Violence in many sports has had a strong presence in the media for quite some time. Brawls in baseball games and players and fans acting in disorderly manners in sporting arenas are quite commonplace today.
Because I am a psychotherapist who has worked with many athletes and parents of athletes with anger management issues, I would like to outline several strategies for ending the alarming behaviors we see all too often in and around athletic contests.
Players, coaches and managers at all levels of competition should be required to shake hands at the start and end of each contest.
This simple gesture will remind athletes that they are competing against fellow human beings during the heat of battle. Furthermore, this simple act will promote sportsmanship and set a good example for young athletes and their parents.
Second, leagues should have clear rules outlining punishments for various offenses in a clear and succinct manner. This will help athletes to have an awareness of the consequences of their actions.
Similarly, penalties for fans who misbehave should be posted and announced prior to all sporting events. Stating these guidelines clearly will help make athletes and fans accountable for their actions.
Some of the violence we see is related to drugs, alcohol and gambling. The roles of alcohol abuse, substance abuse and compulsive gambling and their connections to violent behavior need to be studied more carefully by psychologists, psychiatrists, social psychologists and sociologists.
Many athletes have long histories of being rewarded for being aggressive. If one has been rewarded for being aggressive, it is sometimes hard to shut down your aggressiveness when you lose your temper.
Consequently, there are a number of kinds of trainings which could help athletes to get a better handle on managing mtheir thoughts, feelings and actions. These courses could include training in meditation, self-hypnosis, conflict resolution, communication skills, sportsmanship and spirituality.
Moreover, this kind of training should begin when the athletes are age six or seven. It is never to early to teach the importance of treating others with kindness, respect and dignity.
It has been said many times that the microcosm of sports mirror the problems the macrocosm of society. There is a likelihood that the violence that we find on the news, in video games, on the roads, in movies, and on televison does have an impact on our values, behaviors and attitudes.
My own view is that certain people imitate what they see, while others do not. Perhaps, in time, we can identify who is at risk for modeling this behavior and who is not.
It has also been known for some time that people from violent families with a history of alcohol and substance abuse are at at greater risk for behaving in a violent manner than are people who come from families without these disorders. Coaches, parents and league officials need to be aware of this fact and monitor athletes whom are at risk and intervene before an incident occurs.
Last, parents, educators, coaches, owners, union representatives, mental health professionals and law enforcement personnel need to work together to build a more sensitive world in which we value competition, but also cherish the importance of the feelings of our fellow human beings.
Last, we need to remember that, “Nothing is so strong as gentleness.”
Jay P. Granat, Ph.D., is a Psychotherapist in Fort Lee, NJ. He lives in River Vale, NJ
with his wife and two children. Jay writes extensively on psychology, self-help, communicatios and sports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.