Dr Ross Tucker, a well known Sports Scientist placed good articles about Rugby fatique before. I found this Article about the subject and want to share a few of his thoughts. The second part of his Article about home ground advantage is interesting, Here are a few extracts from the Article.
Sports scientist Dr Ross Tucker said on Wednesday that he would be surprised if the Sharks were rested by the time they take the field against the Crusaders.
“I heard that John Plumtree wants to keep his side on South African time, but it’s very difficult if you travel for half the week. A person’s natural rhythm is determined by light and dark, and a team that travels east over several time zones, has its days and nights turned completely upside down. Your body stays in the time zone from where you departed for a while,” said Tucker.
He added that there are ways of beating jet-lag – with, for example, chemical treatment and the manipulation for light and darkness around people.
“But it only really works for a two-day journey. It takes almost a day to recover for every time zone that you cross and the Sharks are flying over 10. He went on to say “There are individual factors, which may mean that certain players will be ready”
There has been much discussion around travel and the effect it has on professional sports teams. Dr Ross Tucker takes a look at the different theories surrounding the ‘home-ground’ advantage.
The challenge of travel in Super Rugby at the end of the tournament
How big is home-ground advantage in the Super Rugby competition? Well, consider that since 2000, not a single team has won a playoff match outside its own country.
Home-ground advantage; consistently 50 to 70%
There is no question that home-ground advantage exists. For rugby, it’s never been published, but I have done an analysis of the last five years of Super Rugby competitions (the format and number of teams changes every few years, so it’s a shorter period) and in Super Rugby, the home team has won 61% of the matches they play.
Factors influencing home-ground advantage
This is a somewhat simplified summary of what we know, but generally, there are four factors influencing home ground advantage:
- Travel fatigue for visiting teams
- Familiarity with the city, the facilities, the playing arena
- Crowd factors, which can be further broken down into: a) How the crowd influence the players , b) How the crowd influence the referee/officials
a) The crowd influence on officials – a subconscious bias
Starting with the referees (a favourite of sports fans everywhere), there is a real perception, true or not, that visiting teams are often ‘robbed’ by referee decisions. It turns out this is not a perception without some merit.
It’s also been found that the discrepancy in penalties awarded to visiting and home teams increases as the crowd increases in size.
One study had football referees make judgments based on video footage of obvious foul play, but some refs watched without sound, while others watched with full sound, including crowd reactions to fouls.
It turns out that with the sound, the referee is more likely to be swayed towards what the crowd is calling for.
b) Crowd influence on players
Harder to measure, but possibly as significant, is the effect of crowd support on player motivation and effort.
Certainly, sport is filled with testimonies of players who find “something extra”, who raise their level because they’re at home. But there’s no question that “psychology” (an incredibly broad term) plays a role in sports performance.
Familiarity ‘no place like home’
The fourth and final factor, which is linked to the psychological factors I mentioned above, is familiarity with the playing venue, the weather, the training facilities, and also the people who the player encounters in the week leading up to matches. There’s some evidence for this too.
For example, in 37 sports teams who moved to a new stadium, home ground advantage fell by 25% in the first season at a new home.
In South Africa, we have a couple of rugby venues that are ‘hostile’ to visiting teams, and knowing a few players, they don’t particularly enjoy going there. The media tend to hype up the fortress idea, and while players should in theory be able to resist this kind of intimidation, there’s no question that mindset may be changed by the awareness of an away team.
In my experience, familiarity is a really crucial factor, perhaps the main one (though this is just my opinion born of my experiences with the Sevens side). I believe it reduces anxiety significantly, and even allows players to find visual cues in the stadium that may help their performance.
Much of this happens away from the venue – it’s in the hotels, the people, the food, the TV stations in hotels, the sights and sounds. Just having family and friends around in the build-up is significant, provided it doesn’t cause over-arousal.
The key is whether the familiar experience is a positive one or not. Positive experiences are easy to reinforce, and so a player will be more optimistic, more confident when playing at home.
Experience counts – reducing home ground advantage?
This is why experience is such a vital factor for success in tournaments away from home. This is why experience is such a vital factor for success in tournaments away from home.
Later this year, the Rugby World Cup takes place in New Zealand. Positive experiences erode these factors, and so teams who want to succeed, will, I believe, have to rely heavily on players who have been there, won there, and know the stadiums, hotels and people.
But then again, it’s still four white lines, a ball and the same set of rules.
Dr Ross Tucker, is Health24’s FitnessDoc and has a Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology from the University of Cape Town and a Post-Graduate degree in Sports Management from the UCT’s Faculty of Commerce. He is currently employed at the University of Cape Town and Sports Science Institute of South Africa, and works as a consultant to various sporting teams, including South African Sevens, Canoeing, Rowing and Triathlon SA.
He also blogs on http://www.sportsscientists.com