An athlete's preperation

It’s a special morning for graduate student Stephen Duggan. He has a different feeling and excitement about him today, one that only sports fans and players understand. It’s game day, and in a couple of hours, the soccer player will be on the field, ready to play.
This means there is only really one thing on his mind all day, one moment he is looking forward to. That time is kick-off.

Preparation for the game begins the night before as he will get an early night, and it will be the last thing he thinks of before bed.

“I watch the game before it happens, I picture what I’m going to do and what the team is going to do,” Duggan said.

On game day he likes to get up as late as possible. This reduces the amount of time the defender has to think about the game.
The 21-year-old Irishman, who will graduate after this term, is not a sociable person on game day.

“I like to eat by myself, something light, nothing too heavy, and I’ll always have a Gatorade. I’ll start listening to music while I eat, which is usually about three hours before kick-off. Nothing too specific, except I always listen to Jay-Z,” Duggan said.

He does like to have class on game day. This is because he forces himself to concentrate and focus on the class, although the game is always in the back of his mind.

The superstitions – now routine – begin in the locker room.

“I always like to be one of the first in the locker room and then get straight in the shower just to clear my head. Once I’m in the locker room I only think about the game and my first tackle, no matter what has happened that day,” said Duggan.

He then gets his right wrist taped, even though it is not injured, and always touches the top of the door frame twice before leaving the locker room for the warm-up.

During the warm-up he wears the cleats that he has practiced in leading up to the game, but, before the game he switches to his other pair.

This is after he has laid out his shirt on the right side of the bench with the back number facing the field.

The national anthem is one of the last things done before the game starts. “I always sing the Irish national anthem in my head, just as a reminder of home. Once it’s over I just want to play and win,” Duggan said.

The routine continues after the game too, as he takes his soccer uniform off in the same order every time.

All these superstitions are also done when playing away from home, as well as sitting in the very back left seat of the bus.

“I don’t really consider them superstitions anymore; it’s just become my routine really. I know exactly when I have to do something at a certain time. It’s just the way I prepare for a game, and I couldn’t imagine changing any of my preparation,” said Duggan.

This is then all forgotten about. But, only until the next game, when the same routine will be done all over again.

Unfortunately, Duggan will never again do this routine, as he suffered a season-ending injury to close the book on his career at Mercyhurst College.