5 Types of Pre-Race Ritual Performers; Can You Relate?

Photo Courtesy: Hayley Good

5 Types of Pre-Race Ritual Performers; Can You Relate?

By Katlynn Emaus (From the Archive)

Races and meets can be very nerve racking. Each athlete has their own way of getting in the zone. Pre-race rituals can be a wildcard in certain scenarios. The moments before a heat steps on the blocks, all the athletes appear to be doing their own little rain dance. What each person does is unique to them. The one thing all rituals have in common is they help get the jitters out and get swimmers ready to race.

As I step up to the blocks, I brush off my shoulders. Before I got my first YMCA state cut in the 100 breaststroke, my dad told 9-year-old me “you did all the work, you know you can do it. There is just a little person whispering doubts into your ear, brush him off.” I got my cut and 10 years later I’m still doing it.

So here are some of the most common types of pre-race ritual performers…

1. The Slappers


Photo Courtesy: Griffin Scott

Everyone knows the common childhood game known as patty cake. However, some athletes play it with themselves behind the blocks. Smack, hits their calves. Smack, hits their quads. Smack, right pec. Smack, left pec. Smack, their opponent..metaphorically in the pool that is. But the smacking helps relieve stress in muscles and can take out some of the jittery nerves. It also makes your skin really red, stimulating blood flow. That along with the sound can serve as an intimidation factor behind the blocks.

2. The Clappers

KNOXVILLE, TN - December 5, 2013 - Natalie Coughlin claps after winning gold in the 50 Yard Freestyle during the USA Swimming AT&T Winter National Championships at the Allan Jones Aquatic Center in Knoxville, Tennessee

Photo Courtesy: Tia Patron/Tennessee Athletics

Typically, people clap when the race is finished. Not these swimmers. They clap multiple times when they step up to the blocks. They are just so excited to swim the 200 fly long course that they just absolutely cannot contain it: they just need to let out a clap or two. The clap does signify a “let’s go mentality.” In fact, I have been next to clappers before and it is as encouraging for them as it is to me. So yeah, let’s go kick some booty in this 200 fly!

3. The Hoppers

Caeleb Dressel of the United States of America (USA) jumps in the air before competing in the men's 50m Freestyle Semifinal during the Swimming events at the Gwangju 2019 FINA World Championships, Gwangju, South Korea, 26 July 2019.

Photo Courtesy: PATRICK B. KRAEMER

Either these swimmers really need to go to the bathroom or they are ready to race. They stand behind the block and do endless calf raises, bounce back and forth from one foot to another. Some do jumping jacks, some bring their knees to their chest. Although the only jumping in swimming involves the start and the turns, this method is used by many swimmers. It helps keep the swimmer loose while keeping the muscles warm.

4. The Chatters

Coach Troy and Elizabeth Beisel enjoy talk before the first day preklims.

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

The social butterflies who know everyone at every meet ever. They can sit behind the block and chat with anyone. This can act as a distraction from the task at hand: racing. There is no denying the fact that swimming is very much a mental sport and it is very easy for swimmers to get in their own heads. This can take away from the race in a negative way and psych the swimmer out before stepping up on the block. Joking around with friends before hand can be used as a tool to stay out of their heads.

5. The Dancers


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

As uncoordinated as swimmers are on land, we all think that we can dance. And dance well. Nothing holds some swimmers back from busting a move behind the blocks. Along with the chatting strategy, this can be used to take the swimmer’s mind off the race. Listening to certain songs can also transport swimmers into the zone. When swimmers are dancing, they laugh and realize the purpose of swimming: to have a good time.

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Caroline Kosciusko
8 years ago

I feel like another one could be “The Swinger”. The ones who need more personal space than any other warmup-er to allow maximum swing of their arms and legs. And you never know which way they’re going to swing, so you always have to use caution when approaching a swinger.

8 years ago

I agree. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve accidentally slapped my best mates chest be hind me. Whoop!

Savannah Anderson
8 years ago

I was a hopper!!!! And always had my headphones in!!! My arm swinging was part of my hopping and stretching!!! Last song I listened to was the song I sang in my head as I swam!!!

Jim Henderson
8 years ago

I have a “baptist” I watch.

Edwin Bonilla
8 years ago

We’re really crazy, and without it we feel unready.

Begoña Antón Gracia
8 years ago

Andro Asatashvili

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