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Even the Illini have rigid game day superstitions

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Even the Illini have rigid game day superstitions

Illinois outfielder Maddi Doane (14) gets ready for her at bat during the game against Northwestern at Eichelberger Field on Wednesday, Mar. 28, 2018.

Illinois outfielder Maddi Doane (14) gets ready for her at bat during the game against Northwestern at Eichelberger Field on Wednesday, Mar. 28, 2018.

Austin Yattoni

Illinois outfielder Maddi Doane (14) gets ready for her at bat during the game against Northwestern at Eichelberger Field on Wednesday, Mar. 28, 2018.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Illinois outfielder Maddi Doane (14) gets ready for her at bat during the game against Northwestern at Eichelberger Field on Wednesday, Mar. 28, 2018.


Athletes are known for having superstitions, and the Illinois softball team is no exception. 

For outfielders Mattie Doane and Kiana Sherlund, stepping up the plate with special gear could be the difference between a good and bad game.

Doane needs to have the right attire on — or off — when batting in order to be successful.

“One superstition I have this year is that I’ve been more successful with my headband off when I’m hitting, as opposed to when I wear it,” Doane said. “I (make) sure that every time I go to the plate, I have my headband off.” 

According to Sherlund, some of the team’s superstitions have stuck with them for years. 

“Stephanie Abello puts pennies in her pocket, and I think they’re the same pennies that she’s been putting in her pockets for years,” Sherlund said.

But the superstitions spill over into more than just game-time rituals. 

Doane said the team enjoys being goofy and doing things like dancing to music together in the locker room before a game. She’s the team’s self-proclaimed DJ and said her pre-game music choices are all over the board. 

“It depends on our day; sometimes I’ll play ’80s and ’70s music, sometimes I play more hip-hop and pop,” Doane said. “But one of our team’s favorite songs is Thunderstruck by ACDC.”

For Sherlund, her approach to pre-game superstitions is cerebral. She enjoys activities that mentally prepare her for each game.

In particular, the Illinois assistant coaches give players laminated paper activities that challenge the players’ focus before each game, according to Sherlund.

“Something fun that we do as a team is a concentration grid,” Sherlund said. “You have a piece of paper, (and) it has zero to 99 all randomly sorted. One of our coaches will come in and time us, and you have to go through all the numbers in order. I’m usually about four minutes, but there are people that do it in two minutes (and) there are people that do it in ten minutes, but that helps us get focused.”

Regardless of what her players do before a game, head coach Tyra Perry said she hopes the superstitions encourage more wins among the Illini. 

Perry specifically doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary. But she said she needs to have a specific routine each game day.

“I’m more of a consistent kind-of person,” Perry said. “I generally will get coffee before every game, just to keep a routine going. Also, I like to be the last one out to the field. It calms me (and) I can see everything in front of me.”

Perry’s day starts with a prayer, followed by breakfast, film study, lineup decisions, coaches meetings and batting practice — all of which is done with laser-like focus. 

She doesn’t always get to follow this exact routine, but Perry feels much better when she can.

“You have to learn that sometimes, things are going to knock you outside of your routine, so you have to stay calm,” Perry said. “My routine, when I’m able to do it, helps me stay focused and helps me see and think clearly.”

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