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Westminster student-athletes share their experience with home advantage

The Westminster College Women’s Basketball team chants for their starter players before the game against the University of Arkansa Fort Smith on Nov. 11 in Payne Gymnasium. “There is a ton of team building we try to do as far as getting a more connected, comfortable team,” said Jenteal Jackson, the women’s basketball head coach. Photo courtesy of Mikey O’Hearn.

“There is definitely an advantage playing at home,” said Mailey Ballard, a sophomore sports management major on the Westminster College women’s basketball team. “Not only do you have the support of your friends and family members but you have the comfort of feeling at home.” 

Home advantage in sports is a psychological phenomenon where a team might perform better when they compete at their home place of practice rather than at away games, according to the National Library of Medicine. Factors like the crowd, court familiarity and competition travel — which can be “exhausting” — all impact home advantage, according to Jenteal Jackson, the women’s basketball head coach.

“I do think being in your gym is an advantage and most teams tend to play better statistically,” Jackson said. 

Mailey Ballard, a sophomore sports management major, said the crowd is what most impacts her when playing.

“Having family and friends that you can feel and hear in the stands would be the biggest advantage to playing at home,” Ballard said.

Ballard plays alongside Emily Malouf, a junior sociology major who mirrors the idea of a home game advantage benefiting the team.

“At away games, there’s always people chirping in the audience, so sometimes that gets distracting,” Malouf said.

Malouf said cheerleaders and the student section at home games heighten the advantage and help the team perform better. 

Jenteal  Jackson, the women’s basketball head coach, accredits the home game advantage to familiarity of playing where one resides.

A white woman with long blond hair stands and watches the game
Jenteal Jackson, the Westminster College Women’s Basketball head coach, watches from the sidelines of the basketball court during the team’s game against the University of Arkansa Fort Smith on Nov. 11 in the Payne Gymnasium. “The comfortability of being in your own gym, knowing those hoops [contributes to the home game advantage],” Jackson said. Photo courtesy of Mikey O’Hearn.

“It’s nice being in the comfort of your own home the night before, sleeping in your bed, […] you know this gym really well,” Jackson said.

There are also technical advantages of playing at home, according to Jackson.

“Depth perception is a big thing, especially in certain gyms with a bigger backdrop or hoops that have a stand instead of hanging from the ceiling, that can definitely affect some shooting,” Jackson said. “You know your gym better than anyone, it’s where you shoot every day so you’re really used to it.”

Jackson said she believes there are potential disadvantages to home games as well, which are subject to individual players. 

“Some kids put a lot of pressure on themselves when their family or friends are here and some kids play better playing in front of friends and family,” Jackson said.

Despite possible setbacks, Emily Malouf, a junior sociology major, said the women’s basketball team is anticipating a great season this year. Malouf said much of their top tier performance is due to the close, interpersonal relations between the teammates.

“Our dynamic is definitely more of a family-based community,” Malouf said. “It’s very welcoming and loving… everyone holds each other to high expectations and standards.”

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Mikey O’Hearn is a junior at Westminster College studying communication. Mikey loves alpine ski racing, Rupaul’s Drag Race and quality time with friends and family. In his free time, you will catch Mikey joking around with his best friends or picking out his outfit of the day.

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