The Hot Hand Fallacy

1st September 2023
Read time:  1 min 59 sec

In my time as a professional athlete, I would see players that would get success, maybe a run of form, and you’d see things change.

They would start training a little differently. Take it a little easier. But they would keep having good performances.

Then suddenly, bang. A bad game. And another. And they would spiral as they didn’t know what the hell was going on.

They then suddenly rallied to get back to where they were having success. Sometimes they could, sometimes they couldn’t, or it would take a long time.

So, what the hell is happening?

The answer is the Hot Hand Fallacy.

The Hot Hand Fallacy was initially conceptualised in basketball and found when players, fans, and coaches would take successes that happened in a short timeframe and predict that this success would go on into the future.

Simply put, it’s when we believe that a run of successes is going to continue into the future.

For example, if a player makes three shots in a row early in a game, people will believe that this player has ‘hot hands’ and is on a streak that will continue. Regardless of what the player’s shot percentage is.

A slightly different way I see it play out is that, similar to my story earlier, a run of good overall performances (form) can also lead to the thought that you’re on a streak, and it will just continue on for future games.

What it leads to

Thinking that your current success is going to continue to go on and on can lead to becoming complacent, easing off training, neglecting habits or routines, or sometimes even stopping them completely.

Then you might hit a poor performance, possibly another after that, and you become shocked as to how that has happened.

You have stopped doing all the work that got you to that good performance, and now you are on the back foot trying to get back to that place.

This can lead to you possibly changing your routine and searching for answers when they are already right in front of you. You just neglected them.

How to stop it

Be realistic; you’re going to have bad games coming. No one has a 100% success rate. So when it happens, as long as you can say that you were doing all the things you normally do, accept that it is a part of the journey.

Set lower expectations for the outcomes. Never think that you have the right to a good performance, but rather that you can put in your best effort and focus to try and reach it.

Stay consistent with your habits and routines. Even through successes, you’ll keep up momentum, and when a bump in the road happens, it doesn’t cause you to come to a grinding halt.

Whenever you're ready, there is a couple of ways I can help you:

MindStrong Sport App – Mental Skills Training for Athletes

Personal Mindset Coaching - Contact for more

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