In sports, a losing streak (a.k.a. a cold streak, losing skid, slide, or losing slump) is an uninterrupted string of contests (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.

Shimer College basketball coach celebrates game 37 of his team's record-setting losing streak in 1963.

Distinction from winless streak

A losing streak and a winless streak are distinctively different, as a winless streak may include:

  1. tie games or draws
  2. in first-class cricket, unfinished matches
  3. 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.

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.[1] 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.[2] 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.[2]

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.[1] 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.[3]

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.[4] 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.[5] In team sports, effective strategies for combating negative momentum may include team cohesion activities and increasing the use of positive body language.[6]

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.[7] 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.[8]

Longest losing streaks

List of the longest individual losing streaks of all time in each sport:

American football


Australian rules football

Auto racing

Canadian football







Professional wrestling

Rugby League



Ultimate Frisbee

See also


  1. ^ a b Crust, Lee; Nesti, Mark. "A Review of Psychological Momentum in Sports: Why qualitative research is needed". Athletic Insight. 8 (1).
  2. ^ a b Dobson, Stephen; Goddard, John (2003). "Persistence in sequences of football match results: A Monte Carlo analysis". European Journal of Operational Research. 148 (2): 247–256. doi:10.1016/S0377-2217(02)00681-1.
  3. ^ Peterson, Dan (2008-10-06). "The Reality of Momentum in Sports". Live Science.
  4. ^ Fort, Rodney; Rosenman, Robert (1999). "Streak management". Sports Economics: Current Research. p. 119. ISBN 9780275963309.
  5. ^ Crust, Lee. "Sports psychology: the role of momentum in sports performance". Sports Performance Bulletin.
  6. ^ Cotterill, Stewart (2012). "Momentum in Sport". Team Psychology in Sports: Theory and Practice. p. 117. ISBN 9780415670579.
  7. ^ "Winner and loser effect". Fighting the Sharks. Archived from the original on 25 August 2014. Retrieved 30 May 2014.
  8. ^ Dugatkin, L. A.; Reeve, H. K. (2014). "Winning, losing, and reaching out". Behavioral Ecology. 25 (4): 675–679. doi:10.1093/beheco/aru078.
  9. ^ NCAA FBS Records, 2012
  10. ^ Albright, Bill. "Lock Haven Skid at 50 after Last-Second TD". Retrieved 3 November 2012.
  11. ^ "2013 Earlham Football Schedule". Earlham Athletics. Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  12. ^ "D-III Earlham College Quakers suspend football program after 53 straight losses". 2018-11-13. Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  13. ^ "Princeton drops Sprint Football". 12 April 2016.
  14. ^ "Semi-pro Football / Minor League Football – Team Games Records".
  15. ^ "San Marino 0-0 Estonia". BBC Sport. Retrieved 2023-03-03.
  16. ^ "Finally a win for Super Power". Bangkok Post. 16 October 2017. Archived from the original on 13 November 2017. Retrieved 13 November 2017. the victory ended their 27-match losing streak
  17. ^ "Everton return to form by beating Norwich". BBC Sport. Retrieved 2021-09-25.
  18. ^ St Kilda also lost 51 consecutive matches in 1896–1899: their last three matches in the VFA and their first 48 matches in the VFL.
  19. ^ This was Glenelg's first 56 matches in the SANFL competition.
  20. ^ WAFL Footy Facts: Consecutive Games Lost
  21. ^ Death of J.D. McDuffie
  22. ^ a b c "Games Lost by Teams Records". Baseball Almanac.
  23. ^ "1915 Baltimore Terrapins".
  24. ^ "Minnesota Twins' torture: Breaking down their record MLB playoffs losing streak". 30 September 2020.
  25. ^ Longest losing streaks in sports history – Cheat
  26. ^ Morales, Luisa. "Blackwater snaps infamous 29-game losing streak, stuns Magnolia in thriller". Retrieved 2022-03-09.
  27. ^ Scherr, Rich (28 January 2012). "Towson men's basketball team ends record losing streak". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
  28. ^ "Chicago State sets D-I women's record with 59th straight loss". ESPN. 4 February 2018.
  29. ^ "Caltech ends 26-year league drought". Retrieved 10 January 2012.
  30. ^ "Inside Schreiner: Women's Basketball". Inside Schreiner. Archived from the original on 20 November 2008. Retrieved 10 January 2012.
  31. ^ Garcia, Marlen (6 January 2012). "Towson's losing streak reaches record proportions". USA Today. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
  32. ^ "Saint Louis College of Pharmacy".
  33. ^ "DakStats WebSync". Retrieved 2018-03-12.
  34. ^ Pappolla, Ryan (April 7, 2019). "Zack Ryder & Curt Hawkins def. The Revival for the Raw Tag Team Championship". WWE. Retrieved April 8, 2019.
  35. ^ "Rugby League".
  36. ^ Suffered a 21-match losing streak which dropped to 237th in the rankings and earned the nickname "the Charlie Brown of tennis".