Superstition

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Marv, I am currently working with a junior competitive cyclist who has recently been involved in two crashes involving him hitting cars. The first was the car drivers fault and the second his own. The second was very recent and he wrote off his $10k bike and damaged the car - he is insured luckily. His belief is that bad things come in threes and is fearful of competing this weekend (it is just a club race), in case the third and big one happens. It is also interesting to note that he trained in the country the following day after the second crash and in his words "cycled like a nana" including coming to a complete stop at intersecting country roads, swinging wide past side roads in case of traffic etc. any suggestions?

Carol Noble-Adams


Dear Carol,

Your letter was very interesting. A Superstition is a powerful form of belief. You see this often among those who practice voodooism in Haiti. The Haitians believe that if you believe something is going to happen, if a spell has been cast upon you, it will come to pass. This is somewhat like the nocebo effect (the opposite of the placebo) where a negative expectation becomes a "self-fulfilling prophesy." There's an expression I quote in my book, "Mind Over Sports," that says: "As we think, so we become." So, if your cyclist believes that accidents come in threes, and that he is destined to have another accident, he will. I would suggest he continue to "cycle like a nana" until he has that third accident, since that's what he believes is going to happen. But if he doesn't have it in the next 30 days, he should return to his regimen training and forget about being an accident waiting to happen. Good luck.

Marv Fremerman


Superstition II

I'm a high school sophomore doing a research project of sports performance. I came across you web page regarding your book Mind over Sports and thought you may have some interesting ideas on my research topic. If a positive mental approach can help to increase self esteem and perhaps performance... do you think something a simple as superstition can also serve the same purpose..

David Lee


A positive mental approach really doesn't affect self-esteem, but if you have high self esteem, then you'll have a positive mental approach...in other words, a positive mental approach is a manifestation of a high sense of self worth...regarding superstitions, yes...superstitions can have a definite impact on performance...for example, let's assume you are a basketball player who, all during your little league and high school career wore the number five...and when you get to college, your coach promises you that you can have that number if you enroll in his school and play on his team...so you enroll, and when you get to your first practice, you find that the coach gave away your number (five) that he had promised you to some other player...and you are devastated. More than likely, your not wearing the number five after all the years past will affect your performance...so in answer to your question, yes...superstitions can and do affect performance. By the way, a superstition is really nothing more than a belief, and beliefs are powerful...

Thanks for your question..and good luck with your research project.

Marv Fremerman


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