COLUMBIA — The Rock Bridge girls basketball team huddled in front of the bench before Sunday's game and took off the long-sleeved shirts that cover their uniforms during warmups. As the players’ arms were revealed, smiles stretched across their faces and laughter broke out.
Just below each girl’s shoulder was a small temporary tattoo. Some were tattoos of foods such as cookies and cupcakes and others were glittery symbols such as stars and butterflies.
During several timeout huddles throughout the game, the players would put their arms together and admire the tattoos. Each time they would smile and laugh, which was the point.
“We play a lot better when we’re relaxed, we’re smiling, we’re still focused,” said Bruins coach Jill Nagel, who wore a cookie tattoo on her hand.
The Bruins began wearing the tattoos in Thursday’s 34-point victory at Rolla and decided to make it a routine for the rest of the season. The team implemented the tattoo idea because the players felt like they needed a visual reminder on the court to relax and have fun.
"It gives us a positive attitude to the game," junior Hannah Dressler said. "If we're down on ourselves, and we look over at somebody and they have the tattoo on, it's just funny. So it makes you laugh, and you're right back in the game."
Additionally, senior Carmen Boessen writes a humorous poem consisting of inside jokes and happenings from the week’s practices to read before each game. The poems include something about the tattoos as well.
But the tattoos' second showing didn't bring the same results as the Rolla game. The Bruins (3-1) suffered their first loss of the season Sunday in the Norm Stewart Classic at Columbia College, falling 46-42 against Blue Springs.
Late in the game, the smiles and laughter had faded, and the Bruins were not so relaxed. A sense of urgency consumed the team as it played from behind. Shots were rushed and free throws missed.
Some players even shed tears.
Senior Lindsey Cunningham received a technical foul late in the game for questioning a previous call from the official. Her sister, Sophie Cunningham, fouled out of the game on what she thought was only her fourth foul.
The Bruins couldn’t smile. They couldn’t laugh. They were far from relaxed. They didn’t rely on their “visual reminder” when they needed it most.
Nagel didn’t blame the tattoos. She said she thought the loss was a result of some not-so-great practices during the last week and that her team needs to get back to what she calls “high-level practices” to succeed.
Despite the loss, Boessen said the tattoos are here to stay. The Bruins will wear them again Saturday when they face Lafayette in their first home game of the season.
“I think everybody has latched on to the idea,” Boessen said. “I don’t think we’d feel as prepared if we didn’t have our tattoos.”