Ritual in sports

Ritual in sports are often used as an effective techniques to maintain the morale of a team or an individual athlete. In addition to the ritual, now days there are many methods of influence on the mental state of people. Their effectiveness depends on a variety of factors:

  • Current or dominant condition of the athlete;
  • Conditions and objectives of exposure;
  • Features of the athlete’s worldview;
  • Features of the athlete’s nervous system;
  • Skills of a sports psychologist.

Experts say that even the most effective psychological methods may be relevant in one sport, but will be completely useless in another. Different sports disciplines differ in their psychological effects on an athlete. Therefore, while working with a specific sport, it’s necessary to analyze and understand which methods of influencing a person’s mental state will be most effective.

Today we look at the very concept of ritual in sports, especially its creation and use in sports psychology.

What is a ritual in sports?

Ritual in sports is a clear sequence of actions. Their regular repetition leads to a certain mental and emotional state of the athlete.

The variety, duration and number of actions performed depend only on the conditions of their use. The best result of the ritual in sports is the change in the positive side of the mental state of the athlete and interpersonal relationships in the team. The ritual in sports has various external manifestations, such as fighting racks in martial arts, or certain gestures during a goal or a missed goal, time-out or break.

rituals in sports on the example of a hockey team. They hug after the game

The main signs of ritual in sports:

  • Established sequence of actions;
  • Depending on the situations at the competitions, there are rituals (at the same moments – the same actions. For example, throwing up the coach with the whole team after the victory);
  • Holistic semantic orientation (concentration on their actions, restoring the optimal balance of their own emotional state)

Athletes use different rituals to maintain their own mental state. Many of these methods can be quite naive and simple or simply strange:

  • Visiting the “happy place”;
  • The sequence of gathering and donning equipment;
  • Special methods of lacing sneakers;
  • Personal talismans in the form of pendants, grass, scraps of paper, figurines, etc.

Some rituals are purely symbolic, but thanks to them athletes begin to believe in their “good luck” and “magic.” This blog has an article about the  weirdest rituals of athletes.

It’s difficult to verify their effectiveness, but such rituals in sports can create powerful confidence in an athlete.

Standard methods of mental self-regulation are actions that have a psycho-physiological basis, for example, a special respiratory rhythm and closed eyes help mentally repeat their actions.

What tasks solves the ritual in sports:

  1. Creating a special installation for the implementation of sequence of actions, approaches and techniques;
  2. Creating the right emotional state during training and competition;
  3. The formation of self-confidence and their actions during the competition or training;
  4. Adequate physical and oral preparation of an athlete for the competition;
  5. Reducing the significance of loses and unsuccessful performances as a negative factor that can affect the psyche of an athlete;
  6. Formation of mental “support”, training new techniques of mental self-regulation.

Ritual in sports is a way to regulate one’s mental state, which helps to maintain calmness and self-confidence. This is standard practice for any planned activities. But a conscious approach to ritual helps to significantly enhance the effectiveness of its actions.

Ritual in sports can occur by chance in the process of an athlete as a protective mechanism. It can be repeated unconsciously, helping the person to come to his senses and calm down (for example, to remove hair behind the ears, to correct glasses, to pull the shirt off). But in most cases, the ritual is a conscious act with regular repetitions.

Weirdest rituals of Laurent Blanc: a kiss on the bald spot of the goalkeeper

How is ritual created in sports?

Creating a ritual – the creative phase of the coach or a sports psychologist. During the creation of a ritual in sports it is necessary to take into account various factors: the conditions and possibilities of performance, the individual characteristics of the character and mental state of the athlete. The process of creation takes place in the period of general psychological preparation of an athlete before competitions or during training.

Based on what is formed the content of the ritual?

It’s usually formed on the basis of a psychological problem that requires a timely decision by a sports psychologist. The athlete himself doesn’t always understand that he has problems with motivation or self-confidence. This is usually detected by analyzing activity and behavior in competitions, psychodiagnostic studies. Ritual in sports should be a block for negative thoughts and human fear.

Deliberate practice (exercises and movements worked out to automatism) are a good example of ritual. Thanks to repetitions, a person calms down, his stress level drops. The person not only loses all his excitement, but also inspires. Deliberate practice is often used in martial arts, where the concentration and endurance of an athlete play key roles.

The form of ritual in sports:

  • External form (mimic exercises, interaction with different objects, special movements);
  • Internal form (focusing on one’s own feelings and experiences, representing the entire process of the competition and possible outcomes).

Non-verbal ritual in sports

How is the sequence of actions in the ritual:

  • copying or imitating other athletes or teams;
  • Acquisition at trainings or in a special school;
  • Spontaneous occurrence. Most often occurs when a “successful” set of circumstances leads to victory. The athlete thinks that some action increases the level of his “good luck”.

Ritual in sports according to the nature of the interaction between athletes:

  1. Group interaction. The whole team synchronizes their actions using a joint arrangement or communication with the coach. In this type of interaction there is always a leader who sets the direction for the whole group;
  2. Pair (subgroup interaction). Subgroups with closer relationships are created in the group. They have their own special handshakes, hugs and greetings;
  3. Individual interaction. Each member of the team has its own rituals, regardless of all other people. For example, it can be an independent warm-up.

Ritual greetings from friends

According to the type of action, rituals in sports can be:

  • Verbal rituals – slogans, phrases, words. They can talk to your friend or yourself, if there is no one around. Sometimes such phrases can be something simple for other people, and for a particular person – a great way to encourage yourself. These phrases usually include “Get it together!”, “I believe in you!”, “Keep calm, everything will be fine!”;
  • Non-verbal rituals – gestures, sounds, postures, facial expressions. Non-verbal rituals include: rubbing hands, scratching, hugging, combing hair, warm-up, etc.
  • Mixed rituals. The confusion of verbal and non-verbal actions: the slogan, which is accompanied by hand movements.


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