How empty stadiums play a role in an athlete’s performance and mental health

Chu said a fan cheering on their favorite team plays a much bigger role than we might think.
Sunny day at Lambeau Field. (WBAY Photo)
Published: Oct. 7, 2020 at 4:00 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Stadiums across the country are empty as the pandemic impacts most aspects of our lives, including how we view sports. The question some psychologists ask is ‘what effect do empty stands have on an athletes’ performance?'

Assistant Professor Alan Chu is the Chair of the Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology Masters Program at UW Green Bay, a new program with its first cohort this fall.

Chu said a fan cheering on their favorite team plays a much bigger role than we might think.

“When the players see the fans, they’re able to get those attentional cues and be able to celebrate or focus on certain tasks,” said Chu.

Sports psychology, Chu said, is becoming more recognized, and these days as we’ve heard from some professional athletes, it takes more mental strength and motivation to perform because what they’re familiar with, has changed.

“Very strange, you miss the energy, you miss the roll out the barrel, you miss the beer races, you miss the wave when we’re on defense, you miss the noise, the introductions, Lambeau leaps,” said Green Bay Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, in a recent press conference.

Other players like Green Bay Packers Cornerback Kevin King, said it’s all about bringing ‘your own juice.’

“Kind of like that bring your own juice mentality, that’s kind of been the focus - point of emphasis for the team,” said King.

No matter the athlete’s level (high school, college, or professional), Chu said it’s important for athletes to create mental spaces, shifting focus, bringing their own juice but supporting each other.

“When we talk about health, it’s not just physical health, psychological health plays a big role, and in their performance as well, so we are creating more programs in sports psychology in the country to try to help train those students to be able to do those jobs,” said Chu.

Coaches and players, Chu said, should check in on each other especially when someone looks like they aren’t able to focus or seem different.

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