Blocking Out the Competition

When it comes to volleyball rituals, there is no such thing as too weird.


The New Zealand National Rugby team, the All Blacks, performs the Haka, a traditional dance, before every game. Pro-golfer Tiger Woods wears a red shirt any time he plays on a Sunday, simply because his mother told him to. LeBron James’ pregame routine of throwing chalk into the air never fails to pump up the crowd. Athletes are a superstitious bunch of people. It’s hard to find an athlete that doesn’t have some weird routine or quirk that they perform before every game.


This phenomenon can even be seen close to home with the girls’ volleyball teams. With all his years of experience, head coach Greg Bruns has seen his fair share of weird pre-game rituals.


“On one team, the coach had a doll,” Bruns said. “The whole team would go and hit the doll. I asked the coach about it one time and he said ‘it was just something we did at practice and now we do it all the time.’”


Not all rituals are as weird, however, some have symbolic meanings.


“I have seen teams that have a girl that’s sick,” Bruns said. “They end up putting her number on their thighs when they play.”


Teamwide rituals can be seen through coordinated cheers, talks in the locker room and walk in music.


“[The varsity team] asked me about [walk in music], I said ‘as long as it’s clean it’s fine,’” Bruns said.


Along with that, varsity setter, Katie Vilardi said, “Before every home game on the way in, we all tap the door and then the entire program high fives us before the game for good luck.”


These rituals go further than just the team, as individual players have their own ways to prepare for games.


“I mentally prepare myself for the competition by watching the other team during warmups,” Vilardi said. “I watch how the hitters hit, the setters set, the blockers block, et cetera.”


It is always important to be in the right mindset before a game. As an athlete, it is vital to know that the team has each other’s backs and will be there when times get tough. Volleyball is truly a team sport, and it is important to make sure everyone is ready to win.


“I cheer to help the girls and to keep them motivated,” Katie’s mom, Jennifer Vilardi said. “I let them know that we have their backs.”


Parents like Mrs. Vilardi play a pivotal part in the success of a team. No matter what happens on the court or field, parents will always be supportive, and they will always be there no matter what.


It takes a lot for a team to be successful. From the coaches to the players to the parents and fans in the stands, all the cylinders have to be clicking in order to be successful. A little superstition can go a long way to help, and besides, if it works, it doesn’t matter if it’s weird.