Sports, along with nearly all facets of life, have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Basketball Association quickly adopted a unique method to finish the 2019–2020 regular season and playoffs. The entire league quarantined for months in what was known as the “NBA bubble” where games were played in spectator-less arenas. During this time, increases in shooting accuracy were reported, suggesting that free throws and field goals were made at record-breaking levels. This study examined differences in free throw shooting accuracy with and without spectators. Archival data were retrieved and analyzed to evaluate the potential differences. Free throw shooting accuracy with and without spectators were examined in multiple analyses. Our examination revealed free throw percentages were significantly greater in spectator-less arenas compared with the 2018 and 2019 seasons with spectators. Changes of the environmental characteristics, due to spectator-less arenas, were likely contributors to the improved free throw phenomenon reported in this study.
No Fans, No Problem: An Investigation of Audience Effects on Shooting Performance in Professional Basketball
Logan T. Markwell, Andrew J. Strick, and Jared M. Porter
The Effects of Spectators on National Basketball Association Free Throw Performance
Logan T. Markwell, Harjiv Singh, Andrew J. Strick, and Jared M. Porter
Free throw shooting percentage has averaged around 75% for nearly five decades. However, free throw percentages significantly increased to 79% during the 2020 spectator-less National Basketball Association season. The current study investigated if the elevated free throw shooting percentage observed during the spectator-less season has returned to the 50-year average now that spectators have returned to National Basketball Association arenas. Moreover, home and away free throw percentages were examined to determine if a potential home-field advantage contributed to this phenomenon. Analyses revealed that the free throw shooting percentage from the spectator-less season was significantly higher than the two spectator-filled seasons preceding and following the spectator-less season. Furthermore, the analyses found no differences in free throw percentages between home and away games. While the free throw shooting percentage increased to 79% during the spectator-less season, the free throw shooting percentage returned to the 50-year average (i.e., ∼75%), following the spectator-less season. Additionally, it does not appear that a perceived home-field advantage influenced the increased free throw performance observed in the spectator-less season. Multiple factors likely contributed to this free throw phenomenon, including the environmental characteristics shaped by the lack of spectators.
Virtual Motivation: The Psychological and Transfer of Learning Effects of Immersive Virtual Reality Practice
Logan T. Markwell, Joei R. Velten, Julie A. Partridge, and Jared M. Porter
Previous research has shown practice within an immersive virtual reality (VR) environment improves performance in a physical environment. Increased user motivation is one possible advantage of practicing in VR. One recent study showed that an enriched gaming environment led to higher levels of engagement, resulting in a direct learning benefit. The purpose of this study was to compare the intrinsic motivation, engagement, and transfer of learning between VR practice and physical practice of the same motor skill. Participants (n = 61) were randomly assigned to a physical (n = 30) or a VR practice group (n = 31) in which they performed a golf putting task. Analyses showed VR practice led to a significantly greater increase in average intrinsic motivation inventory score than physical practice. Analyses for performance showed there was a significant (p < .001) improvement in accuracy (i.e., radial error) from pre- to posttest, but the two groups did not differ. Overall, these results partially support our hypotheses suggesting that VR practice led to a greater increase in motivation compared with physical practice. Additionally, these results suggest that VR practice was similarly effective at improving accuracy compared with physical practice. Future research directions are discussed.