2. Home is where the heart is. It’s a very common phrase to us and doesn’t usually have
very much meaning to us now, until you step onto your own court. The Macmillan Dictionary
describes home court advantage as a simple American noun that means “the advantage that
you have over an opponent when a sports contest takes place at your own sports field or
court”. Robert Weinberg describes it as a way that spectators can influence performance by
providing support and encouraging their team. Is this phenomena we call home court
advantage truly reality? Or is it all just a myth?
The idea of home court advantage can slightly be pointed at the philosopher Cicero who
posed the question “What is more agreeable than one’s home?” a couple thousand years ago.
(McCallum, Jack) To answer this thousand year old question, we look to college basketball and
more specifically the Commodores of Vanderbilt University. At their current basketball arena,
Memorial Gymnasium, the Commodores hold an amazing record of 344-81 (Traughber, Bill).
This gymnasium holds an even more striking record within the Southeastern Conference (SEC)
with a record of 32-9 (.780) versus their away record of 14-27 (.341) (McCallum, Jack). This one
school can argue that there is home court advantage. Gonzaga University, who won 145 out of
183 at home under their current coach would also argue for it. But what if it wasn’t the arena
winning those games, but actually the players?
Long Beach State head basketball coach, Seth Greenberg said this about Duke’s home
court advantage at Cameron Indoor Stadium and the Cameron Crazies. “The thing that made
Duke so tough at home over the years wasn’t so much the players’ feeding off the fans, it was
that they had great players.” When you look just a few miles down Tobacco Road and find that
Duke’s rival, the Tar Heels of the University of North Carolina, have won over 90% of their home
3. games between 1990-1995. This may lead you to think its supporting home court advantage,
until you see that UNC also won around 75% of their away games during that span.(McCallum,
Jack) But how can you explain Vanderbilt and Gonzaga?
A couple years ago, Philip E. Varca compared how home and visitor teams performed in
men’s college basketball games. Varca found very little difference in fine motor skills and the
teams both had similar field-goal and free-throw shooting percentages. Each side did however
have a little bit more of some stats. The home teams had advantages in areas that involved
either strength or full-body movements. This included blocked shots, rebounds, and steals. The
away team ended up committing more fouls. Varca’s observations came to the conclusion that
the crowd is to blame. The crowd sends both teams into a state of aggression. One is
functional, the other is dysfunctional. Joe Scott, the University of Denver’s head coach said
“Home teams are always more aggressive. There’s always some element that keeps them
fighting.” (Hoover, Eric) Is it really just the crowd that affects that many games between
winning and losing? Let’s take a lot at the flip side though. Choking seems to be a word that
gets thrown around in big games. Home court advantage seems to be huge in big games. How
do the two interact? Choking can be defined as the sudden deterioration of performance in a
pressure situation. What can be worse than letting down your family and friends in the stands
of a huge conference home game? Research suggests that players just seemto overthink all
this. Richard H. Cox, a sports psychologist at the University of Missouri at Columbia says “Teams
do get the reputation of being good or bad roads teams, but generally speaking, the best teams
are going to win home or away.” Charles Driesell would agree with Cox. Driesell, former coach
at the University of Maryland (786-394) recalls players being more troubled from travel and
4. being unfamiliar with their surroundings rather than the fans. (Hoover, Eric) Hoover talked
about travel, the fans, and the surroundings being sort of like ingredients to build home court
advantage. So what are the ingredients?
History is needed as a legend of home court dominance. A team should feel at home,
feel at one with its arena. Stepping on a court where the greats were made, where buzzers
were beaten only add to the advantage. Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stilllwater, Oklahoma.
Oklahoma State University calls this arena home and it dates back to 1938. Hank Iba was one of
basketballs pioneers and his spirit carries on in the arena as his funeral was held there in 1993.
Current basketball coach Eddie Sutton played under coach Iba when Wilt Chamberlain brought
the number one ranked Kansas Jayhawks. That year the arena had been named after Coach Iba
and the Cowboys defeated the Jayhawks that night. That history can creep into players’ minds
and like Richard Cox said, players can overthink it all. (McCallum, Jack)
Another advantage to an arena can be if it specializes in claustrophobia. When fans are
face to face with opponents and noise bounces of every wall. Small buildings can become very
charged and play a factor in the game. “The proximity of fans makes it seem like there are more
than there really are.” Said Missouri coach Norm Stewart as he commented on Gallagher-Iba
Of course fans play a role as well. Oregon University’s Mac Court has been claimed to be
one of the loudest arenas and its fans are to blame. Former players comment on how it’s so
loud, at times you can only hear your heartbeat. When Bill Walton came to Mac Court in 1974,
5. the fans got so loud the scoreboard began to visibly shake at its cables. Walton and the Bruins
lost that night (adding to history)
The last major ingredient of home court advantage is the architecture and design of the
arena. Physically abnormal structures can throw off visiting teams. One key example of this
would be Western Kentucky’s Diddle Arena and its confusing set of lines on the court. Former
Eastern Kentucky coach Max Good remembers a past event involving the lines. “We once ran a
play and got a guy open in the corner. And the reason he was open was because he was
standing two feet out-of-bounds. He couldn’t tell one line from another on that court.” The
Hilltoppers are 342-94 in the 32 year old history of the arena.
Whether it’s crazy fans screaming your team on from the first buzzer to the last. Or the
echoes of legends running down the court. Even the feeling of walls falling on top of you
throughout the game. Or maybe even lines that make you question your spot on the court.
Each arena and each team present a challenge for both home teams and visitors alike. Home
court advantage is present, but great teams still win on the road. That home might win a few
games, but only players can win championships. But along the road to the title, it’s got to go
through home sweet home.
I chose this topic because of my love for basketball. I played basketball at a competitive
level from 3rd grade all the way up to my senior year of high school. Basketball has always been
in my blood. I happened to notice a short one page article in our book that mentioned home
court advantage so I decided to read into it since it caught my interest. The article talked about
how during the playoffs and more specifically during key games such as game 6 or 7 of a series,
6. the advantage switched over to the away team. Me being around sports my whole life tried to
think of times where maybe I wouldn’t have wanted to play at home but I couldn’t think of
anything. I figured this topic would be very interesting and could actually help me understand
sports in the future. Maybe we can’t always assume that being at home, game 7 of the NBA
Finals is an advantage but rather a disadvantage.
7. Works Cited:
MacmillanDictionary.(2013). homecourt advantage.
Hoover,E. (2009). Home court iswhere the heartis. Chronicle of Higher Education, 55(27)
McCallum,J. (1995, October24). The edge whetherit'snerve-rackingnoise orarchitectural ploys,some
home courts have a built-inadvantage. SportsIllustrated
Traughber,B. (2008, January30). Chc: Vanderbiltbasketballhistory.
Weinberg,R.S.(2011). Foundationsof sportand exercisepsychology.(5thed.,p.87). HumanKinetics.