Does Cheering Actually Affect Sports Outcomes?

By Michael Cole

Research looking into how cheering affects the performance and outcomes of competing teams at sporting events shows some interesting results. 

The impetus for the study was based on the argument that teams with louder home stadiums that amplify their cheering fans have an advantage over the visiting teams. To test this theory, researchers used college hockey stadiums which have easily measured acoustic properties. An associated objective of the study was also to determine if loud crowd noise was distracting for playing teams, leading to a negative affect on gameplay.

Homefield Advantage?

The research was designed around the measurement of noise levels during four college hockey games. Hockey stadiums are known to amplify sound to higher levels due to the enclosed roof design and the large, sound reflective surface area of the ice rink. 

Measurement found that the loudest game produced an average loudness 95.5 decibels, which can be related to hearing a jackhammer from a distance of 50 feet away. The highest sound level reached, however, was 132 decibels, which is the equivalent of hearing a jet engine from about 100 feet away. 

The study found that sections of the stadium occupied by students were the loudest. About 70 percent of players interviewed afterward said that crowd noise wasn’t distracting, and that it didn’t interfere with communication between other players and the coach.

Results related to game outcome, unfortunately, were inconclusive. The data showed that the loudest games didn’t have any correlation with goals scored.

Save Your Voice

For sports fans who put a lot of energy into cheering, this can be disconcerting news because the science shows that most likely, no matter how loud you are, it’s not going to make much of a difference on the outcome of the game. 

Similar studies were conducted in the past in college football stadiums, but the results were also inconclusive. This indicates that the outcome of competitive sports will remain dictated by the skill of the team players and not by the loudness of fans. 

In other words, don't get stressed out; winning or losing is out of your hands.

The more likely route of correlation is a direct connection between team scoring and audience noise levels rather than vice versa, as anyone who watched the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil will have noticed. Goals, which are exceedingly rare in the game of soccer, encourage massive responses from audiences which reach noise levels uncommon in other sports.

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