Even the most confident athletes know that they do not have complete control over their situation and are aware that their success depends on the situation shaping itself to their benefit. This is why so many athletes are superstitious. Silly rituals like wearing lucky socks are ways in which athletes try to control the uncontrollablethat is, to keep momentum going. Since momentum is an outside force, there is often a little anxiety mixed in with the sense of trust or assurance at the heart of psychological momentum. Every basketball player has hot and cold shooting streaks.

In advanced players, most such streaks have no discernible cause. The player is not aware of doing anything differently with his technique or in his shot selection while he’s enjoying a hot shooting streak than he did during his last cold streak. Because he knows that he is not entirely responsible for his hot streak, he feels an anxious dependency on whatever outside force is currently working in his favor, and he knows that the hot streak could therefore end anytime, and will end sooner or later, as it always does. Some psychologists have proposed that psychological momentum in sports is the effect of betterthan- expected outcomeswhich are often the result of lucky breakson expectations for future outcomes.

A lucky break increases the athlete’s confidence or optimism or sense of control or attentional focus or some other brain-based factor, and this effect in turn elevates the athlete’s performance and allows the streak to continue. The basketball example just given fits this conceptualization well. Every good shooter is bound to hit three or four tough shots in a row with the aid of a little luck. Regardless, the experience of seeing three or four consecutive tough shots make it into the basket creates in the player’s brain an expectation that he cannot miss, and this expectation is self-fulfilling, to a degree.



Maybe You Like Them Too

Leave a Reply

44 + = 45