BY JACK KIZER | Ball State Sports Link
How do you get ready for a meeting? A presentation? Or maybe an athletic event of your own?
Each person prepares differently to succeed in whatever big moment is on their doorstep. Some believe luck can help carry them through those moments, but everyone has the common factor of preparation — at least the successful ones do.
Ball State sophomore Tatiana Mason says her father, James, preaches, “Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.”
James Mason was an All-American wrestler at Michigan State. He had a lot of athletic success, and in that regard, his daughter is just like pops.
Tatiana Mason is coming off one of the best freshman seasons in Ball State history, scoring six goals and winning MAC Freshman of the Year. She’s already tallied a goal in 2019 and helped lead the Cardinals to a 4-0 start.
So, how does she prepare for a match? What’s her pre-game process?
This is how Tatiana Mason gets dialed in.
Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019:
Alarm pulsing on a Sunday morning doesn’t always come so friendly. Tatiana Mason’s echoes between 9:00 and 9:30. But, it’s gameday and time to get moving.
To fuel the morning fire, she mixes blueberries, yogurt and milk in to a breakfast smoothie which complement some hearty eggs and potatoes.
Next, she goes on a short walk from her house just south of campus to the Bell Tower at the center of Ball State. Sometimes it’s a bike ride to a different destination, whatever gets her legs moving early in the day.
Staying loose while maintaining focus is an internal balance Mason navigates well.
“I would say, as soon as I wake up, I’m pretty dialed in,” Mason said. “I kind of loosen up in the locker room once I’m around my teammates, and we’ll start joking around. But once we get to the field, I’m a little more serious and focusing on what I have to do to get ready.”
Morning focus? Check. Now it’s time to depart for the locker and ease some of the tension. Mason carpools with her roommates and teammates, Sammy Corcoran, Alex Deruvo, Jenna Dombrowski and Lexy Smith.
At 11 a.m., they stroll from the parking lot to their locker room tucked underneath the towering home stands of Scheumann Stadium, where cheers will soon echo for Ball State home football games.
Mason walks past the bean bags and couches to her locker at the end of the line. Only Maitane Bravo is next to her, which she enjoys because of the extra space.
While Mason does her thing, other teammates go through their own processes.
“There’s definitely different types of people in the locker room. There’s girls who bring their own headphones, have their beats out and they just sit in their spot looking straight head. They don’t interact or talk with anyone. Then, there’s girls who are getting up and dancing. Everyone has their pre-game routines.”
Rap music and other requests consistently blare off the walls. Mason is fine with that, but she has a different taste.
“I actually prefer a little more R&B, slower, smoother stuff. It gets me in the mood to play.”
In the hour and 15 minutes the team has before walking to Briner Sports Complex, Mason makes sure to put on the norm, like her shin guards, knee pads and shoe — but unique rituals are thrown in as well.
“I wear my hair the same way, and I have a red scrunchy that I always wear on gameday. I did change my hairstyle from last year. I used to have a braid, now I just have a ponytail.”
Remember, she doesn’t believe in luck, so when asked if it was lucky, Mason cited her dad. Anyway …
“And I also write two things. So, I write the number three on the top of my hand because I have three goals I made for the game. So it’s just like, whoever we’re playing, what kind of goals can I make from that? And then, on the inside of my wrist, I write, ‘do it for him’. That’s just do it for Jesus, and it keeps me focused. It’s not just about me, it’s a bigger picture.”
It’s 12:15 p.m. and 45 minutes until first kick against Loyola Chicago. The team walks to the pitch in pairs, so Mason takes her place next to goalkeeper Tristin Stuteville. While they move underneath the stadium, the team does something nobody else gets to see.
“We all have our rollers or whatever, and we’ll bang on the walls and we’ll shout. There’s no one there to see it, but it’s just kind of a team thing.”
Wearing number 31, Mason and the rest of the Cardinals arrive at the field as the music follows them from the locker room. The press box speakers shout a pre-game playlist created by senior Julia Elvbo, and the players ask for it to play even louder.
Mason then begins stretching on bands, followed by a dynamic warm-up and a passing drill. She and the starters split from the substitutes for possession drills before Mason ends pre-game by sending in crosses and taking shots from her position on the outside.
Before the match can get underway, midwest Mother Nature strikes, and start time is delayed an hour and a half until 2:30. Rain and lightning move through the area, while Mason and the team crowd the field hockey locker room close to the field. Time turns back an hour and they fall in to variations of their routines they recently concluded.
Thanks to Ball State’s all-turf surface, the field is ready and they get loose once again. With game-time now moments away, Mason steps back for a moment to herself.
“Before we actually step on the field to play, I always take a moment right before the line and collect myself…I think about the goals, and try to calm myself. I say just start simple by connecting passes and having good first touches.”
The confidence Mason feels is heightened from last year, when she wasn’t always so sure of herself.
“Last year, I felt like as soon as I got the ball, I had to give it away because I wasn’t sure what to do with it. This year, I can take some time, relax and see where to play it.”
Her preparation is complete and the opportunity has arrived. Tatiana Mason is loose, confident, and dialed in.
Editor’s note: Ball State defeated Loyola Chicago, 2-1. The team competes at Omaha Sept. 6.