Positivity is the key and the fans are making a big difference to Oxford United’s season both home and away.
That’s the view of club psychotherapist Gary Bloom who has been working with the club this season as Oxford United continue to lead the way in discussing Mental Health within football.
With over 3,000 fans heading for Newcastle on Saturday and a ’Bring a Friend for a Fiver’ initiative at our next home game, we asked Gary what effect bigger crowds and the positive energy that can bring has on players?
“The phenomenon of home advantage on match outcome is well understood in sport psychology, recognising how the support given by the home crowd drives the players to want to achieve for the fans" he told us. "Often referred to as the "12th Man", the power of the crowd to amplify the abilities of the home team and weaken the away team is widely acknowledged. The interesting thing is, studies have shown that as crowd density increases so does the home advantage, in fact they found that the only significant predictor of game outcome was crowd density. This was particularly the case in League One football.
“Whilst every player is an individual, there is one issue that every player I have ever worked with is in agreement with, here and at other clubs, and that is that the higher numbers of people coming through the turnstiles always gives them a lift. Conversely, when they play in front of a very small crowd, they say it’s very hard to give of their best.
“So the message is that teams perform better and win more games when they receive more enthusiastic crowd support. Think about it in wider terms. If someone gets praise about their work it does something to them and affects how they feel about themselves, so having the roar of the crowd is so important to a footballer. Studies have also noted that the ref would be more likely to decide in a team’s favour if their supporting crowd was larger and noisier. During a game you may get a lull but a player can change that with a tackle, a challenge, a pass- something that lifts the crowd: when that happens, you see a reaction on the pitch
“So having thousands of fans at Newcastle, or at the home games, is a boost for the players, and for Karl and the bench. That, plus the work we continue to do right the way through the club is helping make it such a positive place to work and to be around and I am thoroughly enjoying being part of things right now.”
Want to find out more about psychotherapy in football and the work that Oxford United are doing?
Gary and the U’s will be showcasing their work with the first ever sports psychotherapy conference held at the Kassam Stadium on the 19th of February.
Karl will be taking questions about the club's policy on mental health and player care as well as Academy boss Dan Harris, the Professional Football Association and other leading sports psychologists. If you’re interested about the relationship between psychology and sport it’s a great way to learn more.