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How Much Does Crowd Noise Really Affect Your Team?© August/September 2011
Sport psychology is taken so seriously by most elite football teams that they have entire staffs dedicated to the mental well-being of their players. In high school, the pressure to constantly perform at a high level for many college prospects can cause great stress and anxiety. After all, most are mentally still teenagers, though their physical presence would make you think otherwise. Though the disparity between physical and mental development may be evident to those who are trained on the subject, many coaches are unaware of it and thus will dismiss the importance of mental exercise.
There is no question that psychology plays a crucial role in sports performance. How many football games have you seen where the pressure of a clutch situation causes a player to make a poor decision and you say to yourself, "What on earth was that guy thinking?" Players from youth leagues to the pros will often make choices under pressure that they wouldn't normally make under relaxed circumstances.
One of the most critical factors that creates mental anxiety among players is crowd noise. There are a number of reasons why dealing with a noisy crowd is a difficult task where a number of issues can arise for both coaches and players.
Screaming for a play change or trying to give verbal cues to fellow players or coaches can be difficult in front of 100 people let alone in a stadium filled with 50,000 fans. Coaches and players continually have communication issues as they both have to deal with crowd noise and the problems that can result from it. Dealing with the deafening yells of an away game crowd in the final seconds creates an atmosphere of confusion and anxiety that both players and coaches have difficulty dealing with.
Successfully kicking a clutch field goal in the final moments of a game is, of course, critically important. Kicking in the comfort of a silent practice field with your teammates watching on the sidelines is a far cry from the realities of competitive game atmosphere. Although most coaches know how crucial the mental abilities of the kicker can be, they donít emulate the sounds of the game during football practice, leaving a kicker ill-prepared when dealing with a real game. Since field goals increase in importance near the end of close games, it is imperative that these opportunities be converted into points. Unfortunately these attempts often fail because kickers (both home and away) 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 for athletes has opened the door for an emerging market of "Custom Sound Effect" companies to help players deal with the stress that crowd noise can create. One such company even provides the ability for coaching staffs to play certain crowd sound effects based on what is happening at practice with their Football Crowd Noise Simulator software. Coaches can simply hook up their computer to the fieldís PA system and simulate a wide variety of crowd noise situations. This type of software can be great for creating genuine emotion and adrenaline within your players during a practice setting that is often difficult during the monotony of practice sessions that last several hours.
While crowd sound effect simulators may not exactly replicate the sensation of thousands of screaming fans, practicing on a daily basis with the annoyance of shouting fans may help ease pressure on players and develop familiarity when facing stadiums filled with real people.
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