In sports, a certain degree of aggressiveness is vital. Don’t get me wrong, when I use the word aggressive I mean that fierce and tenacious spirit that builds true winners. It is the type of spirit that allows the athlete to fail and revitalize to succeed in the next attempt. It’s the kind of aggression that sees opportunities and seizes them to cling to victory over and over again. This kind of aggressiveness is, in my opinion, a hallmark of sportsmanship.
Unfortunately, however, a trend is emerging on and off the field that is worrisome. It is a type of aggressiveness that has turned into toxic anger. A simple minor league game can turn into a fight that ends in court or, worse, in the hospital. Words fly across the field that should never be said anywhere, especially not in front of children. Young players are unaware of the rights and physical well-being of their teammates, all for the sake of victory. Parents and coaches engage in fights and verbal exchanges that go beyond unacceptable behavior. Somehow this aggression has gone wrong.
There are many dangers in this emerging trend, but I will only address two. The first is related to the idea that you learn how we express anger. I have weekly encounters with people who fight anger. There is one thing that remains constant: people who struggle with anger in most cases have a parent or close relative who raised them and who also have an anger problem. This worries me because in sports, children who see their parents exhibit anger issues often mimic it and are more likely to display unhealthy anger and aggression on and off the field, leading to these children are labeled as a lack of sportsmanship or worst, exhibiting the kind of anger that affects their ability to cope with challenges at school and in the community.
The second danger is that anger is a secondary emotion and a signal. If these signs are ignored, the consequence is explosive anger that is often destructive. Parents and other bystanders who exhibit anger on a sports field often respond to feelings other than anger initially. They may feel emotions like fear, shame, or even jealousy. These emotions flood the mind letting us know that something went wrong and needs our attention. If not dealt with properly, they turn to anger. This anger then discharges onto others in a way that in some cases has been deadly.
People who exhibit inappropriate anger or aggression on or off the field need anger management. They need the kind of program that doesn’t eliminate that healthy aggression, but that teaches them ways to channel this aggression appropriately, which is so important in sport. Here are four tips that parents and guardians can use to reduce inappropriate anger at sporting events:
o Make sure your decision to enroll your child in sports is solely for your child’s development.
o Do not display behaviors that you would be embarrassed to see your child repeat
o Make sure the value assigned to the game is realistic.
o Be the best you can by interacting with parents who have children on gambling teams.