Looking back on first semester's sports success: an underlying reason?

Allison Cowie and Becca Raffel

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Senior wide receiver Jayshawn Gates-Mouton sprints downfield after a reception in Paly’s loss to Junipero Serra High School in the CCS playoffs on Nov. 16. The Vikings won their league this year. “The guys worked hard all season, it was a great season with the team,” said junior quarterback Keller Chryst. Photo by Matt Ersted.

Palo Alto High School sports teams had a stellar fall season: football and volleyball league championships, a trip to the Central Coast Section competition for members of the girls’ and boys’ cross country team, and a CCS run for the girls’ tennis team and boys’ and girls’ water polo.

In the fall, team lunches on the Quad, matching polos, secret buddies and football jersey-wearing students were all common occurrences; this winter, formal button down shirts and ties have consumed the school. Players also have individual routines that they perform before games. Do these traditions factor into Paly sports success?

According to many Paly athletes, the answer is yes.

Junior girls’ cross country co-captain Audrey DeBruine sheds some light on cross-country traditions.

“We do pasta feeds the nights before big meets, sometimes with the guys’ team too, and those are always a blast,” DeBruine said.

Secret buddies also play a large role in the cross-country tradition. Buddies are picked randomly among teammates who give each other small gifts on meet days.

“This year we got a buddy for the whole season and you have to give them at least three gifts by the end of the season,” DeBruine said.

DeBruine believes these traditions help the team bond.

“I love seeing how our team gets closer throughout the season,” DeBruine said. “I enjoy our traditions.”

Little does she know, but DeBruine’s statement is based in psychological research. Studies have shown that players with their own personal traditions or team routines before games actually enhance performance more than if they had gone without doing them, according to Sports Psychology Today.

Paly girls’ water polo has amassed a few traditions of its own. According to senior goalie Abby Bromberg, most of the team’s traditions occur before school is in session.

“Every year during Hell Week [a week of conditioning before the season] we have an 1980s [themed] jog where we dress up in 80’s clothes and do dry land [exercises],” Bromberg said.  “In previous years it was more of a light jog and a bunch of stretching down El Camino and through Stanford, but recently it has been an actual workout.”

As for team traditions during the year, Bromberg and her teammates toned it down.

“Sometimes we dress up for home games, but it’s kind of sporadic,” she said.

The football team has its own set of traditions, and with its league championship this year, it must be doing something right. In addition to having mandatory film sessions frequently during lunch throughout the season, players wear their jerseys every game day. According to senior center Spencer Drazovich and senior wide receiver Jayshawn Gates-Mouton, the team does more than just wear its jerseys to gear up for its games.

“We also have a team dinner Thursday nights before our games,” Drazovich said.

Gates-Mouton brings in a religious aspect to his pregame routine.

“Sometimes me and other few players on the team get together and pray for safety and blessings,” Gates-Mouton said.

Varsity football player and junior Jack Anderson describes a more personal aspect of football tradition.

“We wear our jerseys as a team, and then I have a bunch of traditions of my own,” Anderson said. “[On game day] I go to [the Village Cheese House] and get a sandwich and two Gatorades that are the color of the team we are playing, and a bunch of other random stuff.”

Anderson believes that traditions are beneficial to success.

“I think it helps because it gets me prepared mentally for the game, and it’s something that I do every week,” Anderson said.

With the recent arrival of the winter sports season, the boys’ varsity basketball team has already started off successfully, with a record of 3-1 as of Wednesday. They dress up in formal, businesslike attire for game days, according to senior Aubrey Dawkins.

Dawkins added that in addition to dressing to the nines, it is important to visualize success in order to achieve one’s goals.

“I just always keep a positive mindset on the game, because I’ve realized that if you think things are going to go bad, they usually do,” he said.

So far, this semester has proven successful for Paly sports. As the winter teams begin their own traditions, so do the hopes for continued athletic success.