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May 16th marked an important day in the sports world’s return to normalcy. The Bundesliga returned to its normal activities under probation. The first game went as expected, with teenage sensation Erling Haaland scoring the first goal in the league’s return. The players played their normal game, giving the world joy. However, an important element of the game was missing: an electric atmosphere.

As expected (and needed), fans were not allowed to enter the stadiums, raising many controversies from players as well as coaches. People are reacting in different ways, from being elated that sports are returning, to complaining about not being able to see their team play. However, what many people are not realizing is the psychological impact these new conditions will have on players. In the past few decades, many new studies have surfaced which explains how fans can positively and negatively affect a player’s mentality and the team as a whole.

In professional sports, being able to handle an away crowd is part of a player’s training. When traveling to an away game, players know that they will be jeered, leading to possible mental breakdowns or poor performance. In the NFL, crowds can reach deafening sounds, going beyond 130 decibels. The NFL even passed a rule to help control crowd noise, but that plan went down the hole after the crowds simply could not be handled.

In a 2011 Monday Night Football game between the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions, the fans made all the difference. The ecstatic noise of the fans, filled with their jeers, was too much for Bears’ players to handle. Former Lions player Lawrence Jackson remembers it as “the most energetic game that I’ve ever played in.” The coach awarded the game ball to the fans, for their outstanding help in winning.

In other sports such as soccer and basketball, the fans also play a huge role. For soccer, fans wear their team jerseys proudly and assemble themselves to form what is called a tifo, which is used to intimidate the opposition’s players. Dortmund’s “Yellow Wall” is one of the biggest soccer fan bases and playing there is a nightmare for away teams. As for basketball, crowds will wear funny costumes to do hilarious antics to distract a player.

From the first Games set in Olympia, Greece in 776 BC, to your everyday Sunday league soccer match, fans and spectators have always played a huge role in the game. But now, with the current situation in the world, it will be a long time before the proud tradition of fans being at games will resume.

Photo credits: Rick Schultz/Getty Images