Photo: Keith Allison via Flickr
As the Cleveland Cavaliers take on the Golden State Warriors tonight during the NBA Finals, we got to thinking about what makes champions different.
Sure, we know about the superstitions; we all have them. Do you count your lucky stars the night before a final presentation at work? Wear your favorite underwear? Or eat your favorite breakfast the morning of in an effort to send good energy your way?
Star athletes are just like us, but a little less superstitious. They rely on certain rituals to psych themselves out before competing. Here are some of the practices they engage in to perform their best.
LeBron James eats well and exercises
If you don’t have your health, you can’t perform at peak level. Many of us forget that during our sad desk lunches, but nutrition is key to us as well as champions who are paid to win games with their athletic prowess. The Cleveland Cavaliers player told Business Insider what he eats before heading onto the court in a 2016 interview.
“Before competition for me would be like a chicken breast and maybe a little pasta. The carbs help because you’re going out and playing a lot of minutes. But a salad and some veggies will have me perfectly fine. And before the game I might have a protein shake and some fruit, and I’ll be ready to go,” James told the publication.
He also said that he works out five times each week —exercising at home at times—or takes classes like VersaClimber, spinning and pilates. During the season, he usually exercises every day of the week because the weekend is also a time for games.
Stephen Curry bonds with his family
James and Curry will face off tonight, so watch for his pregame ritual of connecting with his wife and his young daughter Riley, who is his lucky charm. This connects him to something deeper than the game and grounds him, he has said.
Golden State’s Curry and his wife Ayesha did a video interview with Parents magazine where they talked about the role of their matching tattoos during their “pregame ritual.”
“I have to show it. This signifies that the past is behind us and the future” is in front of us, so we stay in the middle, in the moment. I smack my tattoo and she does the same,” he said.
“It’s a reminder for him to have fun. I never want him to forget that,” she added.
It’s also worth noting that Curry has two young daughters— Riley, his firstborn, has become famous for her press conference appearances. One Twitter user recently posted a GIF of her with the player at a past press one.
That’s a technique anyone can borrow: when you’re feeling like work is dominating your life, or you’re under stress, connect with a friend or family member.
Dwayne Wade listens to his favorite music
A few days ago, Twitter user seemed to mock the Chicago Bulls player’s outfit on the social media platform, and Wade fired off a response yesterday showing that he has relied on country music before to get in the right state of mind before a game.
What if I told you in 06 I listened to country music b4 every game that I score 40 in?Would that not be cool? I'm different you wanna fit in https://t.co/JU3jX1glqy
— DWade (@DwyaneWade) May 31, 2017
Even if you’re not Dwayne Wade, it helps to listen to music to psych yourself up. Here are our 5 tips to creating the perfect playlist for work.
Michael Jordan listens to his breath to calm down
ABC News reported that for good luck, basketball legend Michael Jordan wore shorts from his college basketball career at the University of North Carolina under his Chicago Bulls uniform. This superstition also came up in a study by the University of Cologne, as mentioned in the article.
But Jordan was also known for how much he vigorously practiced.
ABC News reported in 2016 that Jordan- in addition to Shaquille O’ Neal and Kobe Bryant- had all worked with meditation teacher George Mumford, who the publication interviewed during a livestream podcast show called “10% Happier.”
He has taught the Chicago Bulls and was working with the New York Knicks at the time of the article’s publication.
He has instructed players about his “one breath, one mind” technique, to make them breathe in unison.
“You start talking to them about how the mind-body interacts, you start talking to them about how you can slow time down when you create space between stimulus and response– [then] three seconds is an eternity,” Mumford said.
Tom Brady repeatedly faces tough situations on purpose
The New England Patriots player is known for having a very healthy diet to keep him in shape for football games. But it looks like he also expects a lot from his teammates, and trains them hard.
Kevin Clark spoke to fellow Patriots player Brandon LaFell for a 2016 article for The Wall Street Journal. He described Tom Brady’s way of succeeding: by having his team test out the hardest moments he’s likely to face.
“LaFell said that before 1 p.m. games on Sunday, Brady holds his throwing sessions with receivers at the exact spot on the field where the sun will be in the receivers’ eyes when they look back for the ball—and intentionally throws it to a spot that forces them to look into the sun so their eyes are used to locating the ball in such situations come game time,” Clark wrote.
Roger Federer listens to his body
Pierre Paganini, Roger Federer’s trainer, told ESPN in 2015 about how good the athlete was at paying attention to how he feels physically.
“Roger is very strong at listening to his body and then telling his coaches and those around him, including me, how he feels…”I’ve never known another player who has been so able to tell you exactly how he feels. And that’s very important for being able to anticipate any possible injuries. That helps me so much that Roger gives me that information and that we can anticipate a lot. There’s a lot of talking, and saying the right things at the right moments, and Roger is unbelievable at that.”
In December 2016, Federer tweeted a Periscope video of one of his practice sessions.
— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) December 22, 2016
This can work for anyone: even if you’re not a sports star, listen to your body. It will tell you where you’re keeping tension, what your true mood is, and how you can calm down. Meditation, by focusing your attention on your breath, is a strong start. Once you know what your body is telling you, you can face problems head-on.
Developing meaningful habits that help get you ready for a big day at work could a key to success in the office.