By JAI-LEAH GARCIA
On Oct. 2, the women’s field hockey defeated Randolph Macon 5-3. On Oct. 11, the team lost to Christopher Newport, 6-2.
The first game was held here at UMW, whereas the second game was held at Christopher Newport. Looking closely at both scores, there is a significant difference between the home game and the away game.
This sparks the question of whether athletes perform better at home than away games. For athletes, this difference could be not having their head in the game or feeling anxious towards the other team.
Sophomore Caitlin Walker, who is on the women’s field hockey team, prefers home games to away games.
“It’s more of a comfortability thing,” said Walker. “I practice there every day, I know the field and its surroundings.
“I think that I perform better during home games because it’s our home territory so everyone on the team is more hyped up and we feed off of each other’s energy,” said sophomore field hockey player Lydia Bryant.
Home games give athletes an edge–their familiarity with the grounds, and even the pressure to win on their turf, all contribute to an all-or-nothing mindset. The pressure is still present at away games, but for some athletes stems more from anxiety rather than perseverance.
Dana Hall is a sports psychology professor and director of men’s and women’s golf. She shared her thoughts on athletic performance and what the athlete may be thinking when they are out on the field.
“An athlete may be feeling anxious, and they might not be using that anxious energy to their own advantage,” said Hall. She also discussed how an athlete could have different mindsets going on in their head that can affect an athlete’s performance on game day.
“I’m a defender so I have a lot going through my head,” said Walker. “One of the main things is knowing who is open on the other team and marking them up.”
Hall also discussed how external factors such as heat or conditions of the field can cause a disconnect for athletes on game day. Some athletes felt that this is a contribution toward performance in away games.
“Some fields the turf is much thicker so the ball doesn’t move as fast…it can be an adjustment,” said Walker.
“A team plays in a certain condition that once they go play in a different team’s territory, they have that disconnect because they are not accustomed to the area. Home games allow the team to perform better because of how they spend hours training in the same location 2-3 times a week,” says Hall.
“I’m sure if we got used to the other fields we played on we’d feel more comfortable,” said Walker.
For athletes, location plays a role in performance, but it is not the major contributor. It is the external factors that are shown within the game day. Little things can make a huge contribution to the game, but the mindset of an athlete is also an important factor in order to give their best performance