Team hugs boost basketball free throw success

Basketball team hugs on court. | Newsreel
Photo: New research shows hugs and pats on the back increase the chances of landing a free shot in basketball. | Photo: IStock

Basketballers are more likely to land a free throw if they get a pat on the back or a hug before the shot.

A research team led by the University of Basel made the finding after studying 60 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) women’s games in the United States.

The researchers knew that, in difficult situations, physical touch like a hug or a pat on the back could reduce stress.

They wanted to test if it would also positively impact sporting performances in a high-stress moment.

“One of the most stressful situations during a game is a free throw,” the University reported.

“A player receives a free throw if they were fouled while attempting to score. In most cases, the fouled player gets two free throws and can win one point per successful shot. Many games are decided by free throws.”

Christiane Büttner at the Faculty of Psychology of the University of Basel and her team counted how many teammates touched the shooter before a shot.

Then they calculated whether there was a “statistical association” between the number of touches and the success of the shot.

“The data showed that the chance of scoring rose when teammates showed their support through touch,” Ms Büttner said.

“The effect only appeared after a failed first shot. So support from teammates is most helpful when your stress level is already high because you’ve missed the first of the two shots.”

The findings were reported in the Psychology of Sport & Exercise  journal. More details are on the University of Basel website.