Homefield: Facing the opponent in enemy territory

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By Nick Nunn, Columnist

Nick Nunn

Nick Nunn

Much has been said about the benefits of home field (or court) advantage and its effect on the game.
A few quick minutes spent thinking about all of the ways that being in a friendly atmosphere could influence the athlete’s performance can give quite an array of possible effects.
First is the purely physical. Being in a different place, possibly with different geographical features – like a flat football field as opposed to a curved field – or a different set of references outside the field could have a big difference.
For example, if you are used to jumping for a layup from a certain point on the basketball court and you identify that spot by knowing that you are about inline with the last set of bleachers at your home court, you won’t be able to use that type of spotting technique at a different court because the stands might be in a different place.
But the psychological aspect should not be overlooked either.
Being booed instead of cheered when doing positive for the team could create a sense of cognitive dissonance in the player’s mind.
Typically, cheers create a positive association with doing something good and getting good praise, and, conversely, a “boo” from the audience would usually signal that the player did something wrong.
So, if the athlete hears a “boo” after doing something right, the mind might have a conflicted attitude to the type of performance that is actually good for the team.
Also, the opposing team’s fans can be quite an unwanted distraction on the court.
The size of the venue could have a major effect on the play of the field as well.
Last week at the Elbert County basketball court – which is nicknamed “The Inferno” – provided a clear example of how the physical size of an arena can change a game.
The Inferno, a much older gym than Morgan County’s new facility, feels a little bit more like a small airport hangar than a gymnasium.
The lower set of seats, once expanded, reach almost all of the way out onto the sideline, while only a couple of feet separate the baseline from the hard stone surface of the walls.
During the final exciting minutes of the game, a large portion of the Elbert County fan base stood on the edge of the court and, a couple of times, actually had to be moved back by the local law enforcement in attendance.
However, because of the high ceilings and hard surfaces at Elbert County’s gym, each sound bounced off the walls a couple of times before dying out, creating an almost cavernous feel sonically.
But as far as how much those two factors separately or how their dissimilarity could create a strange impression on the player’s mind, I cannot say.
All I can tell you is – at least from the sidelines – The Inferno is appropriately named.
When the score got tight late in the game, it really began to heat up in there.




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