Coach Hopes Home Crowd Fills Gym For Game

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A deafening standing-room-only hometown crowd has often spelled the difference between winning and losing for high school sports teams, especially in basketball where fans are crammed into a single gym or field house.

The advantages home teams have is one of the reasons PHS coach Joe Sanchez is hoping for a huge Payson turnout for tonight’s crucial showdown vs. Fountain Hills. Tip off is 7 p.m. in Wilson Dome.

Great crowd support tonight could be just the benefit the underdog Horns need to pull off the upset.

The advantages of the home crowd have been debated, but I met one coach years ago who argued a home crowd was as good as having an extra player on the team.

Doubters that home teams own an advantage in high school sports only need to take a road trip to a basketball game at one of the far-away high schools on the Hopi and Navajo reservations in northern Arizona.

Their fans pack arenas and gyms beginning about 5 p.m. for freshman games and remain till the last shot is launched in the varsity finale.

Public address announcers often call the games in the native language and the overflow crowds can be deafening, creating a definite psychological advantage for the home team.

Also hometown teams have other advantages such as familiarity with the playing site and the chance to enjoy a normal school day of preparations rather than being on the road traveling.

In basketball, visiting players are usually at a disadvantage during free throws because home fans turn up the decibels more than a few notches, taking the player’s concentration off proper form.

And when the going gets tough later in games with the outcome on the line, home supporters can often intimidate younger players with their antics including heckling — although that is now being carefully monitored and properly dealt with in prep games.

Also the home team has the advantage of having cheer and spirit leaders in the building to enliven the crowd in support of the home team.

It is a given in sports, home fans also create a psychological life by cheering loudly when good things happen and intimidating visiting players when things are not going well.

There are also coaches who allege the home crowds can often intimidate game officials into biased calls, whether it be consciously or unconsciously.

Some also allege that the home-field advantage plays a role in “choking” or making mistakes under trying circumstances.

A Journal of Applied Psychology study done by Jeremy P. Jamison at Northeastern University studied the phenomena extensively.

In the study, Jamison concluded, “Although the current meta-analysis suggests that athletes, generally, do not choke in important games when playing at home, athletes still may choke when they experience threat or self-doubts. This finding also suggests that the home-field advantage should be stronger for intense rivalries versus other games.”

The home court advantage has been studied thousands of times in the past few decades and it still remains difficult to define. But whatever it is, Sanchez and his players want it on their side this evening.

Payson soccer training

Learn soccer skills at 4 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays at a free, volunteer program, with no town or club affiliation. It is open to all third- and fourth-grade children, who should bring a ball, shin guards and cleats.

For details, call (928) 978-4823 or e-mail pastorolivares @msn.com.

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