A well-executed prank leaves everyone laughing -- including the target. Picture a star hitter confidently lounging around in the dugout during batting practice unaware that a teammate has blown a huge bubble and surreptitiously stuck the gum to the top of his cap. Such antics can both lighten the mood in tense spots and remind everyone that, while winning is the object once the game starts, having fun is at least no less important.
Lighthearted pranks can take advantage of sports loyalties and force teammates to sport gear they’d never otherwise wear. For example, if you have someone on your high school team who’s committed to Michigan for his college career, replace all his Wolverines apparel with Ohio State gear, so that he's forced to wear clothes associated with his new team’s rival after practice. If the big hitter on your softball team is a huge New York Yankees fan, place a removable Boston Red Sox magnet on her car and see how long it takes her to notice.
That's for Kids!
Pranks can involve introducing items or music that's considered too uncool to use in normal settings. Newer members of the team may already be required to carry the ball bag or other equipment to the field, for instance; replace their normal bags with a cartoon backpack, or something else that they’d never be caught with voluntarily. If players are introduced to music, or get to choose what songs play during warm-ups, replace the usual selection with the Sesame Street theme.
Not So Fast
Trick players into thinking they can do something they can’t – or fool them into no longer thinking they can do something they usually perform effortlessly. Have a basketball contest where everyone takes half-court shots blindfolded, for example. When your target takes his turn, record his misfired attempt and have everyone go crazy like he made the shot. After he brags about it for a few minutes, show him the footage of what he actually did. Or replace a basketball with a trick ball that won't bounce properly, and break it out in warm-ups when an unsuspecting player picks it up and attempts to start her drive to the basket. This gives the early-arriving crowd a laugh as well.
Fun With Fruit
If you have moderate art skills and some spare time, fruit can serve as a great pranking tool. Paint an orange white with some red curves to represent stitching, and lob it to a hitter during baseball batting practice. When the contact comes, see whether he’s more confused by the exploding ball or grossed out by the flying debris. If softball’s your game, replace the orange with a grapefruit and try the same trick.
Don't Forget the Injured
Just the fact that someone isn’t able to contribute shouldn’t exempt her from the prank culture – in fact, it can reassure her that she still has a role on the squad despite her lack of court time. If you have a teammate on crutches, for example, adjust the left crutch so it’s one notch lower than the right, or vice versa. See how long it takes her to notice. If she doesn’t indicate that she’s aware of the change by the end of the day, clue her in – you don’t want her going around with incorrectly adjusted gear for long.
Keep It Fun
The key to playing pranks on teammates is to remember that you’re all on the same side. Pranks shouldn’t do anything that would damage the relationships essential to team success. Avoid anything that would cause anything other than brief embarrassment, or leave teammates unable to perform at their best. If it’s anywhere close to what might be considered hazing, or if it might upset your teammate, it’s too risky to take on.