Professional sports are rather demanding for players, both mentally and physically. And as they compete against other teams, you could say that they are also competing against themselves. What is more, when it comes to high-profile events, stakes are pretty big.
Preforming under such pressure can be challenging for anyone, even more so when there are millions of fans watching and cheering you on. On that note, can sports fans’ chants and cheers affect the players’ performance?
Sports Fans as Spectators
Usually, sports fans don’t have much influence over athletes’ physical ability. However, by expressing their excitement or disappointment through various team chants and cheers, fans can affect professionals’ psyche and undermine or enhance their concentration.
Researchers have studied the influence of spectators on performance for a long time. However, sports fans don’t just watch quietly; they are vocally and actively engaged in the experience. They cheer on the team they are supporting and jeer the opposing team.
Cheers and Jeers
Even though studies on fan-athlete interactions have been pretty scarce, in 2011, Kimberly Epting et al. published an article in the North American Journal of Psychology, which explores this phenomenon.
Usually, it is suggested that cheering has a positive influence on the team’s performance. It’s why the “home advantage” has such significance – teams get a lot more fan support when they play in their home country or city.
Nevertheless, Epting et al. noticed that the consequences of jeering and cheering vary across different sports. For example, a free throw in basketball was unaffected by both cheering and jeering.
On the other hand, as the study reveals, the performance of a baseball pitcher was negatively affected by jeers, while in golf, both cheers and jeers negatively affect golfers’ performance.
The Power of Distraction
Fans and team chants, especially aggressive and loud ones, can influence the game significantly. For example, if the fans are too loud, coaches will have a hard time calling plays, and players won’t be able to communicate with each other.
Essentially, sporting games are, among other things, social events. People attend games not only to watch and support their favorite teams but also to engage with other fans. With that being said, sometimes they purposefully try to distract, or intimidate opposing teams by using sings, chants, or pyrotechnics.
In some sports, fans have managed to directly influence the outcome of the match. In baseball, for example, fans are known to interfere with the game by catching foul balls or home run that the fielder could have caught.
Therefore, receiving support from their fans can have positive effects on a team’s morale, and being jeered or booed can negatively affect players’ psyche. However, effects on a team’s ability and performance are yet to be confirmed.
 “The Psychology of Sports Fans: How Fans Affect Players.” Psychology Educator [Online] Available at: https://psychologyeducator.wordpress.com/2013/08/15/the-psychology-of-sports-fans-how-fans-affect-players/ [Accessed on: 17 June 2020]