Do Cheerleaders Improve Performance of Teams?
Across amateur and professional football leagues in the country, cheerleaders can often be seen on the side of the field, cheering, motivating, and encouraging their respective team. A staple in the world of football, all but seven NFL teams have a dedicated cheerleading squad amongst their roster of personnel.
And while cheerleaders within the NFL and in the collegiate game have become a staple, to what extent do cheerleaders actually improve the performance of their respective team? That is, do cheerleaders improve the performance of teams?
And while there have not been any clinical studies done on the effects of cheerleading on a player motivation and psychology, there are a number of datasets that we can look at to glean just whether or not cheerleading can help to improve a teams chances at success on the field.
What Do NFL Cheerleaders Do?
A cheerleading squad can be found on all NFL teams, save for seven. These seven are the Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Green Bay Packers, New York Giants, Los Angeles Chargers and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
And while the Green Bay Packers do not have an official cheering squad, they do utilize a collegiate squad to cheer for them at their home games.
However, for the 25 teams that do have a cheerleading squad, the cheerleaders will not attend away games to support their respective team. Rather, cheerleaders are expected to represent, cheer, and motivate their respective team only at their home stadium.
And at their home games, cheerleaders are expected to motivate, cheer, and entertain both the players on the field and the spectators and fans in the stands. Through a variety of choreographed dances, moves, and cheers, cheerleaders help to get the crowd more involved in the game and can indirectly help to influence the game via the NFL’s 12th man theory.
What is the 12th Man Theory in Football?
The 12th man theory is an interesting theory utilized within an eleven-a-side game. The theory posits that the so-called 12th man, being the fans in the stadium, can help to impact the performance of the team playing at home.
Via vocal support, cheers and chants, and distracting noises when the opposing team controls possession of the football, the fans can look to disrupt, confuse, and cause disorder within the teams planned plays and execution of those plays.
Conversely, the 12th man or the fans in the stadium, will remain quieter while their home team has possession of the football, allowing them to properly execute against a given play or system and breaking into loud cheers and applause when a play has been successfully executed.
The 12th man theory is particularly important in a football game and within the NFL due to the larger stadium sizes. As compared to NBA, NHL, and MLB stadiums, NFL stadiums can typically reach multiple tens-of-thousands, with the AT&T Stadium of the Dallas Cowboys and the MetLife Stadium of both the New York Giants and Jets being able to accommodate 100,000 and 82,500 fans respectively.
The United Center, the home of the NBA’s Chicago Bulls and the largest NBA stadium, on the contrary, is only capable of seating a maximum of 20,917 fans.
With an NFL stadium being able to house effectively 5-times the amount of fans as an NBA game, the influence of the fans in the stadium is much more noticeable and has a much greater effect on the home team.
Do NFL Cheerleaders Affect the Outcome of the Game?
While it is difficult to quantify just whether or not an NFL teams cheerleading squad has a direct impact on the outcome of the game, it is a bit easier to quantify the affects on the motivation and energy the cheerleaders provide to the fans in the stadium.
That is, while an NFL player on the field may not pay much mind to the happenings by the cheering squad, they will hear the roars, yells, and spiritedness of the fans in the stands.
The cheers of the fans, typically bellowing throughout the entirety of the stadium, can help a home team to feel more motivated, confident, and assured in their own abilities and can help them to overcome their opponent.
In fact, looking at the data, from 2002 to 2018, home teams won at least 56 percent of the time during all but two seasons and in three seasons won at least 60 percent.1 And while there appears to be a slight decrease in an NFL teams home game advantages, the COVID-19 pandemic provides some real world data that can be used to better understand if home field advantage actually does exist in the NFL.
In that the pandemic prohibited fans from attending games, the idea of a home game advantage essentially disappeared for the length of the season. And during that season, road teams won 49.3% of games, their highest rate since at least 2001.
Before the pandemic? Road teams were averaging win rates just a hair shy below 43% at 42.9%.
And in that cheerleaders have a direct impact on the liveliness, spiritedness, and excitement of fans in the stadium, their influence is essential to helping an NFL team ensure that home field advantage.
That is, the cheerleaders for an NFL team can have a direct impact on the so-called 12th man and by incentivizing the 12th man to cheer, yell, bellow, and motivate the players on the field, they are able to have a far greater influence on the game then is otherwise afforded to them.
Will NFL Teams Do Away With Cheerleaders?
An often cited concern surrounding the use of cheerleaders within the NFL is that the practice is sexist, objectifies women, is exploitative, and leads to harassment on and off the field. And while we agree with many of those claims, we don’t see the NFL or any further NFL teams removing their cheerleading squads.
Rather, and we support, an increase in cheerleaders pay, with many cheerleaders being paid a salary that equates to one less than the national minimum wage.
Similarly, we hope that the NFL and its franchise teams will begin to allow their cheerleading squads to wear less revealing and objectifying clothes. To effectively do their job, cheerleaders do not need to be wearing such exploitative clothings and can be taken more seriously be being dressed in more appropriate clothing.