Audience energy affects athletes
There is nothing more exciting than a packed home stadium. The people have gathered here for one reason. For about 90 minutes, we are all united against a common enemy. All our differences and disagreements melt away as we cheer as one team for one team. But does the team even notice? Do fans contribute in any way aside from noise and chaos?
Surely, the game would not be the same without the roars of excitement emanating from the fans. The cheers create an atmosphere and form a major part of the entertainment.
“The crowd is the energy,” said Dr. Ed Garrett, professor of sport and performance psychology. “They are the vibe.”
But do the fans affect game play?
The answer may depend on the individual.
“Each athlete psychologically is a little different,” Garrett said. “Most will thrive off of (cheers), but it can create a level of nerves positively or negatively. The challenge of the athlete is to have those nerves be more facilitating and less debilitating. If they can view the energy off of the fans as facilitating, giving them a little more boost, supporting them, being there when things might not go well, they can recover faster. Or they can go the negative side where it is, ‘I’m playing in front of a lot of people, now I’m nervous and I can’t function and I can’t focus on what I need to focus on.’”
Garret Ostrander, infielder for the men’s baseball team, is impacted positively by fan engagement.
“There’s nothing better,” Ostrander said. “When you feel the support and encouragement from thousands of fans, it only increases the competition and your performance.”
The age and experience of an athlete may affect the reaction to fans. As a college athletics program, for a lot of our athletes this may be the first time that they play with that pressure from the crowd.
“Its harder as a freshman, easier as a senior because you get used to that environment,” Garrett said.
Ostrander has experienced this need to become accustomed to the large fan turnout.
“There’s definitely more pressure that comes along with it, but after a while, you get used to playing in front of a lot of people and you find the fun in it,” Ostrander said.
While there is no concrete evidence of the effect of fans on a team, the evidence takes the form of the experiences of athletes. An environment that is supportive and exciting is beneficial for many athletes.
“That atmosphere, that environment is something the athletes thrive off of,” Garrett said. “They expect it. It’s a cultural thing. I love it now that at soccer when we score a goal, the lights dance and everything. It brings about a different environment that is more supportive of the athlete’s success and encouraging that success, to continue to thrive and be the best they can be.”
Ostrander said he values the atmosphere and thrives on the energy of the fans at CBU. However, he also acknowledged how cheers may affect a team negatively at away games.
“As the home team, playing in front of your own fans is the best feeling and it helps elevate everyone’s focus and performance,” Ostrander said. “On the flip side, as the away team it can be uncomfortable for people when they show up to a hostile environment with rowdy opposing fans.”
However, Ostrander said athletes can approach this negative energy with the proper mindset to excel.
“You have to find the fun in it,” Ostrander said. “Even though it’s odd to hear discouraging things being said to you from the stands, it brings a certain satisfaction when you can find a way to hush the opposing crowd with a big road win.”
CBU fans can contribute to the teams’ success by showing up and creating that supportive, electric environment.
“The fans need to understand the power they have in providing CBU athletics,” Garrett said. “Just that one little push, that one little nudge — psychologically, it does give power to the athlete.”