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One pat on the back can improve anyone's chance of free throws in basketball, new study reveals

New research suggests that physical touch and support can help athletes play better in basketball games.

One pat on the back can improve anyone's chance of free throws in basketball, new study reveals
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | Styves Exantus

In times of distress, a hand to hold or a gentle embrace can be incredibly comforting. There's nothing quite like receiving a hug to lift spirits when times are tough. Physical touch, whether through a pat on the back, a hug, or other forms of comfort, plays a crucial role in human connection and is widely practiced in relationships. The University of Basel published an interesting theory that explained how a pat on the back can significantly help improve free throw numbers in a basketball game. The research was backed by the idea that physical touch plays a vital role in boosting a person and bringing feelings of comfort and solace.

Representative Image Source: Pexels| Royy Ngyuyen
Representative Image Source: Pexels| Royy Ngyuyen

Starting with exploring the idea that a hug can reduce stress, the study consisting of researchers headed by Christiane Büttner shared that during a basketball game, a free throw is one of the most important and stressful situations. They suggested that receiving a pat on the back from a teammate could likely improve a player's chances of making the shot. In a little background, a player receives a free throw if they were fouled while attempting to score. The player typically receives two free throws, offering significant potential to influence the game's outcome. The catch is that the point of the team depends solely on one player's effort, creating high tension during the moment of the match.

Representative Image Source: Pexels| Styves Exantus
Representative Image Source: Pexels| Jose Riccardo Barraza Morachis

Büttner and the team of researchers from the Psychology department conducted a study using over 60 videos of basketball games with instances of over 800 free-throw scenarios. They then counted the number of times a teammate touched the player attempting the free-throw using a pat on the back, a hand-squeeze or any form of hopeful communication and tried to calculate whether it was associated with the number of successful shots. The data provided interesting results establishing that players were likely to score successfully after some form of encouragement or recognition through physical touch from a teammate.

However, the researchers added that this is more accurate when players have already missed their first shot and have high tension built to succeed in the second one. “So support from teammates is most helpful when your stress level is already high because you've missed the first of the two shots,” Büttner said. It was also added that other situations during the match with the team can have positive outcomes on a larger probability with physical touch from teammates. It is no doubt that encouragement from loved ones can make all the difference in stressful and uncertain situations.

Representative Image Source: Pexels| Andrea Piacquadio
Representative Image Source: Pexels| Andrea Piacquadio

However, the study explains how massive of a difference physical touch makes when it comes to sports. The tension during such delicate moments in sports can have quite an impact on the team and the player as well which is why it’s crucial to manage stress levels and have a more composed approach. This effect is magnified when physical touch is introduced. Having statistics to back the fact up, sharing a hug or a comforting tap is an optimistic and encouraging thing to do!

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