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The Richard Lee column: Why superstitions can be used to your advantage

Brentford goalkeeper Richard Lee starts his new Total Football column with a look at superstitions - and reveals what happened when he started wearing the number 13 shirt...

It’s Friday 13th June; heavy tropical thunderstorms in Orlando and I’m sat by the window of the Boeing plane from which we are about to take off.

The airport drenched and the pilot comes on the speaker to announce it’s a 50/50 chance as to whether we’d be taking off or not as the pilot was unsure if we could beat the next storm in order to take off.

The situation I, and all the other passengers aboard our flight faced got me thinking about superstitions, where they originated and what affect they have had and can have.

Firstly I wanted to know why Friday the 13th was thought to be unlucky, where could this have derived from and my research pointed towards religion.

The events of Good Friday, the day Jesus Christ was crucified, according to Christian lore, Adam and Eve also supposedly ate the forbidden fruit on a Friday 13th, the Great Flood started on this day, the builders of the Tower of Babel were tongue-tied and the Temple of Solomon was destroyed on a Friday 13th. Coincidence? Or a real reason to be superstitious of this day?

'Reasons' can be coincidences

There is also the notion that the mind will find reasons to back up any belief, so for instance if someone held the belief that Friday the 13th was unlucky for them, they could go out of their way to find reasons as to why that’s the case. Reasons that may well just be pure coincidences.

For me, a superstition of my past wasn’t so much of Friday the 13th but just the number 13. After having a break-through season of sorts and playing my first senior games wearing the number 30 shirt, I began the next season in the number 13 shirt.

I then proceeded to twist my ankle, missing an England Under-21 call-up, I then endured getting concussed just a week prior to the beginning of the season and then a few weeks later splitting my upper arm in two and missing the majority of the season. Whose fault could this be? Well the number of course!

I look back now and deem this a bit ridiculous (although I won’t go out of my way to change back any time soon!). I wore number 16 the following season and finished the season breaking my cheekbone, rupturing my bicep and needed an operation on my knee but I never even questioned the number - why would I? 16 isn’t thought to be unlucky!

Consciously I think we all know that superstitions don’t make much sense but if the thought of them is having a positive effect in a performance or on your life then they are not necessarily wrong. However my personal thought is that superstitions can be very limiting, more mentally than anything.

The outcome has been fine

What if a life-long superstition couldn’t be fulfilled, would everything you have built just collapse around you? Most of us with superstitions have, at some point, been forced to break them and, more times than not, the outcome has been fine. Quite often whatever happened would then take over and become the new superstition!

Superstitions are simply based around ones belief, they are often created in order to allow you to enter a frame of mind best suited for the situation you are about to face.

Realistically, is there some mystical power attached to ‘putting on your shirt when you come out of the tunnel’ or those ‘lucky pants’?

Unlikely, What if you had the power to slip into that optimum frame of mind without the need for that superstition and weren’t reliant on something with which you can’t necessarily always control?

The fact that I’m writing this means that obviously the flight was fine (despite some turbulence!) and we took off without delay… and for some unknown reason this flight wasn’t particularly full, which meant I had two seats to myself!

I wonder why that could be?

Read our interview with Richard Lee:

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