In sports, a losing streak or cold streak is an uninterrupted string of contests (whether games, matches, etc.) lost by a team or individual. A losing streak is thus the opposite of a winning streak. A losing streak can last as few as two games, or it may last much longer.
- 1 Existence and causation
- 2 Distinction from winless streak
- 3 Longest losing streaks
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Existence and causation
Most quantitative studies of winning and losing streaks, and the associated concept of psychological momentum, have failed to find any evidence that "streaks" actually exist, except as a matter of random chance. A team with low ability is more likely to lose frequently, and a team with high ability is more likely to win, but once ability is controlled for, there is no evidence that a "winning" or "losing" streak affects the result of the match. In fact, one study of European association football matches using a Monte Carlo methodology found that once ability was accounted for, a team was actually slightly less likely to win or lose when it had experienced the same result in the previous match.
Despite the apparent nonexistence of streaks in quantitative terms, many scholars in the field have pointed to the importance of understanding qualitative, psychological aspects of streaks. A series of losses can have a negative effect on team morale even if it has no direct effect on the outcome of the next game.
Studies in sports management suggest that some managers are able to interrupt losing streaks (and prolong winning streaks) through managerial strategies such as changing the lineup or rotation of players. Similarly, effective mental strategies may enable individual athletes to resist the psychological effects of a "losing streak" by staying focused on the task at hand. In team sports, effective strategies for combating negative momentum may include team cohesion activities and increasing the use of positive body language.
To the extent that they exist, losing streaks may arise from the loser effect: an increased probability of losing at time T, based on losing at time T−1, T−2, etc. This means that one has a slightly higher probability of losing the next match because one lost the previous one. The outcome of a match does not solely depend on the strength of the opponents, but also on how much effort one or the other is willing to invest. The loser effect rises from the tendency to hold back on the next match after losing. On the other hand, the winner effect encourages the opponent who won the previous match to invest more in the next fight. This phenomenon is well known in the study of animal behavior where the winner and loser effects help to keep the level of conflicts low in group living animals.
Distinction from winless streak
A losing streak and a winless streak are distinctively different, as a winless streak may include:
- tie games or draws
- in first-class cricket, unfinished matches
- in association football, ice hockey and some field hockey leagues, and depending on the definition of “loss” used by the observer, overtime or shootout losses.
Tie games can also be included in an unbeaten streak, as in soccer.
Longest losing streaks
List of the longest individual losing streaks of all time in each sport:
- NFL football: 26 games — Tampa Bay Buccaneers: (1976-1977)
- NCAA Football Division I (FBS): 34 games – Northwestern Wildcats: (1979–1982)
- NCAA Football Division I (FCS): 80 games — Prairie View A&M Panthers: (1989-1998)
- NCAA Football Division II: 52 games – Lock Haven Bald Eagles: (2007-2012)
- NCAA Football Division III: 50 games – Macalester Scots: (1974-1980)
- Sprint football: 106 games – Princeton Tigers (1999–2015). Streak includes at least four forfeits and ended only upon the program's termination.
- Semi-professional football: 59 games – York Lions (1990–1995)
- MLS soccer: 12 games — New York/New Jersey MetroStars: (1999)
- USL Pro Soccer: 26 games — Antigua Barracuda FC: (2013)
- VFL/AFL Australian Rules Football: 51 matches by University in 1912-1914 (club dropped out of league and folded at end of 1914)
Note: St Kilda also lost 51 consecutive matches in 1896-1899, their last three matches in the VFA and first 48 matches in the VFL.
- SANFL Australian Rules Football: 56 matches by Glenelg in 1921- 1924 (first 56 matches in competition)
- WAFL Australian Rules Football: 27 games by West Perth in 1938-1939, and Peel Thunder in 1997-1998 and 1998-2000 
- CFL Football: 16 games — Hamilton Tigers/Tiger-Cats: (1948-1950)
- CIS Football: 49 games — Toronto Varsity Blues: (2001-2008)
- MLB Baseball:
- Baseball Pitcher
- Professional Basketball
- Collegiate Basketball
- NCAA Basketball:
- Division I, men: 41 games — Towson Tigers: (2011-2012)
- Division I, women: 58 games — CUNY-Brooklyn College Lady Knights: (1986-1989)
- Division II, men: 46 games — Olivet Comets: (1959-1961); Southwest Minnesota State Mustangs (1971-1973)
- Division II, women: 70 games — Notre Dame de Namur Argonauts
- Division III, men: 207 games — Caltech Beavers: (1996-2007) (record for all divisions, men or women)
- Division III, women: 83 games — Schreiner Mountaineers, (all-division record for women)
- Note: New Jersey Institute of Technology Highlanders lost 51 games (2007-2009) while in the process of becoming a Division I program, but is not an official record.
- NAIA Basketball
- NCAA Basketball:
- Test Cricket: 21 matches — Bangladesh – (2001–2004)
- One Day International cricket: 23 matches — Bangladesh – (1999–2002)
- Twenty20 International: 12 matches — Bangladesh – (2007-2012)
- Combined international cricket: 28 matches — Bangladesh – (10 tests, 18 ODIs, 2003–2004)
- Twenty20 club or domestic: 19 matches (tie) — Quetta Bears – (2005-present); Sydney Thunder – (December 2011-January 2014)
- NHL hockey: 17 games (tie) — Washington Capitals: (1974-75); San Jose Sharks: (1992-93)
- United States Hockey League: 53 games — Omaha Lancers: (entire 1986–87 season, 5 games of the 87–88 season)
- NCAA Lacrosse Division I: 29 games — Wagner College:
- NCAA Lacrosse Division III: 92 games — City College of New York:
- NCAA Men's Tennis Division 1: 59 matches — Wagner College (2007-2012)
- ATP: 21 consecutive matches — Vince Spadea
- List of Major League Baseball longest losing streaks
- List of National Basketball Association longest losing streaks
- Imperfect season
- Winning streak (sports)
- Crust, Lee; Nesti, Mark. "A Review of Psychological Momentum in Sports: Why qualitative research is needed". Athletic Insight. 8 (1).
- Dobson, Stephen; Goddard, John (2003). "Persistence in sequences of football match results: A Monte Carlo analysis". European Journal of Operational Research. 148: 247–256. doi:10.1016/S0377-2217(02)00681-1.
- Peterson, Dan (2008-10-06). "The Reality of Momentum in Sports". Live Science.
- Fort, Rodney; Rosenman, Robert (1999). "Streak management". Sports Economics: Current Research. p. 119. ISBN 9780275963309.
- Crust, Lee. "Sports psychology: the role of momentum in sports performance". Sports Performance Bulletin.
- Cotterill, Stewart (2012). "Momentum in Sport". Team Psychology in Sports: Theory and Practice. p. 117. ISBN 9780415670579.
- "Winner and loser effect". Fighting the Sharks. Retrieved 30 May 2014.
- "Winning, losing, and reaching out". Behavioral Ecology. Retrieved 30 May 2014.
- NCAA FBS Records, 2012
- "Worst College Football Teams of All Time". ESPN. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
- Albright, Bill. "Lock Haven Skid at 50 after Last-Second TD". Retrieved 3 November 2012.
- WAFL Footy Facts: Consecutive Games Lost[dead link]
- "Regular Season All-Time Records - CFL.ca - Official Site of the Canadian Football League". CFL.ca.
- "Games Lost by Teams Records". Baseball Almanac.
- "1915 Baltimore Terrapins". Baseball-Reference.com.
- Longest losing streaks in sports history - Cheat Sheet.com
- Scherr, Rich (28 January 2012). "Towson men's basketball team ends record losing streak". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
- "The Lewiston Journal - Google News Archive Search". google.com.
- "Caltech ends 26-year league drought". NCAA.com. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
- "Inside Schreiner: Women's Basketball". Inside Schreiner. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
- Garcia, Marlen (6 January 2012). "Towson's losing streak reaches record proportions". USA Today. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
- "The Lewiston Journal - Google News Archive Search". google.com.
- "Memorable Losing Streaks". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 12 January 2012.