IS IT REAL?
WELL, IS IT REAL OR NOT?
Studies over the yearshave actually determined that yes, home court advantage does indeed exist, but it’s definitely not absolute. This is because studies have shown that home court advantage gives athletes a positive mental boost only when the event they’re playing at is given lesser importance to others. If the event is of the utmost importance, then home court advantage can actually be turned around and become a true disadvantage. The NBA Finals, for example, could make the athletes playing in their home court more nervous and anxious because they know they have to live up to the hype that has been steadily built around them by the surrounding environment (including the fans, the media, their friends and family, and so on). So, when they get out onto the court, all the cheering from the hometown crowd only serves to remind them of the expectations wanted of them, and depending, on the athlete, he or she might choke under all the pressure.
On the other hand, if the game is, for example, at the beginning of the season, the athlete is more relaxed as there hasn’t been much hype built up yet, and so the energy given off by the crowd only fuels the athlete’s relaxed atmosphere, making him or her play naturally better.
Does it work for all sports, though? Studies have shown that yes, it most probably does, but there is a clear lack of data in this regard. What we do know is how it affects sports of different nature. Sports played in open fields, such as baseball and soccer, for example, are affected less by the hometown crowd than are sports played within enclosed areas, such as basketball and hockey. This is because the hometown cheering is much more apparent in an enclosed space than in an open one, and the crowd’s involvement will thus affect the athletes even more. Sports with a more continuous flow of action, such as, again, basketball and hockey vs. soccer and baseball are also more affected by the hometown crowd because of the equally continuous cheering or boo’s. Gaps in the middle of crowd involvement does have an effect on home court advantage.
RELEVANCE OF THE DATA?
But, is all this data still relevant? All the data was gathered throughout the entire history of a certain sport (basketball, baseball, etc), and what this tells us is that a trend may be forming in more recent years where athletes and their coaches are developing more mental strategies than before to combat certain aspects of the game. Sports psychology is still a relatively young field, but it is definitely catching on everywhere. In this respect, while the historical data might give us certain trends for specific sports, it doesn’t mean that the trends will continue that way forever. Modern sports psychology techniques can reverse any and all negative mental aspects of an athlete’s game and turn them all into positive ones, if properly applied.
So, yes, home court advantage does indeed exist. With this in mind, one could have more fun looking at his or her favorite athlete/s and see how mentally prepared they are when playing in their hometown. Will it be a positive or negative for them?