Question: Does the behavior of fans influence game outcomes?
The 12th man at a Colts game or at a Tiger Cubs football game, the 6th man at Pacers or a GHS basketball game … the positive spirit of the crowd influences the game. We can all agree that positive, unconditional support of fans is critical to having a successful, long-term program. Last night’s Colts victory over Denver is a good example.
Question: What about negative yelling at a ball game? Yelling at the officials, the coaches or the athletes about a questionable play or call … could that have an impact?
Answer: YES! Especially at middle school or high school athletic events.
But maybe not the kind of impact that you might think. I don’t believe that even one of our fans would ever do anything intentionally that would hurt our teams or program. But it is possible that we could do something, unintentionally, that could hurt our performance or impact the officiating.
Over the past two weeks, we have hosted ten soccer matches in the girls’ soccer sectional and the boys’ soccer regional. GHS only played in one of these matches, so I was able to observe the behavior of several schools and their fans and had no preference to which team won. My inspiration to write this note came from observing these soccer tournaments. Many of these soccer players, coaches, parents and fans behaved admirably. Many did not. I was also at our football game at Owen Valley this past Friday.
Let me list the benefits to yelling negative comments to our players, coaches and the game officials:
- Hummm, after several minutes of thinking … I cannot think of one possible positive outcome.
Now I will list the negative results from negative yelling:
- Fans yelling at the offensive line “Come on line, block somebody for crying out loud” will not encourage football players to do so. Or when a fan yells at a coach to “get him out of there” will never encourage a coach to make a change. In fact, the comments will discourage our players at a time when they need confidence. You may think the players don’t ever hear the comments … and that is sometimes true. However, I heard a player from our team huddle yell back to a Greencastle fan last Friday, “Why don’t you just shut your mouth!” Wasted emotional energy, wouldn’t you agree?
- Yelling at the game officials “that they are terrible” NEVER gets the official to change a call or to start making calls that will benefit the team you are cheering for. But can it actually have a negative effect? It sure can and frequently does! These officials are human. They have the same life pressures you have at work and at home. High School officials are not professionals in the same way that NFL or NBA officials are. The day of the game they got up early and dropped their kids at school or daycare and they worked a full day; they likely skipped dinner to have time to drive 30 to 60 minutes to get to the game on time. They act like they cannot hear the yelling, but often they hear every word a fan is yelling.
Do you think that an official could ever become biased against a team where the players, coaches or fans are disrespecting him? I can tell you from my many years of officiating that it can and does happen. I can tell you from my trips to the officials’ dressing room at halftime and after games that some officials are quite upset by the way they were treated. They cannot help but take it personally when a fan yells a hateful comment directly at them.
Let me make an example that happens frequently. One basketball team, their coach and fans curse, yell and disrespect the game official, while the other team, coach and fans show great respect to the official. Put yourself in the official’s shoes; does he hope one team wins more than the other … even subconsciously? Imagine this … He has a close call at the end of the game … is it a charge or a blocking foul? Does he want the jerks to win or the gentlemen? Guess!
- Making negative comments about the coach during a game or after the game to a player cannot possibly help the player’s attitude. A parent that tells their child that the coach is an idiot is only going to have a negative impact on the athlete’s ability to excel and on the team’s ability to have success. A player who has had their respect for a coach diminished by parent comments won’t play or practice as hard. That is going to impact their success and ultimately their playing time. That can’t have been the desired effect the parent was looking for.
- Yelling at the opposing team by our fans (adult or students) normally just motivates our opponents to play harder … to do everything possible to silence those who are taunting them. It might cause a weak team (that we would have easily beaten anyway) to shrink away, but competitors fight harder! When we yell or boo the opponents we are actually helping them get pumped up … and having no positive impact for the Tiger Cubs!
So, if making negative comments directed at officials, players or coaches has zero benefits and can only hurt your favorite team’s chance to win, why does it happen?
Possible answers are:
- We just never thought about how it could hurt the team.
- We like the attention and don’t care about the consequences.
- We want those around us to think we are smarter or know the rules better than the officials or coaches. (Even though we have no officiating experience and could not pass the rules test on a bet.)
- We think it might make others believe we were once an outstanding athlete or would be a great coach.
- Temporary insanity.
I hope for those visiting soccer fans I observed this week and for most (or all) of us the answer is the first one … and after thinking it over, we will spend our energy yelling positive comments to our team.
In full disclosure and in all fairness to those reading this article, I have on rare occasion during my years as a coach and a parent, lost my composure and yelled negative comments during a game. But I was wrong and didn’t know better at the time … and worse, hurt my team’s chances to win when I did. I know better now and hopefully you do too!
I love enthusiasm and excited fans! The choice is not between sitting quietly / passively and yelling negatively. Let’s be POSITIVE YELLERS … LOUD AND PROUD TIGER CUBS!