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Lucky charms to help you win
Superstitions seen on the soccer fields

By Evan Belanger
evanb@decaturdaily.com · 340-2442

Before his retirement in 1999, American baseball legend Wade Boggs earned himself the nickname “Chicken Man” by obsessively eating poultry before each game.

Failure to do so, he feared, could result in a loss — or, worse, an injury.

While some would chalk up the third baseman’s pre-game routine as a mental disorder — or protein deficiency — most sports fans acknowledge his game-day menu was part of a larger culture of superstition among athletes.

Well, that culture was alive and well Saturday in Decatur as more than 175 teams with about 3,000 players battled for the Alabama Youth Soccer Association’s State Cup championships.

It seems athletic superstitions are not relegated to any particular sport, gender or age group.

If you wanted to learn about a particular tradition, superstition or lucky charm, all you had to do was ask anyone wearing a soccer uniform Saturday.

For example, if you hail from Alabaster, you might wear a small rubber band around your ankle to give you a little help on game day. That tradition was once held by 14-year-old team member Jonah Grice, who wears Alabaster’s No. 1 jersey.

He said he dropped the habit when he decided it was not effective.

Or perhaps you prefer wearing a small shell necklace like Erick Hubbard, one of Grice’s teammates. Unfortunately for Hubbard, league rules prevented him from sporting his traditional garb Saturday.

“They won’t let you wear a necklace during a game, but I used to sometimes wear it anyway,” he said.

If concealed charms aren’t your thing, teammates swore by another player’s pre-game tradition, which they say helped them win the state tournament in 2005.

‘I never eat’

“I never eat before any game,” said No. 3, Jacob Ramsey. “I did that in 2005, and we went undefeated.”

Asked whether he ever got hungry, Ramsey said only after the game was over. He admitted to eating before some games in 2006, but jokingly said that’s probably why they lost.

Athlete superstitions are not relegated to male players, either.

If you play for the Fairhope U-14 girls team, you’ll know without a doubt that rain is a sign of impending victory.

Showers were in the forecast two years ago when the team went undefeated. But some team members say it could also have been because they all wore ponytails that day.

Team member Taylor Sallis said jersey numbers play an even more important role in how individual players perform on the field. In Sallis’ case, sporting No. 9 may add a few steps to her pace.

“I wear the number 9 because No. 9 people are almost always fast,” she said.

All of the Fairhope girls said Saturday they pick the same number year after year to ensure their skills will not be hampered by bad luck or other omens.

Even with hour upon hour of practice under their belts, soccer players across the board said Saturday the game is just as much about luck as about skill. Having the right lucky charm or the perfect weather could determine which teams they face in a tournament or how confident they feel against their opponents.

“It’s probably a little of both,” Ramsey said.

So, after all of that, are any of the superstitions and pre-game traditions really effective?

They worked for Boggs.

While he claimed only a single World Series title — and it wasn’t with the Boston Red Sox, where he spent most of his career — the Omaha native was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005.

He also earned five Silver Slugger batting titles, two Golden Gloves and multiple All-Star appearances.

In addition to poultry eating, Boggs was also known to field exactly 150 ground balls during infield practice.

He also insisted on entering the batting cage at exactly 5:17 p.m., and he would run wind sprints at exactly 7:17 p.m.

Sunday’s times for soccer games

Jack Allen Recreation Complex

8 a.m.-8 p.m.

Point Mallard Park

8 a.m.-2 p.m.

Austin High School

8 a.m.-noon

Wilson Morgan Park

8 a.m.-noon

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