Sports, superstitions and traditions often go hand in hand. For the University of Utah women’s basketball team, traditions and rituals at practices and on game days help get the Utes pumped up.
One tradition that takes place after practices is a game called “Utes Win.” Head coach Lynne Roberts believes it has been a part of the program for over 30 years.
The game is a shooting drill competition between the upperclassmen and the underclassmen. Each team has to make nine 3-pointers and after that, they race to make a shot from half court. The players get a thrill from the friendly competition. Roberts is a big supporter of the family-like atmosphere these traditions bring.
“I think that’s the beauty of being a part of the program, the tradition of it,” Roberts said. “There are things that go on forever. It really makes the players feel like they are forever a part of something.”
Erika Bean, a junior guard for the Utes, has two main personal rituals that she does before practices and games. She listens to music to get the right mindset and takes pregame naps.
While Bean has individual rituals, she said her favorite team tradition is their annual Christmas party and Secret Santa gift exchange between the players and coaching staff. She also expressed how much she enjoys the team retreats because it’s a time where she can grow closer to her teammates.
“I love our team retreats. It brings our team closer together with challenges and dance-offs and stuff,” Bean said. “It puts our competitiveness and teamwork into a different light. The obstacles that we are forced to overcome bring us together mentally with our goals for the season both as individuals and as a team.”
The Utes are very particular about some of their traditions. Their assigned spots, for instance. At the beginning of each season, the players all receive a spot in the media room and that is their spot for the remainder of the year. The same goes for pregame and practice stretching. The place where each player stretches on the court is the exact same place they warm up for the rest of the season.
It’s not only the players that have traditions and rituals; Roberts does as well.
“I’m a little bit of a germophobe,” Roberts said. “So after every shootaround before both home and away games, I have to give each of the players some hand sanitizer. I don’t know why I do it, but I have to.”
Roberts double checks to make sure that she didn’t miss giving anybody hand sanitizer. If she misses someone or even thinks that she might have missed a player, then she gets worried that the team might lose the game because of that.
Whether traditions and rituals do or don’t play a role in the outcomes of games, the team strives to have a welcoming atmosphere, and traditions are a way to make that happen.
“To keep the consistency and culture together makes us play harder for ourselves and for the team,” Bean said.