All quiet on the free throw line

Roaring cheers from the crowd filled the Win Mumby gymnasium during the Win Mumby Tournament that spanned from Nov. 8-11. As students and staff cheered their hearts out for the home team, they all suddenly became quiet when players, from both Woodstock and outside Woodstock, shot their free-throws.

For Tenzin Yugyel Norbu, Class of 2019, this silence impacted him negatively while he was shooting his free-throws. He said, “It makes you more nervous and nerve-wracking.” He made zero out the two free throws he took. He also talked about how it would be much better if the crowd was at their normal volume.

Norbu was not the only who found the silence intimidating; Jay Yunas, Class of 2018, said, “Honestly, I find the silence of the crowd kind of scary.” He compares this silence to that of silence during free-throws in NBA games, a non-existent concept. Yunas made both free throws he took, making his free throw accuracy equivalent to 100 percent.

On the contrary to Yunas’ and Norbu’s views, Remay Pemba, Class of 2020, said, “When it’s quiet, you can focus better. You can focus on your free throw, take your time, and not feel pressured by the loud crowd.”

Another group of basketball players found that whether or not there was silence, it didn’t really affect their performance. One of these players was Karma Dhonden, Class of 2019, who said, “The silence really doesn’t affect me, it’s the same whether it is loud or quiet.” Dhonden made nine out of the nineteen free throws he took, making his free throw accuracy equivalent to 47 percent. When asked about whether being silent or loud was better, he said, “I think the silence worse when the full crowd is quiet because you get nervous.”

Agreeing with Dhonden was his teammate, Parth Parikh, Class of 2018 and most-valuable-player of the Win Mumby tournament, who said, ”I don’t really hear anything on the court– even when there is music playing and chants going on.” Parikh made 31 out of the 39 free throws he took, making his free throw equivalent to 79 percent. He also talked about how a player should be concentrated to the point where he or she can no longer hear anything on the court.

Mr. Jeffery Doerfler, Dean of Student Life and boys basketball coach, agreed with Parikh and said, “I taught him that.”

There were also those that believed that consistency from the crowd was the key to the better free-throw performance of the players. Ruke Ogan, Class of 2019, expands on this idea and said, “I think that the silence is better. Either works for me, as long as it is consistent. It’s really disturbing when it’s silent and someone suddenly coughs.”

From the girl’s team, Pavani Ganju, Class of 2018, agreed with Ogan and said, “I think mentally, my first few free throws, the silence unnerved me because I was feeling so much pressure from the crowd. It was suddenly silent — it was a little uncomfortable but then I got used to it.” When asked about whether Ganju preferred the silence, she said, “It is better to be silent during free-throws but not too silent. The sudden change of atmosphere, from loud to quiet, affects the shooter.”

The tradition of being silent on free-throws is a habit that is advocated by Mr. Ajay Mark, Head of Sports and Student Life Coordinator. He said that there was silence on free throws for both of the teams and that “it shows good sportsmanship.” Mr. Mark talked about how if everyone is silent, the player shooting the free-throw has more time to collect their thoughts and concentrate, therefore improving their accuracy when shooting. He said, “Woodstock should be proud because this is the only tournament where there is silence during free-throws.”

Ultimately, the impact of the silence present during free-throws is subjective to the shooter. Mr. Steve Luukkonen, P.E teacher and girls basketball coach, when asked about the impact of the silence on his players, said, “I don’t know, it’s hard to say. Sometimes the silence helps, but sometimes all that noise distracts them from the pressure of the shot. So it’s kind of fifty-fifty.”

Reporter’s note: This article was edited to implement free throw statistics received on Nov. 21.

Ryan Bajaj, sports editor, contributed to this article.

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Photo by Faisal Qadir

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