By Katie Ponce I July 23, 2015
This weekend is a big week for the Boston Breakers, both at the professional and reserve level. The reserve team clinched the East Region Division title and is off to the Women’s Premier Soccer League, (WPSL) Final Four Championship in Oklahoma City this Saturday and Sunday. Here, we will be joined by the Chicago Red Stars Reserves, Oklahoma City FC, and SoCal FC.
While we fly to Oklahoma, the first team seeks to gain three points on the road versus Sky Blue FC. Sky Blue trails behind the Boston Breakers in the league with 11 points to our 12, and this weekend will mean a lot in our standings as playoff time gets closer.
(Julie King up against Sky Blue midfielder Kim Decesare)
Winning on the road is known to be tougher, and at any level coaches stress to win games at home and get a result on the road, meaning that even a tie is a success. This was always the case during my college career, and even here at the Breakers, the coaches stress the advantages of being at home.
During 2008, a blog was posted that questioned this idea of it being tough on the road. At the time, it was the NBA conference semifinals and the road teams were 1-15. These are the kind of results we expect since being on the road is such a challenge. However, if there really is a home-court advantage, then why is that?
Well according to FanIQ , “It seems to be that players are psychologically drilled to believe that playing on the road is tougher than it is at home, especially during the playoffs. It's almost like Pavlov's dogs. Turn on the light, make the dogs slobber. Put the Celtics on the road, they can't win. It's not that Cleveland's crowd is the key difference, or that it's making Cleveland play any better, it's that Boston has the preconceived notion that the game will be tougher than it otherwise should be,” (Leitch, 2008).
I have spent at least the last eight years being told that it’s harder to win on the road. Could it really be just in my head or in my coaches’ heads who have been putting this thought into mine? Maybe I just don’t want to accept that I have been the source of my own demise, but I think the challenge of playing on the road is not just in athletes’ heads
First off, the travel. Bus or plane, the extended amount of time traveling can be hard on an athlete’s body. Recently, we hear about how the high altitudes of flying can worsen injuries and cause possible swelling. Not to mention the mental stress top athletes like Muhammed Ali have admitted to having when it came to their fear of flying. These factors all add up to just one element the home team doesn’t have to worry about.
A home team not only does not have these extra stresses, they have everything in their favor. The psychology preparation before a game is its own study now and teams even at the college level are beginning to utilize sports psychologist. The practiced routine that home teams walk through leading up to the game is perfected for every team; even every player to make sure they are at their best. Finding your routine outside of your comfort zone may offset a player on game day even the slightest bit.
And finally, after being here three months, I know all my Boston natives will agree that the fans make a difference. The energy and environment that fans bring is undeniable. Whether it’s a sold-out game at Fenway or 3,000 young girls in Harvard Stadium, athletes connect with a group of people who are there to solely support them.
In my mind these answers seem obvious. Maybe I’m brainwashed and playing on the road is just as easy as it is playing at home. All I need is my uniform and my game should be the same no matter what. I think that at one time this might have been true. Before sports were at the center of this country’s (this world’s) entertainment maybe all you did need was to show up and no matter where that was the athlete decided how well they would play. Today though, with how high competition is, and how much pressure there is on athletes, especially professional athletes that so many us invest our faith in, there is much more to how well someone plays then just showing up. Finding results on the road means over coming all the obstacles of traveling in a new city with new fans, and it means another point or three that you took away from a team at home. The pressures are on for this weekend’s travel, but believe me that the Breakers’ preparation has already started.
Leitch. (2008, May 13). Why Is It So Darned Hard To Win On The Road? [Blog post]. Retrieved from
Deadspin website: http://deadspin.com/389896/why-is-it-so-darned-hard-to-win-on-the-road