SPRINGFIELD, Mo–The Missouri State Lady Bears will tip off their post season Thursday afternoon when they play Bradley in the first round of Hoops in the Heartland.
Beth Cunningham says her team needs bring its defense to Moline.
And as KOLR 10’s Chris Pinson reports, they also need to pack a load of chewing gum.
“Every single game, every single practice I’ve just had to chew it. I just need it. I do.”
No matter the sport, athletes and teams have their own superstitions or rituals they follow.
For the Missouri State Lady Bears….it’s chewing gum .
“I used to never chew gum but you know it kinda just started and I get the same kind and flavor every single time I go out and that’s with a bunch of the other girls,” said Lady Bears forward Sydney Wilson.
For some players, it enhances their focus.
“It keeps my mouth moist and then it’s just kinda something to do so I’m not fidgeting or something,” said Lady Bears forward Kennedy Taylor.
For others, it has a deep and, could we say transcendental meaning.
“I’ve always chewed gum. I guess since third or fourth grade. I used to get really nervous before basketball games and my grandma, she’d come to my games, she’d always carry around this orange Trident gum and she’d give it to me every single time and it’d just calm me down,” said Lady Bears guard Paige Rocca
Flavor and brand is very important to the Lady Bears.
“I always go for the minty ones. Like peppermint, not spearmint, though. I don’t like spearmint.
“The refreshers, the little cubes, those are amazing!”
So how exactly did this ritual get started?
“I always am the person with a pack of gum in my backpack. So I think it started one day with “Hey does anyone have a piece of gum” and I pulled one out and a couple people wanted some and noticed they were asking for mints or gum,” said Megan Fisher/Lady Bears Sports Information.
You’ve heard that old joke about walking and chewing gum at the same time, but can you imagine how hard it must be doing it while playing full court basketball?!
“I’ve never had an incident with it and I’ve never really worried about it either it’s just never happened to me.”
“Secret…I’m a professional gum chewer.”
Whether it’s the gum or their hard work, the Lady Bears finished the regular season 19-10 and are seeded fifth entering the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.
But if you ask head coach Beth Cunningham who deserves the credit…
“I have no idea, you’d have to ask them. Whatever’s working. Whatever’s working just keep doing it, just keep doing it,” said Cunningham.
We’ll keep chewing on that, Chris Pinson, ozarks first.