As the world of football and it loyal fans ardently debate the resolution of the Football Leagues, vital financial outcomes, the glory of historically-embedded titles, the joys of promotion, the agony and price of relegation, and ultimately the principle of fairness, appear to rest on the role of the Home Advantage.
Home advantage research is of hard statistics that enlighten our understanding of deeply cared for sports; football, baseball, basketball, ice hockey…, and inform us of the role of enclosed stadia, vocal fans, the playing surface… But there is also the statistical challenge of the Away Disadvantage; that it is the loss of familiarity and home comforts that have negative influence on the away team’s desired physical and psychological preparations and performance state. Clubs will know their own statistics for both.
Is there a Mind-Set Disadvantage?
But all this leads me to consider whether in fact across a season we have a Mind-Set Disadvantage? Has the concept of Home Advantage become so embedded in players’ hearts and minds that it filters through to how they approach and play the game – at home and away? Now I am sure that within any dressing room there are as many different states of readiness and reasons for that state as there are players, but either way, are our sports, is your club, missing a trick?
Is there an ‘Anywhere Mind-Set Advantage’?
When discussing this with my L&M colleague, a former Royal Marine, the concept of Home Advantage, Away Disadvantage, or individuals being of different states of readiness is alien. HM Royal Marines predominantly operate overseas. As a matter of course, they expect and prepare to be anywhere in the world. Sea, land, jungle or ice, night or day, they work with limited and changing resources, switch between combat and humanitarian work in the blink of an eye, but always expect to excel, to succeed, and to return with their friends: They appear to have an ‘Anywhere Mind-Set Advantage’. Now it is not reasonable to expect anyone out of the Royal Marine’s job spec and circumstance to have to deal with these conditions or to prepare in their way, but are there lessons in the mind-set, for the way in which professional sports people are encouraged to think, to train and approach the game?
If any players’ performance mind-set and/or state of readiness is tainted by a hint of a belief in the Home Advantage or Away Disadvantage, does it affect their ability to play? Does it influence the result? Might it have real consequence for the Club? Maybe this is a question for anyone who ardently includes the Home Advantage in the Football League resolution debate, and for whom the outcome of the debate has real consequence. Maybe in the future, the Anywhere Mind-Set Advantage might help.
Written by Dr Caroline Marlow, Chartered Sport and Exercise Psychologist, following discussion with former Royal Marine, L&M colleagues. Caroline is an invited expert author for the Football Medicine and Performance Association.
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