Slap, Jump, Flick: Pre-Throw Rituals

Anybody who has watched the Olympics has seen athletes going through their pre-competition rituals. For example Michael Phelps has a very unique arm flap to loosen up before heading into the pool. Gymnasts methodically chalk their hands before going over to the uneven bars. These are done to create a state of flow, getting everything in the right place, keeping yourself calm, and knowing you are about to go into competition ready to kill it.

It’s not uncommon for athletes of any type to have a pre-competition ritual or routine of some sort. Some may seem ridiculous, like going an entire season without washing your “lucky” pair of socks, while others are so small that they may go completely unnoticed by others, like taking a second to look down the sector before stepping into the ring for a throw. Rituals are important in athletics because they help athletes to prepare and get in the zone for competition.

In track and field throwing is an extremely technical event. Each week athletes spend hours upon hours trying to perfect this technique before going into competition on the weekend. This means athletes need to do what they can to create a state of comfort and confidence to re-create the technique they have been working on all week. This is where rituals come in to play.

Rituals are different for every person, they are something usually developed over time as athletes figure out what works for them and many times they are done subconsciously. I talked to some of my teammates who are also throwers and found some things interesting and some very similar.

One teammate slaps her legs and face when she’s called as the next competitor. Others stand and shake their legs or jump around in place. One thing thats extremely common among throwers is fidgeting with the implement. From flicking the disc to finding the perfect spot in your hand for the shot throwers do this to re-create a feeling in order to produce big results.

As a group, throwers like to make sure everything is in just the right place. We kick our feet on the ground to get our shoes to fit exactly how we want them to. We adjust our pants and uniform to feel just right when we go into the ring. And we know exactly where to place our feet to throw something far.

Next time you’re watching a sporting event see if you can pick out some of the rituals athletes have. I’ll be surprised if you can’t find any.

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