Locker room traditions psych Blazer athletes for competition
"I take my shirt off like Petey Pablo!"
It's not exactly "win one for the Gipper," but junior Ryan Sessoms' locker room exclamation was enough to inspire the Blair boys' basketball team to first bounce around the locker room screaming like a bunch of wild hyenas and then beat archrival Springbrook High School 53-52 on Jan 19.
"That did it," says senior guard Wreh Jalla. "Everyone went crazy. We were ready to play after Ryan said that."
Sessoms' rallying cry, a reference to rapper Petey Pablo's hit single North Carolina, was part of the team's pre-game freestyling session. Before each game this season, Jalla pounded a rhythm on the lockers while Sessoms and junior guard Alonzo Woods danced. Another Blazer, usually senior forward, master of ceremonies Jaron Aikens rapped about the upcoming game.
"It sounds kind of dumb, but I honestly think that the freestyling helped the team," says junior center Jamie Platky. "The guys got psyched when we did it. It was a signal to everybody that it was time to play."
The rhymes certainly worked as the Blazers went 20-4 and snagged the division title. While most teams do not rap before games, the basketball team is not the only team that does something special to get ready to play. Many of the other teams at Blair have locker room traditions designed to get the players pumped up.
This year's wrestling team finished with a sparkling 11-2 record, making it just as successful as the basketball team. The two teams' locker rooms, however, were polar opposites. While the basketball players rapped and danced, the wrestlers stayed quiet. After the grapplers weigh-in and qualify to wrestle, the only sound in the wrestling locker room is of a group of young men chewing away on their pre-match meals.
"Everyone just sits around and eats, mostly," says senior captain and county champion Mario Bracamontes. "It's pretty much silent. Somebody makes a joke every so often, but the guys usually just sit there and focus on the match ahead."
The field hockey team appears to be a much more friendly bunch than the wrestling team. In hopes of fostering team spirit, the girls play "Secret Sister" before some of the games. "Secret Sister" is much like the Christmas gift-giving game "Secret Santa." Each girl on the team brings in a gift and gives it to her randomly-chosen "sister" before the game.
"I think it's great. It brings us together as a team and makes us closer. And the closer we are the better we play," says senior attacker Ashley Moyer.
The girls' basketball team has a normal game-day ritual with one twist. After the girls get some food, watch TV in the locker room and stretch, the team gathers together and prays. While this violates rules against prayer in school, team members assert that it inspires them to be more competitive. "For some of the girls it is a religious thing and for some it's not," says junior guard Lara Dean. "I think that it mostly just brings the team together and gets us ready to go out and play hard."
The swim team does not have the benefit of a locker room, so they get fired up right on the deck of the pool. At every meet, Blazers can be heard chanting so-called swim cheers very loudly. A favorite is "California oranges, Texas cactus, we think your team needs a lot of practice."
Senior captain Matt Collogan sees this seemingly trivial ritual as vital to team spirit. "When we start doing the cheers, everybody goes wild. That's when the people on the team are the most excited to swim. Because it is an individual sport, some people have personal traditions too. Like I take a lot of hot showers and listen to Guns N' Roses," he says.
Locker room rituals are not limited to high school sports. Many professional teams take after the girls' basketball team and pray before games. The Chicago Bulls rode Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and their famous "What time is it? Game time!" pre-game cheer to six world championships. Vladimir Guerrero, the star right fielder for the Montreal Expos, plays two hours of baseball on Playstation before he takes the field for real.
Locker room traditions are a fun and colorful part of sports. Almost no team is without one. They may rap, eat or pray, but athletes will always find away to get pumped up for the game.
Liam Bowen. Liam Bowen has loved sports, baseball in particular, since he saw Jeff Ballard pitch for the Orioles in the late-80s. When he isn't on the beat, Bowen ties up his daytimes with his misguided and entirely unrealistic dream to play some sort of advanced baseball … More »