Superstitions probably don’t make athletes play any better, but that doesn’t stop them having some. Wayne Gretzky covered his hockey stick in baby powder. Michael Jordan wore North Carolina shorts under his NBA shorts. Jason Giambi wore a slump-busting gold thong. Jesse McGinley does coloring books and listens to Biggie Smalls.
But before you get to know Jesse McGinley and her pre-game rituals, you have to know how she arrived at Colorado State.
Hailing from a small northern California town, McGinley is the redshirt junior holding down the fort in goal for the CSU women’s soccer team. Truckee, California has a population about half the size of the CSU student body – roughly 16,000. It’s where McGinley calls home.
“I credit most of everything to my hometown and my family,” McGinley said. “Why I chose to become a Division-I player and why I am so dedicated and work so hard. I am beyond proud to have come from Truckee.”
Growing up in Truckee, competitive soccer wasn’t easily available for McGinley. In order for to chase her soccer dreams, she and her family traveled all throughout California, and often into Nevada.
“(Truckee) is a small, small mountain town,” McGinley said. “I grew up playing soccer there, but there was no competitive soccer club. We would have to drive to Reno, sometimes I’d play in Vegas. When I got older I played competitively in Sacramento, so I had to drive out of my town to play and practice there. It was cool though, I loved getting raised (in Truckee).”
Sacramento, California is 100 miles west of Truckee. Las Vegas, Nevada is 479 miles south of Truckee. McGinley’s dedication to the game is not something to be questioned.
The dedication paid off. McGinley was a part of back-to-back Nevada state championships at Truckee High School, and won multiple club tournaments playing for Placer United.
“The whole pride with (Truckee) sports was insane,” McGinley said. “The first time we won a state championship, I was a freshman. We played it in Vegas, and it was really cool because our guys team and girls team both won.”
It was McGinley’s dream to play soccer for a North Carolina school since she was little, and her play through high school and club afforded her that chance. McGinley began her college career at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. She spent her freshman season with the Spartans before transferring to become a Ram.
“There were a lot of things that played into my decision to leave (UNCG),” McGinley said. “I didn’t really want to per se, but I guess it roots with playing time. I had to do a lot of evaluation about what I wanted in my college experience, and I really just wanted to make the most out of the soccer part.”
In the summer following her freshman season with UNCG, before she transferred to CSU, McGinley played semi-professionally for the Fredericksburg Impact in the USL W-League.
“Coming off my freshman year, I didn’t play much, so I needed to get minutes to compete for my sophomore year,” McGinley said. “So I went to the semi-pro league and lived in Virginia all summer with a host family. That was pretty cool, and it was just a cool experience. I got to play with college players all over the east coast.”
It was in this stint with the Impact that McGinley began one of her many pre-game rituals, working on coloring books before matches.
“The coloring calms me down,” McGinley said. “It forces me to be patient so I don’t get too psyched out about the game.”
With semi-pro experience, McGinley took her coloring books west to join the Colorado State Rams and become part of the “Ramily”.
“When I transferred, it is cliché to say, but it was kinda meant to be that I ended up (at CSU),” she said. “I believe everything happens for a reason and I’m definitely where I’m supposed to be.”
After redshirting in 2013, McGinley took over in goalkeeper box in her 2014 sophomore season and hasn’t looked back. McGinley has started in all but one game at Colorado State, and currently leads the Mountain West with 72 saves.
“(Jesse) is having a great year,” CSU coach Bill Hempen said. “I told her about the simple rules of goalkeeping: stop the ones you’re supposed to stop, every once in a while steal one. She has been doing all of that. The reason we are in every game that we play is because of her stellar play.”
It’s not just McGinley’s play in net that is being noticed. Senior teammate Jessica Stauffer has picked up on some of McGinley’s pregame tendencies.
“On game-day she goes and gets her coffee from Starbucks or Momo’s,” Stauffer said. “Usually it’s a vanilla soy latte, it doesn’t change very much. Then she has her earphones in and just colors. It’s coffee, coloring books, and music.”
Most of the time that music is Biggie Smalls, according to McGinley. In addition to the coffee, coloring books, and Biggie, McGinley has some other minor superstitions to get her ready for the game.
“Before I step in the 18 yard box I pick up a chunk of grass and say a little prayer,” McGinley said. “I do get weirded out for the beginning of the season about what kind of hairstyle I wear, and then I’ll be like ‘oh my gosh we won when I was wearing a braid, I have to wear a braid tomorrow’ and then it just doesn’t work.”
Coffee, coloring, Biggie Smalls, chunks of grass, and hairstyles. McGinley’s superstitions may not be quite as bizarre as Giambi’s, but her unique routine seems to be working just fine.
Collegian Soccer Reporter Chad Deutschman can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ChadDeutschman.