Competing with the supernatural
Superstitions play a big part in success at championship
CANTON, Mich. -- Spend any time at all watching competitors get ready for action at the NC Bowling Championship and you'll quickly see that in addition to their talent, a lot of these women depend on a little bit of unexplained phenomena to get them through the stress of competition day.
Take, for example, Sam Houston State's Neishka Cardona. Cardona, a junior from Puerto Rico, nearly made her team late for Friday's morning matches because she could not even consider going to the bowling center before one very big issue was resolved.
"We were eating breakfast and I was putting my bracelets on," Cardona said. "I have a bracelet that says 'Puerto Rico' with the colors of the flag on it and I always bowl with it. I went to put it on and it broke and I started freaking out.
"I said, 'I need to find my other one. I need to find my other one,' because I just feel so uncomfortable if I don't have it with me."
"I bowled without it one time and I felt like I bowled horrible and I never want to go through that again," she said. "Part of me thinks it's a superstition and part of me thinks it's just the way I am. I just need to have certain things with me."
Cardona went up to her room and found a suitable replacement. Crisis averted.
While Cardona's case may seem unusual, it hardly is. Maryland-Eastern Shore senior Anggie Ramirez has earned the nickname the 'Human Rain Delay' from her teammates, but she insists her superstitious nature has been quieted in her senior season.
"Before I used to try to have the same routine every single day," Ramirez said. "I got tired of it because it was just too much mental work. I used to have to wear everything the same way, my hair, my watch; but now I just try to feel comfortable whatever's happening.
"Every day is a new day. You can't make everything the same as the day before to try to make something happen. You just have to try and do your best."
Still, some superstitions even happen during competition.
"When I'm getting ready to go on the approach, I visualize my shot, bump my rosin bag 10 times and then just go up there and do it," Arkansas State sophomore Kalynn Carl said. "I have to do that every time. If I don't, it's bad."
Vanderbilt sophomore Liz Saffold said last year's team was much more superstitious that this year's squad, but this year's Commodores still have their quirks.
"We had one girl on last year's team -- we weren't allowed to even touch her spare ball," Saffold said.
And this year?
"We ride in cars with the same people at every tournament in the same seats," fellow sophomore Rebeca Reguero said. "Some girls have to wear their hair the same way every tournament. Some girls need the same person saying the same thing to them before every shot."
Some rituals are so elaborate they need more than one person to complete. Consider the ritual that Nebraska senior Kristina Mickelson and sophomore teammate Elise Bolton have worked out.
"We all have our little things that we need to focus on to keep our shot good," Mickeslson said. "For Elise, she has to have a good push [away] and just let the ball drop and then post it [hold steady through the follow through]. One shot she just kind of threw it and I said, 'Elise, pay attention. You have to think about it,' and she wasn't paying attention, so I poked her on her butt to get her attention and she struck.
"Since then, I've been poking her before every shot just to remind her."
Even the reigning player of the year, Fairleigh Dickinson's Danielle McEwen, has her superstitions -- a lot of them.
"I have probably more than I can tell off the top of my head," she said. "My team always makes fun of me for having so many superstitions. They've become more of a routine than a superstition, but they started out just as superstitions."
Among McEwen's are a necklace she must wear while competing. More unusual is that she always wears her socks inside out while bowling.
"You're not supposed to have the logos on your socks, so when I showed up in my freshman year, coach told me I can't have the logos on my socks so I just turned them inside out. It just kind of stuck."