Year of Publication

2017

Date of Thesis

12-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Exercise and Sport Sciences

Subject Categories

Superstition; Sports

Abstract

The purpose of the study was to examine different types of superstitions used by athletes, the reasons behind the use of these superstitious behaviors, and how the athletes believed these behaviors affected their performance. Participants included five male and three female NCAA Division I, II, and III collegiate athletes from the Northeast United States. There were one volleyball, four baseball, one softball, one lacrosse, and one soccer players; all were extremely superstitious. Each athlete completed a demographic questionnaire with a section of Likert type questions that were used to identify the athlete’s interest in superstitions. If the athlete scored above a four on each question, they were asked to participate in the interviews, which lasted between 22 and 84 minutes each. The interview started with a set question about the athlete’s experience with superstition in their sport and was followed by questions based on the athlete’s responses. After the thematic structure was determined, the athlete received a copy of their personal interview and the proposed thematic structure for review and approval. Four main superstitious themes: Individual, Fear and Avoidance, Team, and Reasoning, and fifteen subthemes were found. The types of superstitions that each athlete discussed included luck, individual rituals and routines, team rituals and routines, clothing and equipment, and food and eating rituals. The participants used these rituals and behaviors as a way to bring themselves good luck and ward off bad luck, deal with high levels of stress and anxiety, gain control over uncertain factors, and recover from and avoid injury in the future. The findings suggest that athletes perform superstitions to put their minds at ease, build confidence, and give themselves that extra sense of luck in order to perform better.

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