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Hot Streaks, coincidence or meaning?

March 6, 2009

I am a diehard sports fan, and have been known to put an occasional bet or two on a game.  When thinking of a hot streak, I immediately resort to a basketball shooter that cannot miss.  Hitting 8 consecutive three pointers is a hot streak.  A baseball player hitting .432 over a 12 game stretch is also a hot streak.  Are these streaks merely coincidences?  Hot and cold streaks are all part of life.  As the old saying goes, “when it rains, it poors”.  When things are good, they are real good, when things get bad, watch out.  I took a sport psychology class two years ago, and what I learned was fascinating to say the least.  The “beach ball” analogy is dead on when discussing a major league baseball player on a hitting streak.  Imagine standing at the plate, and as the pitcher releases a 100 mph fastball, it begins to slow down considerably, and the ball enlarges.

Recent applied sport psychology literature is replete with references to “the zone”. Denoted as the pinnacle of achievement for an athlete, the zone characterises a state in which an athlete performs to the best of his or her ability. It is a is a magical and special place where performance is exceptional and consistent. An athlete is able to ignore all the pressures and let his or her body deliver the performance that has been learned so well. Competition is fun and exciting.

This brings up the question, as to whether or not being in the “zone” can only be based on an individual level, or as a unit.  When an entire unit, or team heats up, it seems as though they can do no wrong.  Let’s take the Super Bowl 42 champions, New York Giants.  They began playing well at the end of the regular season, and they never turned back.  Look at the 2000 New York Yankees.  They had one of the worst stretches in major league history over the last 18 games of their season.  A flip switched on once the playoffs began, and the Yankees blew through the playoffs to win their 26th World Series title.  Having a positive mindset, definitely leads to better outcomes, and this is especially the case when there are a group of people who have a similar mindset.  Witnessing feats by individuals and teams, in which they seem unstoppable for a certain period of time, brings out the adventure, and fascination of sport.

By Mikeyrolls

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