Pump, pump, pump it up
Varsity pre-game regimens range from meditation to dance parties
It’s no secret reaching an optimal level of pre-competition energy is a key to athletic success. Put more simply: the age-old “pump up” routine proves what happens outside competition can be almost as important as what transpires during it.
What does this mean for University athlete? Meditating, dancing uncontrollably and everything in between.
For the women’s soccer team, emphasis falls on the more energetic end of the spectrum. Players may begin their pre-game routine by listening to their own music — but once they gather in the locker room, everyone ditches the headphones and has a collective dance party to the music blasting through the speakers.
“We are [all] so fun and outgoing and active all the time that if we had a quiet locker room like some teams do, where they want everyone to be silent, that would freak us out,” second-year College student Brittany Ratcliffe said. “We just wouldn’t play like us.”
“We look awful,” Ratcliffe joked. “Hopefully no one ever sees us dancing.”
Something about their highly energetic routine must be working, though, because the women’s soccer team entered the NCAA tournament as the number one seed.
The men’s cross-country team, meanwhile, takes a more subtle approach to their meet preparation. Before every race, after the team has jogged over to the starting line and confirmed all shoes are firmly tied, everyone amasses into a huddle. The captains will say a few words, and they will cheer a quiet “Hoos” before taking their places.
“Some teams get really into it and yell,” third-year Engineering student Jack St. Marie said. “We figure we are going to be out of breath soon enough.”
In terms of music, the cross-country team does not collectively have favorite pump up song — outside in an open area, music isn’t as effective. But St. Marie noted individuals’ music taste tends to be more on the “hipster” side, accompanying their overall mellow demeanor.
For the women’s tennis team, however, music plays a crucial role as they warm up on the court.
“We always make a playlist of a bunch of songs that get us jumpy, get our energy going, get our blood flowing — but we also have a couple of songs that really speak to us in terms of lyrics,” fourth-year College student and women’s tennis captain Caryssa Peretz said.
“We all listen to it,” Peretz said. “We are all hearing the same words. I think it really connects us in a way.”
The men’s swim team’s pre-game routine is highly energized but does not involved music or crazy dancing. After everyone is stretched, the team will gather in a circle around a person of choice — a different selection is made every meet — and the team makes a lot of noise. Soon after, they count down. Everyone will drop except for the person in the middle, who lets out a huge yell.
After this initial cheer, the swimmers have their team meeting and wait for the cue they are going to be announced onto the pool deck. The swimmers have a large metal sculpture of a swimmer doing the butterfly stroke they all pat on the head at this time, and then run onto the pool deck for another big cheer.
“We are very focused, and some of us may be very tense before a meet, so it helps us relax and have fun with it all,” third-year Engineering student Charlie Putnam said.
For the men’s basketball team, pregame routine begins as early as four hours before the tip-off. They begin by shooting around, then have their pregame meal at the JPJ dining hall followed by a small meeting, similar to a bible study, which almost all players attend.
At this point, players can do whatever they want to prepare. Fourth-year College student Akil Mitchell takes a relaxing approach. He usually takes a nap to relax before the game, and sets aside a few minutes before going on the court to calm his mind and pray.
“You really have to balance it out, because if you are too excited [then] you’re too nervous,” Mitchell said. “[If] you’re too jittery, it really shows on the court.”
Mitchell also uses music to help him find this balance, changing his pregame playlist based upon his mood.
“If I’m angry, I’ll listen to heavy metal music to get me going,” Mitchell said. “If I’m overly excited and I can feel myself [becoming] too nervous or too excited about a game, I’ll listen to some mellow jazz to calm me down.”
As they near the beginning of the game, the team works together to pump each other up. The coach will talk, and then they will huddle and do a small dance or cheer — a spur of the moment move which varies from game to game.
“It’s all to get us mentally prepared so that we’re focused, locked in,” Mitchell said. “And I mean when it works — sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t — but when it does, you can really tell the difference.”