Even the top teams do not rely on statistics and game planning alone.
Countless athletes across the country are putting on their right socks before their left and having the same pre-game meal to gain any advantage over their competitors.
Sometimes it just takes luck.
Kindrah Kohne always puts on her right shin guard, followed by her right sock, then her right cleat and says it has never been any other way.
“It is never left before right, it has always been like that,” she says.
The No. 4 Penn State women’s soccer team will stop at nothing to gain the edge of their competition — superstitions included.
Coach Erica Walsh says she is not superstitious, but that does not stop her players from developing their own pre-game rituals.
From silly to sentimental the Nittany Lions have a wide variety of game day practices.
Penn State athletics is packed with nutritionists who provide well-balanced pre and post game meals for the athletes, but for senior captain Maddy Evans all it takes is sour gummy worms.
For as long as she can remember Evans says she has always eaten the sugar-filled candy before she plays a game.
Along with the candy Evans and senior midfielder Christine Nairn have adopted a new tradition this season of passing the ball 18 times after warm up and if they mess up they will start again.
Perhaps the new ritual has played a part in the teams success this season. The squad remains undefeated Big Ten record and only has two losses overall.
Junior defender Bri Hovington is considered to be the most superstitious on the team, where everything from the laces on her shoe to the tape on her wrists has to be in uniform with each other.
Hovington wears tape on each of her wrists when she plays that are marked up with different numbers and sayings each representing something or someone significant in her life. She says she has always worn tape, dating back to her high school club playing days, but says the significance of the things written on it changes.
“On my left arm I have 11, 23, 10. 11 is [teammate] Maya [Hayes’s] number she has been that since she was little, 23 is my number and then number 11 our best friend at UNC Meg Morris. She is our other best friend, we’ve been best friends for like five years now. We met at U-15 national camp and it has been that way ever since. We also have ‘swag’ written which is kind of our word. Underneath that it says ‘be special’ which is kind of like be special every game I guess.” Hovington said. “On the top it says ‘LM4, JM6.’ LM is Lexi [Marton] for when she tore her ACL and then J-Mo [Jackie Molinda] went down right after, so I put them on top. And then last year I had TC22 for Tani [Costa] because she tore her ACL.”
Along with supporting her teammates and friends, Hovington wears a black band on her arm with ‘OC12’ on it in memory of a young girl who passed away tragically.
Continuing with her rituals Hovington has ‘trust in you’ with and arrow pointing to herself written on her right cleat, before each game she has to put her jersey next to Hayes’ and bends down and prays before the start of each game.
“I am really superstitious, but it’s not because I don’t have trust or faith,” Hovington said.
Though Hovington’s rituals are extensive, she is not the only player with superstitions of her own.
Hayes is seen at every practice and every game donning a once-dark blue headband that has since faded into a gray color.
“It started with a light blue one that I wore up until my freshman year and sophomore year I got these two dark blue ones. I have two of them and I wear one in practice and one in games,” Hayes said. “It just kind of started when I was younger. I got my first headband and any sport I played I have to wear the headband now.”