A simple gesture can change the game

A new study reveals how important teammate support during a basketball game is in terms of free throw shooting and scoring. Physical touch can make a real difference in these circumstances

Participating in sports is beneficial not only to the body but also to one’s mood. Engaging in athletic activities brings numerous health benefits, and if it’s a team sport, the advantages are even greater. Being part of a team, such as in basketball, can significantly enhance our ability to manage stress.

A simple gesture can change the game

“A simple encouraging pat on the shoulder can change the outcome of a game,” states a new scientific study conducted by the University of Basel in Switzerland and published in the journal Psychology of Sport & Activity.

Focus on basketball

A team of researchers from the Department of Psychology, led by Christiane Büttner, specifically studied basketball games. Basketball enthusiasts are well aware of how crucial free throws can be to the game’s outcome.

However, free throws also represent one of the most stressful moments for the players. It’s a time when they are under immense pressure, knowing that scoring can significantly benefit their team. It’s both an opportunity and a responsibility, but this pressure can be alleviated with the support of teammates.

Study findings

The researchers arrived at their conclusion after analyzing 60 games played by women’s basketball teams in the National Collegiate Athletic Association. A total of 835 instances of two free throws were recorded.

They observed that if a player missed the first free throw and her teammates encouraged her through physical contact, her chances of making the subsequent shot increased.

“The support from teammates is very useful when stress levels are already high because you missed the first of two shots,” commented Büttner.

Further research

Further studies could investigate the psychophysiological changes in stress and anxiety in athletes who receive physical touch to determine what other factors play a role. “Does physical touch enhance performance as an active ingredient?” the experts pondered in their publication.

The researchers also do not rule out that proximity of teammates could also affect professional players, even though these players are more experienced with free throws. A pat on the back or a handshake could make all the difference.

Source: Psychology of Sport & Activity

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