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View Full Version : Sport psychology question: Why is there a home advantage?



The_Radiation_Specialist
2010-Jan-23, 02:54 PM
There seems to be a general consensus that sports teams playing in their home turf will perform better than playing away. This is also backed up by statistical evidence my question is to investigate why this phenomenon happens.

Here are some reasons of the top of my head:

1) More home supporters in the stadium: This would mean that the spectators actually have an influence in the outcome of the game.

2) Home players are better used to the weather in their location: This would be a reason in international games but not at all in seasonal national games. Many players are foreigners who joined the club from far away.

3) The confidence mentality gained by playing in your own field: This to me would have interesting consequences that something purely psychological can have an affect on the quality of a player.

BigDon
2010-Jan-23, 04:27 PM
It's the other people, the fans, on your side that give you a boost. Plus you try harder in frront of them.

You've never played football or you wouldn't have to ask.

mike alexander
2010-Jan-23, 04:34 PM
In baseball, a good groundskeeper could give you an advantage by tuning the field to the home team strengths. Check out the Bossard family in Cleveland and Chicago.

Tensor
2010-Jan-23, 04:41 PM
Not to mention the home team's routine is not disrupted. Try flying in after midnight, finding your room, sleeping in a bed that's different from the one last night, and getting 5 hours of sleep and trying to find the stadium. While the home team members are at home sleeping in their bed and knowing where they're going.

The_Radiation_Specialist
2010-Jan-23, 05:22 PM
It's the other people, the fans, on your side that give you a boost. Plus you try harder in frront of them.


I would like to know more about how much fans really give you a boost. And why wouldn't you try harder to make the other team's fans keep quite?



You've never played football or you wouldn't have to ask.

I've played Association football but never in front of more than 20 "fans".



Not to mention the home team's routine is not disrupted.
I would assume this is only when you are going distances of greater than a thousand miles. Take a look at English Premier League for example. Most cities are a few hours away.



Try flying in after midnight,

Why after midnight?


finding your room

Most rich clubs would do that for you I suppose.

getting 5 hours of sleep

Why?!


and trying to find the stadium.

There is so many things funny with this statement...

Moose
2010-Jan-23, 05:26 PM
Why after midnight?

1) Flight delays.
2) You played a game that evening and the team only left the stadium at 9pm.
3) Team needs to eat occasionally.
4) Etc.

SolusLupus
2010-Jan-23, 05:28 PM
In soccer, sometimes the "home team" is in a country where the local refs are not exactly very... sportsmanlike.

gzhpcu
2010-Jan-23, 05:37 PM
Isn't it also a remanant of the territorital instinct? Animals defending their territory have an edge.

grant hutchison
2010-Jan-23, 07:01 PM
It's the other people, the fans, on your side that give you a boost. Plus you try harder in frront of them.

You've never played football or you wouldn't have to ask.I've played football (= soccer), albeit briefly and long ago, and I found the presence of a home crowd utterly demoralizing. There was some kind of underlying assumption that I wouldn't really try unless they all yelled "Come on!" It really annoyed me, to the extent that I wanted to just pass the ball to the opposition and be done with it.
I felt much more motivated in the presence of people I didn't care about who didn't want me to succeed: the reward for good performance was that it made the crowd shut up for a while.

Is that just me?

Grant Hutchison

Moose
2010-Jan-23, 07:16 PM
Is that just me?

I dunno, but a few years ago, I heard a plausible hypothesis as to why so many 3rd period fights happen at hockey games.

Apparently, the players are so fed up with The Hockey Song (of Stompin' Tom noteriety) inevitably played just before the 3rd period starts, they're all ready to eat each other.

I wasn't sure if the cute groupie I was talking to was entirely serious...

sarongsong
2010-Jan-24, 02:22 AM
,,,I felt much more motivated in the presence of people I didn't care about who didn't want me to succeed: the reward for good performance was that it made the crowd shut up for a while.

Is that just me?Nope! :(

January 17, 2010
...New York Jets 17-14 victory against the San Diego Chargers in an AFC Divisional Game at Qualcomm Stadium [San Diego]. They shut down one of the league’s high-tech offenses...the Jets’ seventh victory in their past eight games snapped the Chargers’ 11-game winning streak.

hhEb09'1
2010-Jan-24, 02:41 AM
Not to mention the home team's routine is not disrupted. Try flying in after midnight, finding your room, sleeping in a bed that's different from the one last night, and getting 5 hours of sleep and trying to find the stadium. While the home team members are at home sleeping in their bed and knowing where they're going.And I've heard of teams who take their teams out of the home environment before home games, to remove the distractions of home (family, stress, sex, etc.).

And maybe to make the entire season more homogenous? So the away games don't seem so different from the home games?

Tensor
2010-Jan-24, 03:24 AM
And I've heard of teams who take their teams out of the home environment before home games, to remove the distractions of home (family, stress, sex, etc.).

And I can see that, but not during the season. Flying in early will help get a team acclimated to their new surroundings.


And maybe to make the entire season more homogenous? So the away games don't seem so different from the home games?

Nah, that would never work, due to the crowd.

Tensor
2010-Jan-24, 03:33 AM
Why after midnight?
Moose already covered this one.


Most rich clubs would do that for you I suppose.

Yeah, maybe at the top level. Have you ever been in a group where you get 25 keys thrown at you and are told to find your room?


Why?!

As for getting sleep, Getting in after midnight, getting to bed around two or three and then having to be at the park by 9 the next morning. If you want to eat, relax enough to fall asleep (instead of toss and turning trying to force yourself to sleep) and get up in time to get to the park, you'll get about five hours of sleep. It doesn't happen every night, but it does happen.


There is so many things funny with this statement...

Yeah, I'll bet you've never been in a strange city and end up with a cab that doesn't know where the stadium or park is. Much less trying to convince security that you belong there, once you arrive.

kleindoofy
2010-Jan-24, 04:17 AM
And I've heard of teams who take their teams out of the home environment before home games, to remove the distractions of home (family, stress, sex, etc.). ...
As far as I know, and I may be mistaken, almost all top league European football (= soccer) teams stay the night before a home game together in a local hotel and ride to the stadium together in the team bus.


Why is there a home advantage?
Well, traditionally for some unknown reason the hot water in the away team's locker room seems to misfunction just about the time they get to the stadium and miraculously repairs itself around one hour after the game.

But more importantly, at least in Italy, it's much easier for the home team to bribe the referees. ;)

However, professional atheletes, just like professional musicians, are so used to playing all over the place and accommodating to new situations at the drop of a hat, that it's not so much their discomfort playing away, but just that extra little bit of the home team's feeling of familiarity.

Chuck
2010-Jan-24, 05:32 AM
Isn't it also a remanant of the territorital instinct? Animals defending their territory have an edge.
Yes, they might be more aggressive at home and more cautious on someone else's turf since being in someone else's territory would have invited attack in more primitive times.

Nick Theodorakis
2010-Jan-24, 05:55 AM
There seems to be a general consensus that sports teams playing in their home turf will perform better than playing away. This is also backed up by statistical evidence my question is to investigate why this phenomenon happens.

Here are some reasons of the top of my head:

1) More home supporters in the stadium: This would mean that the spectators actually have an influence in the outcome of the game.


Spectators can have a real physical effect, depending on the venue. For example, in basketball games, it's common for spectators to distract an opposing player attempting a free throw by waving and making noise. In American football stadiums, the crowd will often make enough noise when the opposing team is running a play to make it difficult for players to hear.



2) Home players are better used to the weather in their location: This would be a reason in international games but not at all in seasonal national games. Many players are foreigners who joined the club from far away.


For American football [edit: I picked on football here because it's played outdoors in the fall and winter], there are significant climate differences between many cities so this is a real possibility, particularly for non-domed stadiums in cold climates.

This might also be a factor in baseball late in the season.



3) The confidence mentality gained by playing in your own field: This to me would have interesting consequences that something purely psychological can have an affect on the quality of a player.

Another factor is that for some sports, there is enough variability in the venue that the home team's familiarity with local quirks can make a difference.

Nick

Jim
2010-Jan-25, 12:49 AM
I dunno, but a few years ago, I heard a plausible hypothesis as to why so many 3rd period fights happen at hockey games. ...

Some years back, Fort Worth and Dallas each had minor league hockey teams. The cities are only 30 miles apart and have a long-standing rivalry, which transferred quickly to the ice; games between the two teams were always hotly contested.

During one game - in FW - a fight broke out... among the fans. The players actually stopped the game to watch.

AGN Fuel
2010-Jan-25, 01:18 AM
In my sport (basketball), each stadium has its own lighting nuances and (especially) backboard & ring characteristics. Playing at home and knowing that a rebound is likely to come long or that the rings are kind is a big advantage.

Oddly, I always used to get more pumped up from the crowd when we played away. I used to be driven to try and keep them quiet!

Tensor
2010-Jan-25, 01:19 AM
What's the old joke? I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out.

novaderrik
2010-Jan-25, 04:14 AM
this is one of those questions that kind of follows the rule "if you have to ask, then you'll never understand".

Graybeard6
2010-Jan-25, 06:00 AM
Is it significant that in yesterday's NFL conference championship games (American football) the home team won? Both games were inside, so weather was not a factor, but I think fan noise possibly was, especially in Nawlins.

DonM435
2010-Jan-25, 02:26 PM
The spectators can also influence the game officials, who may be more reluctant to call fouls/penalties/strikes against the home team.

(And don't forget that some actual rules will favor a home team, such as getting to bat last, last chance at changing personnel, choice of bench location and such.)

Click Ticker
2010-Jan-25, 02:29 PM
A couple things come to mind.

1.) Road distractions. There are plenty. First, the players aren't at home with their wives and children so they are more likely to live the single life for a day or two. Stay our late at a club, etc. Then they show up to the game tired and not ready to play at their peak. Not all players are like this, but it only takes one or two extremely talented people with limited self discipline to create a problem for the whole team.

2.) Doesn't impact starters, but it does the support players. In basketball in particular, you have your five starters that are your main players. In fact many teams only have one or two guys that would start on any team in the league. Those guys play the same no matter where they are. But when your bench comes in and they consist of marginally talented players - they tend to rise and fall with the mood of the crowd. Cheer them on, they do well. Create a hostile environment, they play scared. www.82games.com is a good website for all statistics NBA. You could probably find teams bench scoring on the road vs. at home to see if there is statistical support for this. Figure a 5 point sway in bench scoring on the road vs. at home and that's all you need to turn a win into a loss. Especially since the home team is gaining their 5 points in bench scoring.

3.) In the 2004 NBA championship, the Detroit Pistons were playing the heavily favored Los Angeles Lakers. The format was two games in LA, followed by three in Detroit, followed by two in LA. Detroit managed to win the first game in LA. When they came back to Detroit for the middle three, all the fans found out where the Lakers were staying. They sat outside the hotel and made as much noise as they could all night. The local police (likely Pistons fans) looked the other way. Keeping the Lakers up all night didn't help their cause and they lost the middle three games in Detroit (and the championship as a result).

Granted, that was just one part of the equation. The Pistons were a pretty good team in their own right and the Lakers lost their starting power forward for the series as well. But that example of what a home crowd was able to do for their team.

Click Ticker
2010-Jan-25, 02:37 PM
(And don't forget that some actual rules will favor a home team, such as getting to bat last, last chance at changing personnel, choice of bench location and such.)

Forgetting to turn the heat on in the visiters locker room.

The visitors locker room is a much farther walk from the field, giving them less time at half time to make adjustments and coach their team. When you only have ten minutes, making it a two minute walk instead of a 30 second walk costs you three minutes of prep time.

In the case of the Metrodome, turning the big vents on behind home plate to create a breeze toward the outfield when the home team is up to bat.

Paying 81 games in the same stadium and knowing every quirck of the park vs. playing at most 8 games at somebody elses stadium (for baseball). Or basketball and hockey, 41 home games. Football, you have 8 home games with at most one game in somebody elses stadium (division) - other teams you only see every few years due to a rotating schedule.

The Utah Jazz have a reputation for being significantly better at home than on the road. Rumor is they either freeze, or under-inflate their home basketballs. Since they practice with these balls in their gym and play 41 games there - it gives them an advantage over teams that only have to play there at most twice a year (not counting playoffs).

Nick Theodorakis
2010-Jan-25, 02:50 PM
This article (http://baseballanalysts.com/archives/2009/04/a_study_in_home.php) looks at home field advantage in baseball parks, using statistical methods, and concludes that the parks with the largest advantage are the "quirkiest."

Nick

aurora
2010-Jan-25, 04:19 PM
The amount of home field advantage varies a lot depending on the sport.

This would indicate that some of the important variables are sport specific.

Larry Jacks
2010-Jan-25, 04:32 PM
Stadiums/arenas like the ones in Denver and Salt Lake City are well above sea level. Local teams are acclimated to the altitude where most visiting teams aren't. Believe me, altitude makes a difference*.

Likewide, the thin, dry air at Denver affects how a baseball flies. The Colorado Rockies store their baseballs in a humidor and it makes a difference. The Rockies are used to it, the visiting teams, not so much.

In American football, home team fans know to be quiet when their team is on offense and very loud when on defense. The noise makes it hard for the visiting team to communicate and even wears them down after a time.

*When I first arrived in Colorado back in 1985, I came from Officer Training School where I ran 5 miles each day. I was 27 and in good shape. The first time I tried running here (elevation > 6,000 feet), I thought I was going do die of a heart attack, it hurt so bad.

DonM435
2010-Jan-25, 06:22 PM
...

Paying 81 games in the same stadium and knowing every quirck of the park vs. playing at most 8 games at somebody elses stadium (for baseball). Or basketball and hockey, 41 home games. Football, you have 8 home games with at most one game in somebody elses stadium (division) - other teams you only see every few years due to a rotating schedule.

...




Yep. Remember seeing Roy White playing left field at Yankee Stadium in the 1970s. A long drive was hit well over his head, ready to bounce high on the wall. But White leaps, fits part of one foot onto some irregularity in the wall sufrace and is thus able to leap again and snag the ball by reaching up. An amazing play, and only possible because he knew that wall so well.

I understand that the longtime Red Sox leftfielders (Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Rice -- that covers half a century right there) had committed most of that giant wall behind them to memory and could predict the bounces to perfection.

SeanF
2010-Jan-25, 07:21 PM
Yep. Remember seeing Roy White playing left field at Yankee Stadium in the 1970s. A long drive was hit well over his head, ready to bounce high on the wall. But White leaps, fits part of one foot onto some irregularity in the wall sufrace and is thus able to leap again and snag the ball by reaching up. An amazing play, and only possible because he knew that wall so well.

I understand that the longtime Red Sox leftfielders (Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Rice -- that covers half a century right there) had committed most of that giant wall behind them to memory and could predict the bounces to perfection.
You know, it's interesting that baseball is about the only major sport where the playing field itself varies...and yet, statistically speaking, the home team wins less often in MLB than in the other sports.

ETA: Has anybody yet suggested a placebo effect? That teams play better at home than on the road simply because they think they're supposed to?

Moose
2010-Jan-25, 07:50 PM
ETA: Has anybody yet suggested a placebo effect? That teams play better at home than on the road simply because they think they're supposed to?

More properly, I think, would be to describe it as the nocebo effect. Teams may come to believe that they're at a disadvantage away, and so might unconsciously slack off some.

DonM435
2010-Jan-27, 09:05 PM
You know, it's interesting that baseball is about the only major sport where the playing field itself varies...and yet, statistically speaking, the home team wins less often in MLB than in the other sports.
...



I mentioned this before, but baseball researcher Bill James enunciated something he called the Devil's Theory of Park Effects. His idea is that a ballpark with extreme effects will trick a team into developing its talent badly.

For instance, the Chicago Cubs will assess a losing season by looking at their team's batters' high (i.e., good) batting averages and their pitchers' high (i.e., bad) earned run averages. They conclude that their hitters are doing fine, but the pitching let them down. So they keep their hitters in place, but unload some pitchers and look for new ones.

Fact is, they're keeping some substandard hitters whose statistics look good because they play half their games in hitter-friendly Wrigley Field. And they're dumping some decent pitchers whose stats look bad for the same reason. These pitchers will do well with other teams.

Meanwhile, the L.A. Dodgers are doing the opposite, getting rid of some capable hitters whose averages are depressed by Dodger Stadium, and holding onto some mediocre pitchers with good statistics because of the ballpark. Those hitters, in other uniforms, will come back to bite them later on.

So it goes on, year after year.