Staying in the zone: Ball State student-athletes use a variety of pregame activities to prepare for competition.

<p>Ball State redshirt sophomore linebacker Jordan Williams takes the field for the Cardinals' game against Ohio Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019, at Scheumann Stadium. Ball State lost, 34-21. <strong>Paige Grider, DN</strong></p>

Ball State redshirt sophomore linebacker Jordan Williams takes the field for the Cardinals' game against Ohio Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019, at Scheumann Stadium. Ball State lost, 34-21. Paige Grider, DN

“Back to Back” by Drake.

“Faneto” by Chief Keef.

“Kickstart My Heart” by Mötley Crue.

What comes before an athletic competition can be just as important as the event itself. 

Pregame superstitions and rituals have become ingrained in how athletes prepare for a game. Whether it's eating a certain meal or listening to a specific song, every athlete has something that helps him or her get in the zone.

Each athlete’s routine looks different. Through a variety of ways, music and athletics have always been connected, but that does not mean that each one listens to music. Each athlete chooses what helps him or her prepare the most for a highly competitive matchup.

Listening to music has a personal connection for some athletes. Ball State Football redshirt junior outside linebacker Jordan Williams said since he is from Champaign, Illinois, he grew up listening to music by Chicago-based artists. Listening to that before games reminds him of home and helps him get focused.

“It’s very, very important to me,” Williams said. “I listen to Chicago artists like G Herbo, Lil Durk, King Louie and Chief Keef. I like a lot of bass, and I would listen to those artists when I would lift and workout, so listening to that before the game brings me back to that mental capacity and gets my adrenaline pumping.”

This music has been ingrained in him his whole life, and it plays an integral part in his pregame routine. 

“It’s the music I grew up on,” Williams said. “All my life with football has included that music. All the fun times, the hard moments, all the times I worked out and I didn’t want to include that music. That being said, it's involved in a good way. I know that music is something I can play to, but also something I can have fun to.”

However, pregame rituals aren’t always individually-based. For Ball State women’s soccer junior defender/midfielder Kerrigan Johnson, listening to music not only on her own but with others plays a major role in her pregame activities.

“When I get ready, I like to wear my headphones and listen to a more upbeat playlist to get myself ready for the game,” Johnson said. “But, I will always leave a little time after I listen to my own music to listen to what is playing in the locker room and dance together with the team as a way for us to all get ready for the game.”

Outside of music, many athletes have specific routines they follow on game day. Ball State Women’s Swimming and Diving junior swimmer Alex Bader ensures that eating a healthy meal and stretching is part of her morning before a meet.

“I always try to eat a healthy breakfast before I head over to warmups,” Bader said, “and more specifically, before every race, I make sure I stretch out quite a bit.”

For Williams, talking to his dad before games has been a ritual for him for years.

“I always call my dad before games because he played football as well,” Williams said. “He lives in Illinois, so he can’t make it to all my games, but we always talk about the game. He helps me get in the right mindset.”

A common practice for both Williams and Johnson involves saying a prayer before their games. They both expressed how much this means for their pregame routines. 

“We get in a circle around the Cardinal in the locker room,” Johnson said. “We go around the circle, and you can say something if you want. We all say a prayer together at the end. It helps us get in the right mindset, not just as individuals, but as a team.”

Contact Connor Granlund with comments at or on Twitter @connorgranlund.


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