You see Brian Hunt ’02 on the lacrosse field quietly bringing opposing goaltenders to tears of frustration. But you don’t see how before the game Hunt looks as though he were sipping pina coladas and strawberry daiquiris on Barbados.
You see Peter Lee ’02 finding his targets in the end zone on any given Saturday. But you don’t see how Lee’s rigid pre-game ritual contrasts sharply with the unpredictability of a football game.
And you probably see the back of junior cross country runner Kate O’Neill’s jersey as she floats by you. But you don’t see the vivid image of the course field that is captured in her mind.
You see Nick Morris ’03 finding openings on the soccer field. But you don’t see how Morris brings his own soft music to the locker room in order to drown out the profane lyrics coming from the main room.
It could be argued that you learn much more about the character of an athlete by observing him during the moments prior to a competition than during the actual competition. Almost every athlete has his own way of getting ready for an event. Preparation varies across sports and positions within sports — a football player will prepare differently than a squash player, while a quarterback will prepare differently than a lineman.
Ultimately, the goal of the athlete in preparation for competition is to ready his mind and body maximally for performance.
The man who currently “runs the show” on the Yale football team, quarterback Peter Lee, has his own way of readying himself for a big game. Lee’s unvarying pre-game routine begins the minute he wakes up the morning of a game. He carefully brushes his teeth, sits in his usual game-day place in the dining hall, and fills his hungry stomach with the same food each time.
After attending pre-game meetings at the football clubhouse, it is time for Lee to strap on his armor. Lee puts each piece of equipment on the same way every single game. While most members of the team listen to loud music to excite themselves and elicit aggressive behavior, Lee prefers a quieter atmosphere and tries to tune out the blasts coming from the locker room.
As far as getting “psyched up” for a game, Lee actually has to calm himself down occasionally when he feels overly tense, which could cause him trouble during the game. After the team says a prayer, Lee says his own personal prayer, and off he goes through the tunnel and out onto the gridiron.
One of the top women runners in the Ivy League, Kate O’Neill has a routine she claims is “boring.” She, like Lee, eats the same thing before every meet — though, judging by the relative size of the two, probably much less. She has a bowl of cereal, some yogurt and a banana about four hours before a race. The night before she always eats pasta. O’Neill and most of her teammates do not listen to music before races.
Although the scoring is taken as a composite of the team, cross country is an individual sport, man versus earth. O’Neill and her teammates run each race course before the actual event. Not only is this run an opportunity to warm up, but it allows O’Neill to take in and retain every inch of the course so that when she races, she knows exactly when to empty the tank or hold back. By knowing the course at such an intimate level, O’Neill is more at ease and confident when the starting gun fires.
Moreover, soccer player Nick Morris, who has been known to leave opposing defender’s jockstraps dangling somewhere in the bleachers, also prefers a relaxed atmosphere to a loud and active one. After his pre-game meal Morris arrives in the players’ room half an hour before the two-hour requirement and lies on the trainers’ bench to rest or take a short nap. He likes to “separate himself from everyday dorm life” and leave early for the soccer field.
Nick brings his own music to the locker room because he would rather listen to soft rhythms than the profane rap music that perpetually emanates from the main room. In the men’s soccer locker room there is a dark room separated from the main room where players can go to seek solitude, find peace, or just visualize the game.
Nick said that various players on the team, himself included, like to spend moments prior to a game in that room. Nick also says a few prayers before walking over the cement road and onto the field.
On the other hand, men’s lacrosse sharpshooter and production machine Brian Hunt has no such superstitions or rituals. In fact, he prefers not to take part in the pre-game shoot-around that always takes place about an hour and a half before every game, instead sleeping in the locker room.
He does not worry himself with any set routines; instead he just likes to “chill” before he demoralizes other teams’ goaltenders.
Understandably, one’s pre-game preparation must be adjusted somewhat when playing on the road. But each player attempts more or less to do the same rituals, as though he were at home.
I only gave a small sample of what some athletes at Yale do to ready themselves for competition. Many other athletes desire stimulation and excitement before a match. There are infinite ways of achieving desirable feelings, and no way is right or wrong.