The Covert Psychological Weapon Inside High School Sports

Hey, remember that time?

We went to your high school’s basketball game together as old buddies and, even though it was a sleeper of a matchup, we decided to go. We hardly had a chance to get together and were looking for something to do. I remember the atmosphere of that game as we walked into your stoic yet historic high school gym. In its glory days, it had to be something beautiful, but it still  had a weird romantic sense draped over it like a fine, invisible coating of primer on the roughly whitewashed walls. I think you were wearing your letter jacket, trying to look pretty as the senior girls were looking on from the ever-nearing student section. We stepped down those little steps entering the room, beholding the barbaric matchup between us as we rehashed an old-yet-timeless joke in small conversation and paid for admission. You have to remember hearing the sharp screech of the players making sharp turns on the floor in pursuit of the bouncing, thump-producing basketball. If you close your eyes, you could probably see the ball swishing through the net as we looked for a smart angle to dart to the bleachers, which were across the floor from where we entered.

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It was a packed house, we realized, as we neared the stands. Everyone was sitting down, having a grand social time. I mean, as if these people didn’t see each other enough, we entered into a sea full of chatter as I sat beside some of your friends in the student section. Conversations ranged widely and sporadically – “Where should we eat afterwards?”… and… “That test was so hard today!” were a few of the expressions I caught as I met some of your friends. We talked it up! What a fun time that was.

Wait… Who ended up winning the game?

Maybe that’s why you don’t remember that game… because it was never really about the game in the first place. I think we may have been inadvertently conspiring in a growing epidemic among American teenagers. I mean, are high school sporting events really just social events?

One may think of the players playing and the gyms housing the competition. Does playing in a team’s “home” gym aid their state of mind as opposed to visiting an opposing school?

A skeptic may point to the simplicity of sports which presents itself regardless of circumstances — Two teams, one victor. The beautiful thing about sports remains, though, in the fact that high school sports most certainly double as an entertainment form for various onlookers, fans, parents, and friends sitting on the bleachers. Since players and spectators are all of the same glorious species, support or rejection from these spectators should vastly affect a team’s mindset, an element seen time and time again in every level of sports. Logically, this type of audial and visual influence would undoubtedly affect the quality of play by the team in the crosshairs, an element that would directly affect the game’s outcome.

So, following this logic, why didn’t you and I take up the gauntlet for our stake of the game? In our fallen world, both you and I attended a game where we didn’t even know who was playing, let alone who won. The hypothetical, aforementioned gym we were both in was dead enough to allow cob webs to form on the ceiling.

Something deadly to the game exploded in a deafening case of demure yet extravagant chatter, like little cockroaches scattering through a ruin that was recently eradicated of all human life.

Everyone should remember the sound of a crowd roaring as the iconic Alan Parsons Project tune “Sirius” blasted over speakers as the hearty, memorable announcer proclaimed the names of the Chicago Bulls’ starting lineup, creating an atmosphere of true fire and wrapping up the festivity with the introduction of Mr. Michael Jordan. Those fans were keyed in, screaming their loudest as the lights were dimmed. Of course, those people paid a lot more cash to get into those games, and the Chicago Bulls had some spotlights and a video board, but something tells me that the game of basketball played at its purest does not just keep people ecstatic. Those games were true experiences.

At Delaware Christian, the high school which this writer attends, our gym is relative to the size of our school – small. Big enough to sit around 225-250 people or so  at its fullest, it has two speakers hoisted from the ceiling facing the bleachers, controlled by a mobile system that almost resembles a DJ stand that plugs into a rather aged connection in the wall leading to the speakers. The mobile control panel opens up to reveal a soundboard with standard microphone and sound inputs – the usual. Sometimes, while playing music or speaking too loud, the system will cut out for some odd reason, signaling maybe a short in the connection. With the connection shorting at weird and, usually, the worst times, the operator must finagle the connection directly or adjust the level of bass or treble through the equalizer on the sound board to try to eliminate the problem. I have used this system regularly over the last three years to announce sports games in our school, and from every aspect, we need to just air out the obvious: We are not the old-time Chicago Bulls.

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PHOTO CREDIT ~ Delaware Christian Athletics Facebook

Though, without arrogance, I would confidently and unabashedly say that Delaware Christian’s game experience and production are second to few.

1779037_785573718124825_1482184392_nWait, before you scoff at me and hit the dreaded red “X” in the top right corner or this page, consider this: state-of-the-art audio technology doesn’t guarantee state-of-the-art psychology, and average audio technology doesn’t guarantee average psychology.

That is all that this is, right? Psychology at its purest – How do you create a slight home-court advantage for your team,  trigger the emotions of the spectators, and hide those two goals all at the same time to make for a fun, memorable overall experience?

That’s what the Chicago Bulls had right back in the day. They had it all – the right music, the right announcer, the right colors on the spotlights, the right timing, the right players, which made for the right fans. They had everything state-of-the-art and delivered on that standard. The Bulls won multiple championships during that era.

What if, though, the psychology behind high school sports could be innovative in a different ways?

 

What if…

…the role of an announcer was taken seriously?

I contend, from experience, that no better asset can be held by a high school sports announcer than pure “passion”. That may be the psychology inside the psychology – One cannot sell a product to someone else without believing in it himself. Experience will come, decision making speed will come, and general fluidity and comfort-ability will come as with anything worked on in life. I contend that an announcer would be one step ahead of the game to truly treat his job like a “job” and work to be the best at it.

…preparation was next to perfection?

With passion comes thought, and with thought comes preparation. Unlike any other job, a sports announcer can manipulate the circumstances to fit his needs best, with the main goal of producing a great performance. With passion should come the need for preparation, a step which will grow an announcer the most. Personally, I prefer to prepare for games by preparing my music the night before. Over about six years of announcing, I have built up a rather large personal music library as cheaply as I have been able to, nabbing deals that pop up regularly on internet stores such as ITunes and Google Play. From that library, I pick out about fifty songs out of my library to put in a playlist that will fit the coming game as much as possible. If the opponent is Tree of Life Christian School, for example, one of the songs I pick may be Trees by Twenty One Pilots, a song that can be explicitly used within context for that matchup. I try to pick a playlist that will not only keep the audience tuned into the game and the players pumped up, but that could tell a story, an element that I try to implant into games to leave people thinking about lyrics or tunes in songs after the night is over. Going to a Christian school, I have the privilege of making some of those lyrics reflective of my faith, for example, to make people think, within the context of the game, differently then they would without music and announcing.

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Shure 55SH Series 2 Microphone – Shure Stock Photo

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Google Nexus 7

One could also be preparative in other ways, such as purchasing personal equipment to ensure maximum performance on the announcer’s end. Personally, I bring three things along with me to every game I announce: my Shure 55SH Series 2 microphone, a Google Nexus 7 tablet (for music), and a cord to connect that to the sound system. These instruments have served me beautifully in aiding the effort to produce a good performance on the production end.

Most importantly, though, preparation is most key in word pronunciation and preparation for speaking as an announcer. At Delaware Christian, I play the in-game role of both announcer and DJ/Music Guy most of the time, so this sometimes gets overlooked, but credibility can’t be ruined faster than from a mispronounced name. An announcer needs to be sensitive to name pronunciations!

Overall, the reason for preparation is not self-centered in the least bit, but, rather, to do one’s best to give the home team a little mental advantage and for the onlookers to think and have fun all at the same time.

…game production was a team sport?

It is rather unfair the credit the announcer can get comparable to everything going on behind the scenes of a good operation. Most of the time, the announcer purely serves as a pretty cover for rather jumbled numbers behind the scenes. The people that work towards a better game experience by keeping score, gathering lineups, keeping track of little stats and details, setting up the technical equipment beforehand, and suggesting new material and music for the game are the people who deserve to be in the spotlight. Just as no one person has ever won anything in a team sport, an announcer who tries to do it all will fail miserably (I know from experience!). When a team comes in who knows what they are doing, that plays their designed positions to the best of their ability off of the floor, it frees up (notably) announcer to try new things and make the game on the hardwood more enjoyable for everyone looking on and participating.

 

These what ifs have become Delaware Christian’s why nots. I believe we are a step ahead of the game. Though we will never be perfect, as no one can, we can work to help our organization’s face and performance in the subtle, yet extravagant ways. We put these and more into practice each game and are constantly looking for different ways to aid the spectator’s feelings and mindset about the game at hand, which, in turn, extremely affects the mindset of the players and, therefore, the overall quality of the experience.

You will remember the next game we go to, my friend.

 

delawareo.com

About Andrew Standley

I was born in Columbus, Ohio, and attend Delaware Christian School, traveling into Delaware through the portal named Route 42 from my home in Plain City. I find pleasure in attempting to delve into the realms of thought where few have gone before. Though I'm only a teenager so my words may be shallow, I like to believe that you don't need a Ph.D. to search for truth and perhaps a different, fresh, perspective.

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