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Only matches with no additional remark on the result, such as the failure of a team to show up, are included. Among the men, the home team won in 58% of the cases. The chance that this is based on chance if there were no home advantage is almost zero. The advantage at home can even be seen in all classes, except in the Eredivisie. In the ladies there is a small home advantage of 53%, but statistically this can also be caused by chance. This difference between men and women can be caused by several things. The competition of the women is a lot less big than the competition of the men. The fewer games are played, the more difficult it is to statistically demonstrate home advantage. You can also often see that the difference in level is greater in women. The bigger the level difference, the smaller the chance that home advantage makes the difference between winning and losing.

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In the badminton competition 1763 team games were played last year. Each team match consists of 8 individual matches. On an individual level, the home player won 54% of the matches. At team level, the home team won 47% of the times and the playing team 35%. The remaining 18% of the matches ended in a draw. Again, the effect is statistically significant for all classes except the Eredivisie. Also for non-professionals there is such a thing as a home advantage!

Badminton home advantage2

The five factors of home advantage

So it’s a fact that there’s a home advantage, but what’s causing it? A lot of research has been done on this subject, both by statisticians and psychologists. In 2013, three Spaniards wrote an overview in which they identify five causes: Supporters, familiarity with the field/circumstances, travel time, the referee and territoriality.

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Supporters:

When we think of home advantage, we often think of the support of supporters as equal. There are almost always more supporters of the home team present. But even without supporters, there appears to be a home advantage. Niels van de Ven of Tilburg University investigated this by analysing football matches with and without supporters, and matches between teams that have the same stadium as their home base. In fact, supporters can even have a negative effect on performance, for example when a player has to take a penalty. This is a well-known phenomenon in social psychology. For easy tasks it increases performance when people are watching (social facilitation), for difficult tasks it decreases performance (social inhibition).

Familiarity with the field:

Every field or job can play differently, and you are used to your own field the most. That can be an advantage. For example, one squash court plays much faster than another, and the lights in badminton hang differently everywhere, so that you look at the light in a different way. One study shows that the effect is limited, another shows that the home advantage decreased by 24% when a club was given a new pitch. In fact, scientific research always focuses on top athletes. But this factor could be more important for amateurs. A professional squasher or badminton player plays and trains in many different places. But the average club player usually plays and trains at his own club, and is less used to different circumstances. This may be the reason why we don’t see the advantage at home in the Premier League, but in the lower classes of badminton and squash.

Travel time:

When you play an away game, you usually have to travel further. You may arrive more tired, or you just don’t feel like playing. This appears to have only a limited effect.

The referee:

Several studies have shown that referees whistle or judge slightly in favour of the home team. The home advantage over the Olympic Games is also greater in subjective jury sports such as gymnastics than in objective jury sports such as weight lifting and athletics.

Dirkjan

Territoriality:

Territoriality: Territoriality? Yes, territoriality: “a defensive reaction to an invasion of what you see as your own territory”. The home advantage in the Balkan football league is greater than in Norway, for example, as the figure below shows. This is attributed to the (historical) conflicts between population groups in that region.

Territoriality

Home advantage in football competition, figure from Legaz-Arrese publication.

Conclusion

Home advantage has been demonstrated in many sports, and is attributed to the effect of supporters, field awareness, travel time, the referee and “territoriality”. Also in the Dutch (amateur) squash and badminton competition there is a clear advantage at home. Especially for amateurs, the effect of playing on a well-known pitch could be more important than for professionals.
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