Extra repetitions in the weight room, offseason conditioning drills, and protein shakes may give athletes an edge over their competition. However, in a world defined by unlucky breaks and unexpected bounces, athletes enlist power of superstitions and good luck charms. Although seemingly silly to spectators, the belief in pregame rituals proves invaluable to athletes. For the William Smith soccer team, it’s the clothing, the music, and the team traditions that explain the inexplicable.
Junior goalie Amanda Davis epitomizes superstitions. “Whatever pregame ritual you can think of, I’ve probably done it before,” she joked. Aside from wearing the same socks, spandex, and shirt for every contest, Davis also wraps her shin guards with black electrical tape, eats the identical pregame meal (sesame bagel with cream cheese and jelly and a glass of water), and takes a voluntary vow of silence upon leaving the locker room.
Davis – who’s notched 70 saves this season – said the majority of her traditions evolved from high school and club teams, but their importance increased once arriving at William Smith.
Similar to Davis, senior forward Bre Nasypany developed her own superstitions as a Heron. “Anyone on the team could tell you I’m extremely superstitious about my socks. Game day comes, and I have to search the locker room for the two socks that have the number nine on them.”
Before the first home matchup of the season, Nasypany – who’s racked up a season-record 46 points – ripped her game socks and labeled them with the No. 9 so “no one else would have to wear them,” she explained. “It started off me just being nice, but gradually turned into a superstition.”
Now, Nasypany must wear the ripped sock on her right foot for all home games.
Head Coach Aliceann Wilber also has a clothing superstition: She wears the same pair of corduroy jeans for every big contest. “I think it started about 2 years ago. I always wear them for sure against Union.”
Wilbur noted that Professor Kevin Dunn, the Heron’s Faculty-Athletic Fellow, dons his William Smith soccer T-shirt for all home games. However, Dunn forgot about the tradition when the Herons played Wheaton (Ill.)-William Smith lost the contest. “Now he makes sure to wear it all the time.”
Junior forward Brooke Nasypany, Bre’s sister, said the Herons’ uniforms aren’t complete without ring tape. “We put white medical tape around our ring finger to ‘save’ our finger for the championship ring we hope for, which is always one of our team goals.”
After putting on the proper and superstitious game attire, the Herons psych themselves up and host a dance party in the locker room. Singing and dancing to popular songs, like Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” and Huey’s “Pop, Lock & Drop It,” as well as nostalgic ballads, including the “Mulan” soundtrack, the team releases any pent-up nervous energy.
“It gets everyone pumped up, and we all have a blast and laugh a lot,” said senior forward Colleen Richards. “It’s a lot of fun, and we certainly get ourselves ready to play.”
Once the dancing ends, the Herons line up in pairs and exit the building. “When we leave Bristol Gym, we say, ‘Leave everything at the doors. From this point on, we’re one unit,'” said Brooke Nasypany.
Before taking the field, the team assembles along the sideline and holds hands. “We always send pulses through each other by passing squeezes we receive,” she continued. “We take the first step onto the field together as a team.”
William Smith is 16-2-3 this season. The Herons went unbeaten in Liberty League play for the fourth straight season and captured the league tournament championship for the fourth year in a row.
William Smith won its NCAA opener 3-0 over Keuka and swept past Scranton 3-1 in the second round.
The Herons will host Oneonta St. on Saturday, Nov. 20 on Cozzens Field in the third round. The match is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.