Sara Seed: Superstitions are the name of the game
This is going to be fun! Most know that baseball players tend to be superstitious and ritualistic, but tennis players take it to a whole new level. For instance, before I play a match I always put on my right sock first. Same for shoes. I always wear the same necklace and earrings, which were my mom’s. When I step on the court, I always try to use the left side of the net post or bench to set up camp, and right before the match starts I bend over and touch each shoe tongue (with special initials on each), kiss my necklace and jump up and down three times. Here we go!
Over the course of the NCAA Championships I have been interviewing players and coaches to see what their rituals consist of. Some of the answers may leave you wondering how they find time to actually play the match! These players and coaches have made my “Ritual Hall of Fame.”
● Black sweatband on right arm. White one on left arm. They stay on the entire match no matter how saturated they become.
● Draws a power “T” on tape that’s wrapping up something on his body. Hunter has a lot of tape going on. Who knows where that “T” ends up?
● Never puts a towel behind him during the first game. After that, always one at the fence.
● He’ll rotate the balls when he is serving and knows what balls to rotate when.
● Starts the team doubles matches drinking water, then Gatorade. He finishes each bottle but not at the same time. During singles, it’s reversed.
● Never steps on the lines in between points.
● Calls out the score every time before serving. Says Hunter, “I’ve even been asked to stop calling it out by the chair umpire but I do it anyway because actually that’s the proper etiquette.” Got a point there, Hunter.
Samantha Vickers and Isaura Enrique
● They decide on a theme song for the week and play it all week.
● Jump up and down between every point (That’s a lot of jumping).
● Wear the same outfits until they lose.
● Always eat Italian the night before every match.
● Head coach Dean Orford (more from him later) wraps Samantha’s grip before every match. This is the only player he does this for.
● Wakes up extra early on match day.
● Eats same breakfast.
● Listens to same playlist.
● Braids her hair the same way. Pink ribbon on top. Black on bottom.
● Always wears the same bracelet and earrings.
● Night before a match washes and braids hair so it comes out wavy.
● Wears something on her left wrist.
● Same breakfast: Chocolate chip pancakes, bacon and hash browns.
● Always keeps moving.
Jared Hiltzik Illinois
● Takes a cold shower before every match, regardless of the temperature.
● Eats same breakfast.
● Never steps on lines between points.
● Bounces the ball 3-4 times before each serve.
● Wears a left wristband, which never comes off during a match.
● Eats plain meat sauce and pasta the night before a match.
● Eats the same breakfast before every match.
● Wears the same earrings and necklace for every match. If she loses? She brings them to practice the next day; lays them on a bench and makes them watch practice. Yes, the jewelry must watch practice!
Illinois men’s coach
● Showers before every match.
● Stays to himself, collects his thoughts and goes over the game plan for each player.
● Makes notes regarding the match and opponent.
● Mandatory team meal before each match.
Tulsa women’s coach
● Makes two lines of three balls each on the court before every match. Don’t ask.
● Wears the same warmup for every match until the team loses.
● Wears the same hat for every match until the team loses.
● Teams eat at same restaurant when winning. Same table. Same food. Entire team endures this ritual.
Auburn women’s coach
● Every bag has to be lined up perfectly next to the court benches and arranged according to the racket brand.
● During warmups, she folds the player’s clothes that are lying on the court.
● All water bottles have to be in order.
● Wears a pearl necklace every match, and now wears her sister’s who passed away a few years ago. The pearls were a gift from their grandmother.
● Shoes have to be bright. I don’t mean smart but rather colorful!
● If the team loses, bye-bye shoes. A new pair steps up. But if they’re competing against Alabama ... they’re bland or black. What is it with that rivalry?!?