Home and Away.
All professional team sport competitions around the world are based on the “Home and “Away” philosophy, i.e. that it is more likely a team will win at “Home” that it is when they are “Away” (from home).
The central theme of the philosophy is that by giving teams the chance to play each other at “Home” and “Away” they have an equal chance of winning over the season without favouring one team over the other.
There was a time that everyone involved in professional sport more or less accepted the “fact” that is was more difficult to win “Away” than it was to win at “Home”.
But now is the time to challenge the whole “Home and Away” concept and expose it for the myth that it really is.
Exploding the Home and Away myth: a Process of elimination.
To try to figure out why sporting teams still find it harder to win away from home, let’s work through the most commonly held beliefs around the Home and Away myth and eliminate them as possible causes.
The problem solving framework for sport: S.T.A.M.P.S.
When trying to solve a problem in sport, it is useful to use a framework to help systematically analyse the variables which could explain why the problem is occurring and in turn lead to a possible solution/s.
In sport, the S.T.A.M.P.S. framework is very useful for this purpose:
- S – Strategic (i.e. the tactical and strategic aspects of playing the game);
- T – Technical (i.e. the technical aspects of the game, e.g. technique and skills);
- A – Attitudinal (i.e. the attitude of the players, their commitment to success etc.);
- M- Mental (i.e. the players’ mental skills, e.g. mental toughness, visualisation, relaxation etc);
- P – Physical (i.e. the players’ physical preparedness, e.g. speed, strength, endurance, power, agility, flexibility etc);
- S – Settings and Situations (i.e. the environment and culture of the team and Club).
So let’s apply the S.T.A.M.P.S. problem solving framework to the Home and Away Myth.
The Home and Away Myth….is it??????
Is the Home and Away Myth a Strategic problem? No. Coaches design strategies and tactics to defeat opposition teams not the places they live in.
Is the Home and Away Myth a Technical problem? No. Techniques and skills are the same regardless of when, where or who the team is playing.
Is the Home and Away Myth a Physical problem? No – not now. In the “old-days” when teams travelled long distances to complete they had to deal with issues such as jet-lag, travel-stress, dehydration etc. However, over the past ten years so much time, energy and resources have been invested into mastering travel management, sleep management and environmental stresses that only players who are poorly prepared and unprofessional fall victim to the perceived additional physical demands of Away games.
So if the Home and Away Myth isn’t Strategic or Technical and it isn’t Physical…..what does that mean the Home and Away Myth really is????
Home and Away – A Myth of the Mind (and a Product of the Culture).
The Home and Away Myth is a Myth of the Mind. It has nothing to do with travel stress, with heat stress, with altitude, with opposition fans, with hostile media – it has everything to do with preparation, attitude and culture.
You can win anytime and anywhere if you prepare to do so. The Home and Away Myth is not real: unless you allow it be.
Sports Need the Home and Away Myth…Coaches and Players don’t.
Sport’s Governing bodies like the NFL, Premier League Football, the AFL, the NBA etc, etc. have a vested interest in promoting the Home and Away Myth. They need to build and grow a competition which has the potential for uncertainty in the outcome of games and therefore maintain real interest in the competition itself.
Ask yourself this: Who would watch the games on TV, gamble on the games or go and see the games live if the result of the game was already known?
Answer….No body! And with no body watching the games on TV, gambling on the games or going to see the games live there is no competition!
Coaches and players must see the Home and Away Myth for what it is and strive for excellence in all aspects of preparation and performance regardless.
Five Strategies for Winning Away from Home.
- Out-prepare, in every detail and in every aspect, your competitors. Every player must have the confidence of knowing that their preparation (on and off field) is better in every detail than the player they will be “marking” or playing against;
- Make training more challenging and more demanding than the game you are preparing for. Ensure that every player adopts an attitude of making their Home training environment more challenging and more demanding than their Away playing environment. They will then be ready for whatever challenges the game throws at them;
- Strive for professionalism in preparation across all aspects of your organisation. Team management and staff need to work hard to ensure that the Away environment has the same level of professionalism as the Home environment in every detail;
- Treat Home and Away Games the same. Stop talking about Home and Away games – there are just Games: Games to be fought and won regardless of where and when they are played;
- Ignore the Home and Away hype promoted by the sport’s governing body. They have a vested interest in maintaining the Home and Away Myth which is rooted in the very survival of the sport (and the governing body itself).
Winning is winning.
If you had to write a one line position description for a professional coach or player it would be this:
FIND A WAY TO WIN.
Difficulty is an excuse history does not accept: find a way to win – Home or Away – it doesn’t matter: Just Do It.