Marquette Wire

SCHMIDT: Unearthing player quirks and superstitions

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EricSchmidtAthletes are a strange bunch. Their off-the-field antics include converting their last names into Spanish numerals, tattooing their business line’s logo onto their bald heads and operating the least friendly doggy daycare center ever. Scary thing is, if you put them in a uniform they get even wackier.

Most of the head-scratchers can be blamed on drugs, alcohol and pain pill-infused cocktails. But some of the on-field oddities are a result of athletes’ overwhelmingly paranoid nature, because contrary to what Stevie believes, superstition is the way.

When things are going down the tubes, athletes like to venture into “bizzaro world” in an attempt to right the ship. Sometimes they take the more spiritual approach and try to believe in something bigger than themselves. They pray or meditate or do yoga. But, when all else fails, sometimes they do something a little quirkier — like Ron Artest on acid quirky.

Some put their left shoe on before their right one, for instance. Or wear black dress socks over their game socks. Or have a nice cup of tea and a candy bar before heading out onto the field.

Luckily for us, the Marquette men’s soccer team promises its pre-game rituals are aimed at producing a more calming atmosphere — unlike the Nomar Garciaparras of the world, who seem to be doing their little twitches in a fledgling attempt to keep their heads from exploding.

“We do our rituals to get a better feel and to get more comfortable before games,” coach Louis Bennett said. “Unlike baseball or football players, we have habits rather than superstitions.”

Bennett, who won a British Colleges National Championship back in 1982 and played professional soccer for seven years, has been submerged in the sport his entire life. One of his more eccentric rituals is marking the field the day before a game and then again the next morning to, as Bennett joked, “make sure it hadn’t moved.”

In general, the team is fairly focused, and more importantly, sane. Most of their superstitions aren’t really superstitions at all, but rather means of motivation and remembrance.

“My granddad used to write an ‘s’ and an ‘h’ on his socks, representing strength and honor, so now I do the same,” freshman midfielder Ryan Robb said. “It gives me extra motivation.”

Matt Pyzdrowski, the senior leader of the team, is simply driven by music and meditation. He said he listens to “Lose Yourself” by Eminem before every game and tries to imagine the Golden Eagles putting one in the win column.

“I like to visualize the game play by play,” Pyzdrowski said. “It helps me calm down and be more confident heading in.”

If there is one oddball in the group, it would appear to be freshman Anthony Selvaggi, who proclaimed openly that he was “very superstitious.”

“I do a lot of different things to help myself,” Selvaggi said. “I always wear the same socks, put one shoe on before the other, and take a shower right before game time. I’m the kind of person who, when things go wrong, likes to blame errors on something else.”

Despite the varied approaches to finding success, the entire team has implemented a new ritual — one it hopes will lead to being more relaxed and focused, and hopefully, will lead to more W’s as well. About fifteen minutes before the game, the team unites and says a prayer. One team, one voice.

“We all believe in the Lord, and we believe that he gave us a special gift to use out on the pitch,” Pyzdrowski said. “Praying helps us realize what we have to do out there.”

In the world of sports, anything is possible. Sometimes it takes a weird pre-game ritual to make dreams come true, but sometimes all it takes is faith. Golden Eagles, keep praying and keep believing. It’s a long season, and anything can happen.

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