What Stinks About Streaks

Trinity College squash extended its winning streak to 230 matches. The longest winning streak in the history of intercollegiate sport. That’s nice.

Just up I84 in Connecticut the Huskie women’s basketball streak came to an end about a few weeks back. Perhaps this was to the dismay of ESPN. Probably good for the team.

You play to win the game. If you have the good fortune, you play to win the game lots and lots and lots. If the lots and lots and lots comes all in a row so be it.

What stinks about streaks however is how they change the dialogue and change the focus. It’s fun to bask in the glory of victory, but day in and day out it’s more fun and more productive to talk about playing. Streaks hijack the discussion.

Streaks hijack the discussion

Talking about history. Dwelling on bar stool sports such as debating the greatest team ever. Trying to predict the next time the sports gods will frown upon a team. What a bore for a passionate coach or athlete.

Nuanced game plans. Herculean efforts. Crisp execution of the basics. Deferring of ego for the good of the team. Now these ideas stir the athletic spirit. Streaking teams hold these ideas close day in and day out (Unfortunately, the spectating public gets a lot more of the hijacked discussion from talking heads).

As always there seems to be a nuanced nature to excellent performances on the playing field. If a streak is to arise, athletes and coaches talk about, think about, and enjoy “playing.” Once the streak is rolling, having the mental fortitude to stay on message minimizes streak slowing friction.

* The same thing that stinks about streaks is what stinks about slumps… they key to streaking and the key to un-slumping share the same foundations.

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