Do’s and Don’ts: What Redwood athletes do to prepare for games

Dylan Zorn

“In the morning, I’ll eat the same breakfast; four eggs, two sausages, two strips of bacon and a smoothie. Then I’ll head to whichever course court I’m playing at and listen to my pregame playlist on the way. I have found that going through this routine every morning before a match has helped me take my game to the next level,” Wabl said. 

Redwood is home to over 800 student-athletes, many of whom follow strict pre-game routines to prepare mentally and physically in order to be in the headspace to compete. Pre-game routines and rituals are present at all novice and professional levels, often individually specialized toward helping athletes focus on their best performance. For Damian Wabl, a senior golf standout Damian Wabl has a very specific process that he uses to get ready for games.

“The night before [an upcoming golf match], I like to play through every hole in my head; thinking about every shot that I’m going to hit, where I want it to land. Of course, the match will never go exactly as I envision, but getting myself prepared has certainly helped me a lot in the past,” Wabl said. 

Practicing his swing, Damian Wabl drives the golf ball towards the hole during a Redwood practice at the Meadow Club golf course.

According to Wabl, finding comfort and de-stressing before games is a struggle he believes every athlete can relate to. Wabl says these repetitive and familiar steps he follows before every game he takes part in, tend to improve his gameplay. Sticking to the familiarity of it all, Wabl finds that through these actions, he can calm himself down on an emotional and physical level. 

“Although it is not the actual ritual that helps me stay poised throughout games, I feel a lot more at ease and comfortable when I go through my regular pregame routine. It’s just something I do to try to limit my nerves before and during any given match,” Wabl said.

Wabl is currently playing his 4th year on Redwood’s varsity golf team and is hoping to lead his team to an MCAL championship. 

“Our team is extremely competitive, and I have a great feeling about the upcoming season. As long as we stay focused and continue to put work in every week, the [MCAL] pennant will be ours at the end of the season,” Wabl said.

Similar to Wabl, William O’Dell, a sophomore member of the swim team and swim club North Bay Aquatics, has recently adopted several pre-game habits that have aided his own successes in the sport. Through adopting some of the tips and tricks from professional and successful swimmers, O’Dell implements them into his own pregame play. 

“Swimming is an individual sport, so I need to maximize the effort that I can put into my races. [In order to maximize my efforts] I always have music playing up to an hour before my events, as it helps keep me calm so that I can focus on what I need to do before I lunge into the water,” O’Dell said. “Listening to music and blocking out the outside noise is definitely something I learned from the great Michael Phelps.”

These habits don’t just help before games, O’Dell expresses how the professional swimmers he looks up to have mentored him to begin certain habits that ultimately help his gameplay 

“Stretching and being loose is a huge component to success in the sport of swimming, another thing that I learned [from Phelps]. This is especially true for me, as I am a long-distance swimmer, so I need to ensure that I don’t cramp up during the back half of my races. I always stretch before going to bed the night before swim meets, and throughout the day of the meet,” O’Dell said.

Pre-game rituals similar to O’Dell’s are present year-round at Redwood among varying athletics. Senior Haley Rothbart, field hockey captain and basketball player, gave insight into how she prepares herself for every game. 

“To get locked in, I focus on my goals for the game. [I do this]to establish what I want to achieve. This helps me focus on the moment and think about positive aspects instead of worrying about what might go wrong.” 

Rothbart noted how being very superstitious and following the same ritual before games is something that has both helped her and her team in big games. 

“I have many small [pre-game rituals], such as practicing mindfulness before every game. This helps keep my nerves at a minimum and allows me to perform to my best ability. When shooting free throws, it’s extremely helpful to breathe and remind me that sports are a game, and not anything to stress about,” Rothbart said. 

Loading up for a shot, senior Haley Rothbart looking to score a basket against Archie Williams

She is not alone in this superstition, however. Rothbart attributed the MCAL championship that field hockey won in the 2021 season to the team’s custom. The entirety of the field hockey team used the same pre game routine, which led to enhanced gameplay. 

“In field hockey, our whole team was superstitious about doing our cheer on the field and having one player lead it every time. I really feel like that cheer helped bring continuity to our team, which helped us win MCAL’s last season.” 

Pre-game habits, while not a direct recipe for winning, can help athletes stay in the right mindset before and during games, and have become an essential to the culture of their sports.