Column: What’s the effect of the crowd?

Published 9:35 pm Monday, September 21, 2009

I’ve never been one to believe that a crowd can have a big impact on the outcome of a sporting event.

Sure, if they’re loud enough they can rattle the communication of an opposing squad, and if they’re intense enough they can intimidate an opponent, but can they really push their team to a higher level?

I still don’t know for sure, but I saw some evidence of crowd effect in Packer Gym Thursday night when the Austin volleyball team held off Winona for a five-game win in front of a frenzied crowd with a 16-14 win in the last game.

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It started like any other Parent’s Night match, the players and their parents were recognized and the first two games went by pretty smoothly. Halfway through the third game, it started to pick it up, when I was amused to see a Winona fan turn to the Winhawks JV team and tell them to start cheering. The suggestion was met with a laugh by most of the players.

But by the time a match-deciding fifth game took place, those players where on their feet and screaming as loud as they could. So was much of the Austin cheering section.

As the two teams went back and forth the cheers got louder and louder on each side. With the score tied at 14, it reached its apex. It was the loudest crowd I’ve heard since basketball season and definitely the most noise I’ve heard at a volleyball match in a while.

Austin rallied to score the last two points and it turned into a mob scene. Fans were storming the court to celebrate and players where shouting cheers of joy.

It was all that is right with high school sports.

Now the question: Did the crowd boost the Packers to victory?

No, I’m not going that far.

However, I think the combination of both crowds being into it brought the best out of both teams. Any time you have two groups of people cheering back and forth, it influences the team to want to hear the cheers for their team instead of the opponents.

While battling the noise, it’s easy to forget the score and avoid feeling the pressure. Athletes can get so caught up in the excitement they forget all of the outside factors and simply focus on the next play.

So yes, the crowd can influence a sporting event. It can turn the game into a great time.