Former Red Sox player Nomar Garciaparra could not bat without checking his batting gloves. Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics will not get on the floor without patting his hands in the rosin.
The pro athletes have their pre-game rituals and so too do the Vineyarders.
For members of the varsity football team and the cheerleading squad, the superstitions are sometimes hidden, oftentimes underneath the jerseys, helmets and uniforms, but they are there nonetheless.
“Before the Nantucket home games, we shave our heads into weird Mohawks,” said senior Andrew Larsen, an offensive guard and defensive end. “It’s a practice started by the Nantucket team, but now we psych them out by taking their own tradition.”
At each game, every member of the team wears the same T-shirt underneath his jersey, Mr. Larsen said. For Matt Lucier, also a senior, the T-shirt he wears beneath his number 45 helps to remind him of the importance of teamwork.
“I wear my Team Me shirt,” he said. “It has Team written up top and then, in much smaller font, Me beneath it.”
The players are not the only ones to keep up superstitions and traditions for good luck. Assistant coach Dan Rossi maintains a tradition handed down to him 10 years ago from his predecessor, Bill Belcher.
“The day before a game, I take out the game ball, still in the bag,” he said. While the players stretch and warm up, Coach Rossi tosses the ball, giving it some wear and tear. He then hands it off to quarterback Mike McCarthy.
“No one can touch it but me until I hand it off to the quarterback,” Mr. Rossi said. “If anybody touches the ball, there’s hell to pay.”
Rebecca Cass, the cheerleading coach, has a squad of superstitious girls this year. There is Nicole Deese, who wears the same black tank top to every practice and every game.
“It has a big hole in it from a practice when it almost got ripped off her body, but she still does it,” Mrs. Cass said with a laugh.
“It’s just lucky, I guess,” Ms. Deese said.
Then, there is Lita Doward who wears the same pair of underwear — clean of course — to each game and Kayla Manning with her lucky hair tie. And not one of the girls has yet taken off the Purple Pride bracelets handed out by the Touchdown Club, the team fan club, earlier this year.
“They won’t take them off — they think the world will come to an end,” Mrs. Cass said.
She is one to talk. In 10 years, the coach has not removed the Vineyarder football helmet pin she bought at Mardell’s Gift Shop from her jacket.
The superstitions may bring luck, but it takes more than a T-shirt or pin to truly pump up the team. This year, the Touch Down Club, the cheerleaders and the coaches pulled out all of the stops. From the 50-yard line on Wednesday, the girls handed out coffee and cookies in the shape of whales and the Vineyard to coaches. On Thursday, fans and players turned out to the pep rally and bonfire.
By this morning, the hallways at school will be a sea of purple and white, the walls covered with posters and streamers and the students wearing purple sweatshirts. The night before each game, the Touchdown Club hosts a pasta dinner for the team, but tonight, they are grilling steaks and setting up an ice cream sundae bar. While the boys fuel up, the cheerleaders will be decorating their houses with balloons and ribbon.
Before heading out onto the field tomorrow afternoon, the cheerleaders will jam to And When I Die, the Blood, Sweat and Tears song that pumps them up before every game. The boys will eat breakfast together in the high school cafeteria.
“It’s all for the boys,” Mrs. Cass said when thinking about the many superstitions and traditions carried out each year by the team and the squad, the coaches and the fans. “Win or lose, we think they’re number one.”