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Designing the Home Advantage

by Shaun Fuentes, first published on October 8th,2023

Home-field advantage is caused by many factors that collectively affect the mental and physical conditions of athletes. If you’re a sports enthusiast, you know the weight that home-field advantage has on the performance of a team.

It has been consistently found—not only in team sports, such as football, cricket and basketball but also in individual sports, like tennis—that players win more often when playing at home.

Imagine that you’re walking into a stadium surrounded by scores of people cheering for you on your every move. Now, imagine that you are a member of the visiting team and have absolutely no support from the crowd. One might argue that professional athletes are adept at staying focused and not letting such things affect them.

At most venues in the United States, like during the Concacaf Gold Cup, the team bus must pass through some sort of public road before getting to the drop-off point. And, as is the case with the US venues, the players come off the bus in an area that the public has no access to or sight of.

In Central America, it’s not always the same. For instance, the recent Nations League away match to El Salvador was played at the Jorge Gonzales Stadium which is situated parallel to a major roadway. When the T&T team bus arrived at the stadium, any regular member of the public and moreso home fans at the venue had easy sight of the players and staff, all standing just about four metres away from the team bus.

This meant that the jeers and all possible forms of intimidating acts from the home fans were difficult to avoid even with the presence of police and security officers with shields. The argument may be that it did not affect the T&T players because of the 3-2 end result but it does in fact play its part. The memory remains with you particularly when having to show up next time around.

T&T goalkeeper Denzil Smith and forward Malcolm Shaw come off the team bus ahead of their Concacaf Nations League 2-1 victory over the United States at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain in November, 2023

Thousands of people encouraging players of the home team and cheering for them will boost their confidence and motivate them And if the team happens to be playing below expectations, the displeasure conveyed by the crowd puts the players back on their toes.

The massive crowd support that a home team gets often puts the referee in a tough spot. All the jeering and cheering of the fans can pressure the referee into being more lenient with the home team… and with good reason! We’ve actually seen officials confess to this in recent times.

An athlete who has travelled away from home for a game is thrown into unfamiliar surroundings, where they’re not sure what they will be eating, and where their bed is not nearly as comfortable as the one they usually sleep in. After all, there’s really no place like home. It’s a major reason why a lot of the top teams in world sport either national or club level, go above and beyond when possible to provide the best comfort and condition for their athletes.

Many animals are territorial by nature and aggressively protect their territory from invaders. Their defensive response is linked to higher concentrations of testosterone. Studies conducted on the territorial nature of chimpanzees and mice found that their testosterone levels and aggressive behaviour were greater in their own territory, as compared to that in an alien territory.

As quoted on ScienceABC, psychologists Nick Neave and Sandy Wolfson suggested that this surge in testosterone might not be limited to animals, but may also be exhibited by humans when put in a competitive environment, i.e. a sports game. They eventually found that testosterone levels do, in fact, show a greater increase before a home game than before an away game.

A surge in testosterone means that the home team will have greater levels of aggression, a greater inclination to take risks, a higher metabolic rate in their muscles and improved spatial ability.

A Trinidad and Tobago music band drums up support for its National football team.

Home advantage can play a significant role in game outcomes. Players talk about it, coaches plan for it, and odds makers calculate it. Team owners even ask architects to maximise it.

The closer the fans are, the more the players hear the noise, see the enthusiasm, and feel the energy. Venues can be designed to place stands as close to the pitch as possible, and steep-pitched seating bowls can bring the back rows closer to the action.

Acoustic design maximises the crowd’s ability to drown the opposing team in roaring noise, disrupt their communication and intimidate them. The Azteca in Mexico City has been dubbed one of the loudest stadiums in the Western Hemisphere thanks to a design that focuses crowd noise onto the field. There are now several venues in North, South and Central America designed to have such effect. How easily fans can travel to a venue is a big factor in filling the seats.

More people in the building means more energy. Barclays Center and several other international venues today demonstrate the difference between a typical sporting venue and an urban focal point where sports are the anchoring attraction. Venues can be designed to include amenities that broaden the appeal. Bars, Restaurants and shops make venues a hotspot for night-life and can keep the place buzzing with people and activities. I believe that some of our local venues have the potential for this based on space and design. It just needs proper planning, execution and well, discipline and financing.

The quality of team amenities like locker rooms and training facilities makes a big difference in a team’s morale and self-image, which players carry into the field and into every play. Kudos to the recent work done on the refurbishment of the Hasely Crawford Stadium locker rooms. We must understand that ultra-modern technology, high-end design finishes, and institutional identity imagery all contribute to athletes’ sense of belonging—in a facility, in a tradition, and in contention for their highest honours.

Anyone entering our venues including fans, past athletes, ministers and home teams must feel that sense of strong belonging and pride aided by the aesthetics, the colours and imagery inside our venues, and the visitors must know that they are opposition territory where the hosts embody the legacy of its people and achievements.

"You must not only have competitiveness but ability, regardless of the circumstance you face, to never quit." ..



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