Imagine a high profile match in any sport without the crowd. It’s hard to imagine a World Cup Final or a Wimbledon Final without the atmosphere that comes with it. The atmosphere that comes from the crowd adds that extra special thing to an event and gives the event more importance if there are people there to watch it.
The crowd can behave in different ways towards an athlete. Many spectators heckle athletes while they are playing to express their opinion of them or to distract them from their performance. An example of this is an Australian darts player called Paul Nicholson. In 2008 Nicholson was being heckled and in response he put his finger to his mouth. This act and the fact he is actually English but chose to play for Australia made the crowd boo him every time he threw a dart. Even now in 2013 the crowd get on his back every time he plays. Some people would thrive on the hostility from the crowd as they may find it amusing and it may spur them on to prove them hostile people wrong. However in other cases players can crumble to the reaction they are receiving from the crowd.
Last week Serena Williams met Sabine Lisicki in the 4th Round of Wimbledon. Williams was the clear favourite to win Wimbledon with pretty much everyone thinking she was going to win the Wimbledon title. However at Wimbledon the crowd always love the underdog to win and with Lisicki winning in the third set, the crowd erupted every time Lisicki won a point. Serena Williams is known for her physical strength but at this moment her mental strength must have had to work in overdrive.
To be thinking that the majority of the crowd want your opponent to beat you must make you feel quite alone on the court. Sabine Lisicki went on to win the match with the crowd even cheering when she hit a powerful shot down the line which looked to have clinched the win but was hit back for Lisicki to finish at the net. Serena Williams wasn’t even having an off day. She was playing some of her best tennis but something was giving Lisicki that extra edge to give her the confidence to play the best she has ever played. One of the reasons for Lisicki’s performance must be the outstanding support from the crowd on Centre Court.
Wimbledon gives the British public one of the few chances a year to support their country in an event that is watched all over the world. The support given to the British players is commendable. Especially the way Andy Murray and Laura Robson have been supported this year and in previous years. Murray always packs out any court he plays on when he plays at Wimbledon and every point he wins is met with a huge cheer and a round of applause. However whenever he misses a shot, you could hear a pin drop as no one is applauding his opponent. This is the same for Laura Robson who reached the 4th round at Wimbledon for the first time in her career. She has said how much she loves playing on Centre Court and Court 1 at Wimbledon because of the huge crowd. The crowd get behind her and give her that extra bit of energy and motivation to succeed.
The effect of British support can be seen in Great Britain’s performance at the London 2012 Olympic Games last summer. Team GB won 65 medals with 29 of them gold. Whenever athletes such as Greg Rutherford, Mo Farah or Jessica Ennis were competing the roar from the crowd was phenomenal. The home support has been praised by most of the British athletes and they say that the crowd made them want to win even more!
Brazil recently hosted the Confederations Cup in preparation for them hosting the 2014 World Cup next year. Brazil met Spain in the final last week who are considered the best team in the world according to the FIFA rankings. The atmosphere at the Maracana stadium was electric. Brazil went on to win 3-0 and completely outplay Spain who are known for outplaying all of their opponents. The Brazil support was there for all to see and the sea of yellow shirts around the stadium reinforced the amount of support Brazil had. This might in some way have affected the Spain team in a negative way which could be the reason they didn’t perform on the night. However the opposite effect was felt by Brazil who thrived on the support from their own fans.
The crowd can be a scary thing and affect your performance negatively if they are against you. However the crowd can be a wonderful thing and if they are on your side you can thrive on their support and your performance can improve and in turn affect the outcome of a match.
Article by Joseph Husbands