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Anthony M.J. Maranise

This article discusses the use of superstition and religious rituals within sport. While the popular view among skeptics seems to be that religious ritual is nothing more than superstition, I argue that while there admittedly are many similarities, there also exist major differences which separate superstition and religious ritual into distinct entities. The realm of sport is one widely known for the numerous exhibitions of both superstition and religious ritual. The examples of sport-related superstition and religious ritual are so numerous that they have even gained noted media attention in the past two decades. Thus, I situate both terms within the practical framework of sport participation. From this foundation, I define both terms in context and begin to examine the effects on athletes’ individual holistic development arguing that religious ritual leads ultimately to a greater holistic development than does superstition. Holistic development is examined in four aspects which are comprised of physiology, emotionality, intellectuality, and spirituality. The positive effects of religious ritual as applied within athletics are mentioned in each aforementioned category. I approach the topic from the perspective of the psychology of religion, sports psychology, as well as Judeo-Christian theological concepts regarding religious ritual. The numerous positive benefits of religious ritual over superstition within athletics lead to a final argument that religious ritual provides significant meaning to the lives of athletes in a way which superstition is simply unable.