13 Popular Superstitions That Swimmers Bring to the Pool

On National Student-Athlete day back in April, I was voted by my college swim and dive team as Most Superstitious. Part of it involves three words: Peanut. Butter. Bites.

I am infamous for having peanut butter bites on hand at swim meets. Before each race, I carefully pour four bites into the palm of my right hand, since I am left-handed. It is crucial that I eat the bites from smallest to largest. The thought that if I don’t pop my peanut butter bites, haunts my race preparation. This is one of many, many superstitions I have. 

But I know that I am not alone here. Most swimmers and divers I know have some superstitious rituals they must perform before a race or dive. As someone who has been a competitive swimmer for at least eleven years now and is an acknowledged, award-winning “expert” on superstitions, I thought I’d share some I’ve noticed along the way.

Caps and Goggles and Shammies, Oh My

Every swimmer has a go-to cap and a favorite pair of goggles for meets. Maybe it’s the first cap they got when they joined the team or the black-mirrored goggles that make you feel cool in the pool. For divers, it may be the tie-dyed shammy that they target perfectly into the same square tile at the foot of the diving platform. Without these accoutrements, who knows what might happen?

The Warmup Mojo

The beginning of every meet starts with a pre-planned warmup in the pool. Pretty basic: just get the blood flowing. Feel the water. Burn out the nerves. Overtime, swimmers learn that they need to have a certain number of yards in their first warmup. And divers, along with swimmers, have to incorporate a specific exercise in their dynamic warmup, or to use the large black foam roller instead of the small blue roller. Yes, superstitious aquanuts know: in warmup, you don’t just find your stroke, you find your mojo.

Food Fetish


Photo Courtesy:

It’s no secret that swimmers and divers are, shall we say, diet-conscious during season. And when it comes to meets, swimmers and divers develop their preferred night-before, morning of, during and post-meet eating rituals. They need to have their morning tea or coffee (a touch of creamer to counter no bitterness), their favorite cereal (always freshly opened) and fruit (cubed to perfection) to help them jump-start. During the meet, they may pack gooey PB&Js, sliced carefully in quarters, or turkey on mom’s special “meet rolls.” The choices are endless, but the rituals are set, and success may hang in the balance.

The Pump Up Playlist

For most swimmers and divers, there’s a personal playlist that puts them in the zone. If they don’t hear that one special song, then they might not do well in their next event. The song doesn’t have to be the uplifting theme from Rocky or the dark energy of Eminem. It can be something as simple and catchy as the Cha Cha Slide or the Cupid Shuffle. It is also worth mentioning that many athletes are totally pumped up by hometown crowds and screaming teammates. So, it’s not uncommon to observe truly superstitious swimmers and divers sitting deck side with one earbud in and one earbud out. Now that’s a playlist!


Swimmers and divers all have that one little, precious item stowed away in their bag or parka pocket that just has to be with them at all times. Maybe it’s a Heat Winner ribbon from their first club meet when they were 7-years old. It could be a collection of rubber duckies that a teammate was kind enough to give every time they hit a new best time or tried a new event.  Whatever. The charm can be magic.

On Deck Drip

Swimmers and divers have their own unique fashion styles. They gotta represent and walk like they own the place with their heavy yet soft parka or their fuzzy socks and Crocs combo. If their look isn’t complete, or if they don’t have their lucky “ragin’ dolphin” towel, the day may be ruined for the forlorn swimmer or diver.

Staying Suit-able

Every now and then swimsuit straps get twisted like a candy cane. Teammates will point out the terrible entanglement. But who can make the adjustments? Sure, teammates may volunteer. But superstitious types may need to stay in their zones – untouched and twisted – as they prepare to win. They will make the adjustments on their own in their own way.

Simply, Routine

This is a plain and simple superstition. Every swimmer and diver has some sort of routine they do before they get on the blocks or boards. A classic example is Michael Phelps’ pre-race backslaps. Some athletes do a couple random jumps or a personal dance. If they execute their routine in the correct order, they will have an amazing race. If not, see “charm,” above.

Cheering Squad


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Without a doubt, cheering sections can be motivating. But, to the superstitious swimmer or diver, it can actually matter how cheering happens. Do they want teammates cheering from opposite ends of the pool? Superstitons-based swimmers may have their rules even when it comes to enthusiastic screaming. Odd, but true.

Pools of Luck

There are always pools that swimmers and divers claim to love and some they hate. The lovely pools may be well-lit, have nice warmup areas and comfortable decks. Less favored pools may have a unique smell on deck or surprisingly frigid water, or perhaps some unpleasant saltiness. Maybe random Bandaids have floated by in warmup. But the most important distinguishing characteristic of a well-loved pool is simple: How did the swimmer or diver perform there in the past? Yes, for a superstitious athlete, a “lucky pool” is actually a thing. 

Teammate Time

At meets, there are inevitably periods of time when swimmers and divers need to get off their feet and escape the cacophony of the pool deck. At these times, the superstitious athlete looks to structured teammate time to keep them on track. This could involve a certain card game or video chat ritual. Whatever it takes to keep the juices flowing in the right direction.

Special Delivery

Before meet days, swimmers and divers often look for omens outside the pool. One great sign is the Amazon Prime delivery that arrives magically in the week of the meet. The package might include new exercise bands or a multipack of granola bars or a back-up pair of goggles they’d feel naked without on meet day. To an athlete, especially one devoted to superstitions, this kind of special delivery will seem like a message from above – a sure sign that success will follow in the pool.

Entertaining Success

Speaking of pre-meet prep, swimmers and divers often get charged up by watching a fantastic movie or reading an inspiring book the night before a meet. Superstitious athletes may have favorite entertainment sources that they dip into over and over: watching Phelps win number 23 in Rio on YouTube, seeing Rudy carried off the field at Notre Dame or maybe a TV show like Brooklyn Nine-Nine. All these may be part of their ritual of success. And fun, too.

Phew! I know that’s a lot of superstitions.

I could list a few more, but that’s 13 and 13 is my lucky number.

By Gigi Picard Swimming World College Intern

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