variety of different ways. Some players wear only the same socks for every single game they play. Some grow their facial hair or shave their heads. And for some, it’s a ritual meal – the same food, eaten with the same people, at the same time on the night before the game. Rugby is no different than any other sport in this regard.
Does it work? Many say that it does and of course, if it didn’t, why would they continue? Many suggest that it is simply the mental attitude of comfort that creates the scenario for success. They believe they’ll win because they played out their ritual and if they don’t, they’re so mentally preoccupied and fearful, they virtually set create their own failure. Often they are wont to admit that they actually adhere to such nonsense and if they forget or miss their ritual, they will laugh it off with machismo and call it ridiculous. Unless, of course, they lose at which point they are convinced that caused it.
And there is nothing wrong with having something that boosts your confidence in that simple way. If an athlete is walking in to a match with confidence and peace of mind, they will, in fact, play better than they would if they were distracted. You need your head in the game for rugby or you simply won’t have the edge needed to make the gutsy moves.
Coaches even encourage it, if they know that a player really does rely on it. With alcohol consumption discouraged prior to a big match, one coach would allow his players to drink a ritual glass of wine because he knew they would be worried about their performance without it. Others will always wear the same underwear or kiss their wife a certain way.
Sometimes the rituals are performed as a team, believing that the luck is required for the complete unit. Some planned the timing of dressing together, such as making sure that the first part strapped was the players’ ankles. Some said a prayer together and others still would all make sure they chucked up their last meal.
What if you do all the ritualistic moves and well, everyone does, and then you still lose the game? Then what? Do you abandon the ritual forever? Find a new one? The important thing for players is to make sure that they walk into that game in the perfect frame of mind and that they truly believe that they will win.
It’s half the battle. After you’ve performed, or avoided, whatever it is that you need to do prior to the game, then the rest is all rugby and that’s something that everyone in that locker room already loves and wants to play. You’re focused and it’s time to play. So yes, superstitions do work for teams, primarily by clearing their minds and keeping them present in the match. It’s a good thing and it should be supported by players, coaches, fans and family.