Does cheering actually help?

We’re having a table tennis tourney going on in the company with lots of people participating in both the singles and doubles matches.
This is directly proportional to the reduction in the amount of work done by the people – those who are participating and those who come to watch the matches and cheer their friends.

In table tennis, unlike outdoor sports, you are not allowed to cheer / jeer while the game is in progress. Therefore, except the occasional “wooos” and “ahhs”, there is nothing going on during the game play.
However, when a point is won, people do come out and encourage their friends.
The more popular you are, the more support you have during the games.

However, even though we are a very small company (the numbers in the range of 40 – 50), we do not know everyone well.
It’s more or less like a typical office.
You have a few close chums, some people good friends and others acquaintances whom you share a very casual greeting relationship.

Anyways, the point I am trying to make here is that you don’t know everyone decently well.
During one of the matches in which a friend of mine was playing, it got pretty close – even though she had just learned to play recently and the other guy played decently, but looked somewhat nervous.

At that point, I wondered, that if we all got behind our friend and cheered her (she had more support definitely), it would break the other guy down and she might win the last round – and thus the game.
However, the cheering actually never happened and thus we will never know – but this sparked a debate between me and my team mate whether cheering actually makes any difference.

I was of the opinion that it always definitely helps and he was of the opinion that it doesn’t – and sometimes even is detrimental to the player.
After countless minutes of debate, we finally agreed on two points – which I definitely feel does not do complete justice to the entire topic of “Does cheering actually help?”

One point was thus:

I’d like to refer to my previous post here “That moment of giving up” in which my boxer friend told me that he gives up sometimes when he’s fighting it out in a god forsaken place where no one cares about the result of the game – he wonders whether getting all beat is really worth it.
Thus, the point here is – that when you are down by a few points, having no support whatsoever, makes you wonder whether it is worth it – and you end up not fighting back as best as you could.
On the other hand, if you have people behind you egging you on – no matter what the result, you atleast fight till the end – which is a good thing!

The other point made was:

This takes the case of Indian cricketers who enjoy the status of demi-gods in the country.
Many of them comment that playing a game in India, draws huge crowds, and thus an awesome support which can create quite a lot of pressure to perform. Many players feel that they enjoy and play a more natural game when they are abroad as they don’t feel the heat of the pressure the crowds bring in. So in this case, all the cheering and support is a bad thing.

So, in what conditions is cheering a good thing or a bad thing?
Is it always good? Always bad?
Does it always depend on the individual in question? Does it depend on the way the crowd is cheering you?

Do players who are trying to be something they are not, fear the pressure that crowd support brings? And do underdog players thrive on cheering and perform that extra bit because of it?

A very open ended debate and I’d really like to hear your thoughts on it!

3 Comments

  1. In soccer, the crowd effect is important. The mass psychology of a favourable crowd does have an effect on performance. I wonder if it varies according to whether the sport event is a team event or not. With a team event, a player is left with a sense of massive support, but not the fear of it is all up to me. With a one to one, where individual focus matters, the crowd mentality might not always be positive. And in athletics, athletes, though they might be running in front of a home ground, always seek to blank out the crowd effect: nothing beyond the mental running plan in their head. The crowd effect seems to be one of those things that is highly relative to the event and the individual.

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  2. From my miserable experiences at public speaking, crowd cheering/jeering can have an extremely negative reaction. I’ve so far won a single prize, and that too when my total audience was some 10 of my own friends. All my teachers have said that my script is pretty good, but I always screw up on the stage…

    I guess that the effect might be pretty similiar for sports as well, especially if you’re just beginning…

    P.S. I have switched(finally!) to my new blog at http://blog.yuvisense.net. So, I guess you should have a look, and maybe update the list on your sidebar as well:D

    P.P.S: Sriram’s Interview’s live as well:D

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