Hair ties, oat balls and locker-room skits: Chapman pregame rituals

Many Chapman athletes have a specific pregame ritual and members of the women’s volleyball team are no different. To calm their nerves before a game, the players do a group cheer (above) and have a pair of teammates performs a skit centered around the opposing team’s mascot. Photo courtesy of Naeli Munoz

In middle school, I’d eat a bag of Lays Oven Baked Original Potato Chips before each baseball game. There was surely a sort of magical property to the crispy, salty snack – I was convinced the dried potatoes gave me good luck. In reality, they were likely just replenishing the sodium I lost during warm-ups. Yet I was nonetheless convinced these chips were my good-luck charm.

Athletes are a particularly superstitious bunch – and those currently in-season for Chapman are no exception. Some have lucky pieces of clothing. Jessi Lumsden, a sophomore outside hitter for the women’s volleyball team, has worn the same hair ribbon during games since her freshman year of high school. Emma Eglinton, a junior captain of the cross-country team, wears the same sports bra. Nayelli Munoz, a senior captain and middle blocker for women’s volleyball, doesn’t have any set superstitions, but helped explain the thought process behind her teammates’ consistency.

“Sometimes if we won a really tough game the day before, I’ll try to wear the same hair tie or the same sports bra – that kind of thing, just cause I go, ‘Might as well,’” Munoz said. “Some girls on the team, they have to put their gear on a certain way, like they have to put on their right sock before their left and then their right knee pad and then their left knee pad, or maybe they do ankle bracelets before knee pads.”

Meanwhile, Emerson Klump, a junior on the men’s cross-country team, described himself as incredibly superstitious. He said that he will try anything he believes brings him luck in his races.

“One time I made these oat balls with caffeine in them before a meet and then I also ate an apple before the meet. This whole time, I was drinking a Bai water and I (set a personal record) that race,” Klump said. “Since then, I’ve tried that exact combination of food plenty of times and there has been no success.”

Yet there’s one particular Chapman ritual, above all, that takes the cake. At the beginning of the season, each player on the women’s volleyball team gets paired with another and assigned to a specific home game. Then, prior to that game, the team gathers in the locker room and the selected pair will perform a humorous skit for the rest of the group – usually about them physically beating their opponents’ mascot. Lumsden performed hers earlier this season in a game against the University of California, Santa Cruz, accompanied by fellow teammate Sophie Srivastava.

“We printed out pictures of slugs – because their mascot is the banana slug – and we hid them all around the locker room,” Lumsden said. “We were like, ‘You have to find all the slugs and destroy them.’”

Ultimately, traditions can vacillate between gestures grand and small – between something as intricate as the volleyball skits, or something as personal as junior Chris Tsirtsis’s ritual of stepping onto the football field before a game and saying a quick prayer to himself. Just as my Baked Lays tradition triggered the message that it was game-time, rituals serve to bring Chapman athletes into a desired frame of mind. No matter how seemingly odd, they can act as a conduit for relieving tension.

“It brings some more fun into it because we can all get a little stressed before games,” Lundsen said of the volleyball team’s skits. “We want to go out there and do our best and win, but the skit reminds us to go out there and have fun.”