The Advantage of Being ‘Away’
By Leah Zigmond, EdD
I’m not a big baseball fan. I don’t know a lot about the game, and I don’t follow it much. But I know enough to know about the World Series. And, when the world series is happening, I often know which teams are playing and which game just ended or which one is coming up, and where. I know that there are up to seven games in the series and that, since a team wins with ‘best out of seven’ that the first team to get four wins will end the series.
For some reason, just this year, I learned, that the games start in one city, for the first two games, move to the other city for up to three more games, and then, if no one has won four games yet, back to the first again city for up to two more games.
Now, I grew up in Pittsburgh, and although I did not grow up in a house that paid much attention to sports, I have become a Steelers’ fan in my adulthood. Sort of. Actually, I’m not exactly a fan myself, but my husband is a Steelers’ fan and my kids are Steelers’ fans, and during football season the mood in my house changes drastically in direct proportion to the wins and loses of the Steelers. For this reason, I have become a Steelers fan by default. My life is much easier when the Steelers win, and so I hope that they do. And along with the attention paid to the Steelers’ games week after week during NFL season I have noticed a pattern. A pattern of assumption if not a pattern of performance.
I’m talking about the ‘home field advantage.’ Home field advantage is a concept not only in the world of sports, but in just about every world. There is an assumption out there, a prediction, that if you are in a comfortable place, a place that you know, with your fans and people who love you all around, you are likely to perform better. Obviously, this does happen sometimes. If it never happened the phrase likely would not have been created. But, of course, it doesn’t happen every time. A lot of different factors make up a win, and having a healthy dose of supporters while being in a place that is familiar are only two of them. But, what is interesting to me right now, after the end of these seven world series games, is that in this particular year, in these particular games, not one win was by the home team. In these games, this year, everyone seemed to play better when they were ‘away.’ And this got me thinking.
As a Camp Director at an overnight camp, I’m always talking to parents and kids about the magic of being ‘away’; the power of expanding your comfort zone to include new places; and all of the potential rewards of being in a new and initially unfamiliar place. ‘Home field advantage’ is probably very real, and most people get to experience it every single day. We get used to certain places and we frequent them more; we have routines that we create and stick with; if we’re lucky, we make some good friends who live close by and we see them or talk with them often. But how inspiring it is to consider that sometimes we do our best when we are in a new place, when we are with new people, when our home is far away. Sometimes we do our best when we are allowed to take new risks and make new friends, without our history confronting us at every turn. How empowering it is to discover that we can find new fans and become comfortable in new places, and still be our very best selves. The world is big, and the ‘home field’ is very small in comparison. Expanding our comfort zones to include all of those ‘away fields’ might just bring us even more success, and certainly will result in more flexibility and resilience – two traits that are probably even more important than winning.
Leah Zigmond, EdD, is Director, Camp Daisy and Harry Stein.