How Much of an Effect Does Crowd Noise Really Have on Sports Teams?
Sport Psychology is a field of research taken so seriously that most elite level sport teams have an entire staff dedicated to the mental wellbeing of their players. The pressure to constantly perform at an elite level for many High School and College prospects can cause stress and anxiety amongst these players who for the most part are mentally still teenagers, though there physical presence would make most think otherwise.
Though the disparity between physical and mental development may be evident to those trained on the subject, many coaches will dismiss importance of mental exercise. There is no question that psychology plays a crucial role in sports performance. How many basketball or football games have you seen where the pressure of a clutch situation causes a player to make a poor decision and make you say to yourself "What on earth was that guy thinking?" Players from recreation leagues to the professionals will often make choices under pressure that they wouldn't normally make under relaxed circumstances.
Arguably one of the most critical catalysts for creating this mental anxiety amongst players is the influence of crowd noise. There are a number of reasons why dealing with a noisy crowd has proven to be a difficult task in which a number of issues arise for both coaches and players alike, including….
Difficulty For Players To Orchestrate Or To Recognize Verbal Play Calls
Screaming a final play call at the top of your lungs unfortunately is no match for the screams of 50,000 fans at a football game. Coaches and players continually have communication issues as they both have to deal with crowd noise and the problems that often come with this. Dealing with the deafening boos of an away game in the final seconds creates an atmosphere of confusion and anxiety that both players and coaches are not properly prepared to deal with.
Hitting free-throws down the stretch of a game is critical to the success of any basketball team that isn’t winning by a blowout margin every game. Shooting free-throws in the comfort of a silent gym with your teammates watching on the sidelines is a far cry from the realities of any competitive game atmosphere. Although most coaches know how crucial free-throws are, it is still noteworthy to mention that during the last five minutes of a basketball game
“free-throws constitute 35% of the points scored and in games decided by nine points or less, free-throws comprised 48% of the winning team's points during the last five minutes, and 69% during the last minute of the games"
Ozar, Vaughn, Whitfield, Lord, & Dye (1994)
Since opportunities to shoot free-throws increase near the end of close games, it is imperative that these opportunities be converted into points. Unfortunately these conversion attempts are often failed by players (both home and away) who do not have the proper experience to deal with the way that crowd noise dominates the atmosphere of the game.
The development of mental focus training of athletes has opened the doors for an emerging market of "Custom Sound Effect" companies to help these teams with player mental development. One such company even provides the ability for coaching staff to play certain crowd sound effects based on what is happening at practice with their RealCrowd Simulator software to truly emulate the sounds of either a basketball or football game.
Ultimately crowd sound effect software may not truly replicate the sensation of thousands of screaming fans, however there is no doubt that practicing on a daily basis with the annoyance of shouting fans drilling their heckles into your ears may help ease pressure on players and help administer a sense of familiarity when facing a genuine stadium filled with real people.