Sports Love & family

Learning Life's Lessons through Sports

Is There a Correlation Between Proximity to Field of Play and Fan Behavior?

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Does the proximity of fans to the field of play in a youth sports event directly correlate to the behavior of the fans?

I’ve been thinking about this for a while. Well, ever since my kids started playing basketball. To be honest, I blog more during basketball season than any other season. There’s just so much content to be written about with basketball fans. I’ve been wondering why this is?

Our kids play soccer, field hockey, basketball, softball, and baseball. Between my husband and me, we have over 27 years of coaching experience, we attend numerous sports events other than the ones our children participate in. Therefore, I think I’ve witnessed a variety of sports, to make these observations.

“Sports psychologists are now trying to better understand why a growing number of parents are becoming increasingly emotionally overinvested in their children’s athletics.” – NY Times

Is it because basketball is an intense sport? Is it because the fans are in closer proximity to the action? One could argue that there are other intense sports, or that soccer fans are in close proximity to the action. While I agree with both these statements, I’ve come to realize a few things that make basketball different. While football and soccer are both contact sports it’s different than basketball. In football and soccer, the action is in spurts. Football action lasts mere seconds and then begins again. Soccer has lag due to the size of the field and the spacing of players. These differentiators make me believe that basketball fans are a more intense bunch.

My observations have been witnessing the rise and fall in the emotion at basketball games. If the level of play on the court is very physical (maybe even dirty), there seems to be a rise in intensity or tension, both on the court and in the stands. The emotions of coaches and players ooze right into the stands. It’s so hard to explain, but you literally can feel it in the gym. The opposite is true too if the game is running smoothly and coaches are calm, the fans seem to be less boisterous.

So, what are your thoughts? Do you think I’m on to something? Do you think fan proximity or the intensity of the sport directly influences the emotion of the crowd? Or do you totally disagree?

Here’s a few other articles that are relevant to this conversation:

Knowing Your Role: The Parent

Understanding the Sports Parent Psyche (notice I said “Psyche” not “Psycho”)

3 thoughts on “Is There a Correlation Between Proximity to Field of Play and Fan Behavior?

  1. From “The psychology of why sports fans see their teams as extensions of themselves” in the Washington Post (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-psychology-of-why-sports-fans-see-their-teams-as-extensions-of-themselves/2015/01/30/521e0464-a816-11e4-a06b-9df2002b86a0_story.html):

    “A sports team is an expression of a fan’s sense of self, as I learned from dozens of interviews and research articles I surveyed for my book “The Secret Lives of Sports Fans,” is an expansion of a fan’s sense of self. It is not an obnoxious affectation when a devotee uses the word “we”; it’s a literal confusion in the brain about what is “me” and what is “the team.” In all kinds of unconscious ways, a fan mirrors the feelings, actions and even hormones of the players. Self-esteem rides on the outcome of the game and the image of the franchise.”

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    • That is so true. I guess because I take it for what it is, a youth sports event, I just don’t understand fans that feel this way.

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      • Sure…and I think many people don’t take it for what it is. They become enmeshed in the “we” and take things personally as though they are happening to them. You just have a healthier perspective than (most) others!

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