As we conclude the NBA Finals and Stanley Cup, one question always comes to mind. Does home court advantage really matter? As I analyze home court advantage, it’s obvious that the 12th man, the 6th man, the 3rd man—whatever “extra man” we may have—creates the inspiration that provides a team’s advantage when we’re playing at home. It really comes down to three separate things:
- Our “Comfort Zone”.
- Our “Learning Zone”.
- Our “Anxiety Zone”
When we have a home court advantage, in life and in sports, we’re able to complete tasks and duties without thinking. The “Comfort Zone” makes simple tasks easy to accomplish within not only our conscious but our subconscious and our unconscious. Not having to think about these simple tasks is what gives players an advantage of confidence. Similarly, this allows us to access the inspiration necessary to give us that efficient, effective, and statistical advantage that we get from playing on our home court.
Next, we expand out to what we call our “Learning Zone”. Home court advantage allows us, because of that comfort level, to learn more, experience more, and expand to a higher level of success. That’s why during the NBA Finals, you’ll see the home team’s second string players provide such an extraordinary boost. These players not only play in this comfort zone, but they’ve expanded out into a learning zone with that confidence. When they get to play, which can be infrequently at times, they can have a major impact as we have seen in both the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup.
Finally, one thing that definitely makes or takes an advantage of home court — The “Anxiety Zone”. When one is under pressure, what is in us comes out. When I speak around the world, I discuss holding an orange in your hand. The skin is the tough layer that holds everything in, but when applied with enough pressure what comes out? Orange juice. If we are scared, anxious, confident, jealous, or angry, when pressure is applied to us those true emotions that are inside us will come out.
Playing on the home court, especially during the NBA Finals, and being put under pressure, the fear, the anxiety, and the insecurity that is revealed while on the road tends to emerge at home. When we’re in the comfort of our own home, with the support of our own fans, our own announcers, our own scoreboard, our own baskets, our own goal, it’s so much easier to have the positive components, to be our better selves and to play at the higher level. Being in our comfort zone allows us to better perform even when we’re put under pressure compared to being on the road where everything seems against us. All of those positive components that create our “Comfort Zone” turn into negative components on the road creating a complete disadvantage.
Being at home gives us a big advantage; one, we’re in our “Comfort Zone”, two, our “Learning Zone” is much bigger, and three, when put under pressure in the “Anxiety Zone”, what comes out of us is not our insecurity, fears, and conflict, but our better, or higher, selves which create these better performances.
So how do we expand our “Comfort Zone”? If we live in the “Learning Zone”, we can test ourselves by entering the “Anxiety Zone” and soon, our comfort zone becomes the size of our learning zone and what used to exist in the anxiety zone is now our learning zone. When we live in the learning zone, we build the situational knowledge from different experiences and soon they become easier over time and we grow to be comfortable with them. Remember your first day of school? Learning to ride a bike without training wheels? Moving to college? We entered each of those anxiety zones, but turned those into our learning zone and consequently our comfort zones. By entering the anxiety zone, we are giving ourselves the opportunity to live with a home court advantage by living our lives in the “Learning Zone”.
By: David Meltzer