The Timbers head coach has tons of rituals to prepare for games—but he's not superstitious in the way you might think
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Giovanni Savarese

It's not unusual to believe that small personal habits can affect the future. Many athletes and coaches collect little rituals throughout their career, adding or subtracting new behaviors as they win or lose. Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese has plenty of rituals like that—too many to list, he says.

But that doesn't mean he believes those rituals have preternatural power. We asked him to explain.

You have lots of rituals you do before games. Do you think of yourself as superstitious?

Savarese: It's not that I believe in superstition. I believe in the superstition to create a better a better environment for me to focus. So I do [certain] things, not as a ritual. I do them because they keep me more concentrated on my target. Little things—from trying to come back in the door that I went out, trying always to go with my right foot inside the field, always thanking God for giving me the opportunity to be a coach and do what I love in my life. Just little things, little things. There's too many to explain.

But it's not that I believe that that is the way to win. It is just my way to give me even more focus—that extra focus—that I need for every game.

So, those little things—does their power come from the intention or the routine?

It's both. It is the intention that reminds me and then the execution that keeps me concentrated on the target. And for me, that's a way to channel my concentration level and my strength into, you know, what is most important: the games. Feeling that you are already inside the game. Because the level of focus has to go higher [during the game]. And for me it has worked to keep me always in a good place mentally.

Do you have any new rituals this season?

There's too many to start... They change all the time—they change in so many different ways. Little things, too many little things.

But at the end of the day, that is not what wins games. It's the work that we do on the field, the communication with the players. It is keeping the guys clear on what we're looking for and motivating the guys to a level that they're going to the field and performing at a high standard. That's the job of the coach and coaching staff. Everyone involved in the in the group that prepares the team. That is the most important thing.

[The rituals] are the only things to stay focused, to stay alert, to stay in your body.

So they don't affect the outcome of the game...

No. You think they do. That's why you continue to do them. But it's more for you to be focused on everything and grasp everything in a different way.