Knicks’ Walker’s Cold Start Expected

Last night in Miami, Bill Walker shot 7-for-10 from behind the 3-point line.  That’s an amazing percentage.  Those who watched the game will tell you that he hit them under all conditions: wide open; defender flying at him; in traffic.

Tonight, he’s started 0-for-2 from behind the arc and 0-for-3 overall in the 1st quarter.  Although it may disappoint the fans, the slow start was very predictable.  That’s based on a study by the Israeli Air Force in the late 1960s.  Just so it won’t look like I’ve pulled this out of nowhere, I discussed the study with the NY Post’s Marc Berman years ago and have sent him e-mails over the subsequent seasons when it was likely that the study’s results would be apparent for a player or team.

The study showed that when Israeli Air Force pilots set a new high score in the flight simulator and that high score was substantially higher than their average score, almost invariably their next time in the simulator would result in a score that was well below that average score.  Those of you who play video games may have experienced this same phenomenon.

The theory, and one that I subscribe to, is that the pilot’s unconscious mind took the new high score as the new average score, too.  The pilot was obviously capable of hitting that high score but wasn’t yet skilled enough to do it regularly.  When the reality of the next time in the simulator was not going well, extra pressure was felt and things got even worse.

If you want an example of how your unconscious can put an unrealistic expectation on your performance, think back to the last time you played hoops after a huge layoff.  Maybe you were out of shape.  Maybe you were in physical shape but you weren’t in basketball shape.  But you took a couple of long shots because you hit them when you were playing regularly.  Probably those shots looked more like passes.

Although there are a couple of great NLP ways to handle this, I’m not giving those away.  But what you can do when you set a new personal best is to set your “success level” down the next time you play.  For a player who averages 10 PPG and shoots 45%, for example, and then has a new best of 25 points on 60% shooting, he’d want to set his “success” level for his next game as 8 points on 40% shooting.

This isn’t his goal.  It’s what he’s tricking his mind into believing is “success”.  He’ll easily hit those numbers.  His unconscious mind will know that he succeeded.  Every point after that is gravy.  Most of the pressure to shoot 60% is gone.  He may very well surpass his average figures if he follows this suggestion.

Bill Walker, before the Miami game, averaged just over 5 PPG and shot 32% from behind the arc.  His 21 points on 70% 3-point shooting was significantly greater than that.  So Israeli Air Force pilots and those of us who know of the study weren’t surprised when his first few shots drew iron.  He’ll have his touch back soon enough.  Maybe before tonight’s game ends.

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