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Sports Psychololgy And Violence Is Sports

Posted by: Dr. Granat on November 8, 2009

     I have written several articles on violence in sports and been interviewed about this topic my major media outlets on a number of occasions.

      This recent video caused me to think about it once again.

        It seems like the athlete and the school have done some of  the right things in this case.

Here is a copy of one of my articles on violence and sports and what can be done about it.


Why Do Some Athletes Snap?


      Last Saturday, I appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America.  A producer


asked me to comment on the the recent violent act in the Ranger vs. Islander hockey




    I have written on violence in sports in the past and I have been interviewed


by the British Broadcasting Company on this subject.  However, this most recent


act caused me think a bit more  about what causes this kind of vicious behavior and


what can be done to prevent it from happening again.


      I believe that some of the athletes who behave violently are people who


were raised in dysfunctional families where they were exposed to violence, cruelty,


substance abuse and chaos.  These kinds of environments do little to foster


the development of qualities like kindness and empathy.


      To make matters worse, some violent athletes are currently abusing drugs,


alcohol and/or steroids which can intensify their internal rage.


      Some of the violence can be attributed to the fact that many athletes have failed to


learn how to control their emotions because they have devoted so much of their time to


mastering their craft, which is their sport.  In short, they are physically quite talented, but


they are emotional quite undeveloped and quite immature.


       Many of the sports we love like football and hockey have a violent component to


them, and athletes are, in some instances, rewarded for being tough and very physical


competitors.  It is sometimes difficult to control one’s aggressiveness once some of it


is allowed, appreciated and rewarded.


        Top athletes are held in high regard in our society and sometimes get special


 treatment, special favors and special attention during  their formative years.  This


“special treatment” can give rise to a feeling of grandiosity which can lead some athletes


to feel as if they are “above the law” and not susceptible to punishment.  Consequently,


they have difficulty thinking about the consequences of their actions.


      Some athletes may suffer from one of several a psychiatric illnesses


 like intermittent explosive, oppositional defiant disorder, depression or narcissistic


personality disorder.  People with these kinds of illnesses can have trouble controlling


their rage and have difficulty being concerned about other people’s feelings.  Harming


others may not bother them the way it is apt to disturb most of us.  Players with these


kinds of conditions can be quite dangerous on and off the field.


        It is also important to remember that athletes are human and a violent act on


the playing field may be related to some frustration that they are experiencing in


another aspect of their life.  A conflict with a wife or lover can cause an athlete to


have a bad day at “their office” which is a court or a playing field. 


      Some athletes get fired up by crowds and the fans.  Like rock stars and entertainers,


some sports stars thrive on the attention and the adoration they get from large numbers of


people.  Top athletes may get caught up the fans’ enthusiasm and lose control of their


emotions and their behavior.


       Leagues can help to minimize violence in sports by having clear and strict


penalties for violent acts.  I have helped many athletes to manage by teaching them


anger management technique, meditation, visualization and self-hypnosis.  These


kinds of programs should be included in many organized sports programs.  And  it is


probably a good idea to start this kind of  training with young athletes while athletes


are in their formative years. 


     Athletes who demonstrate a pattern of violent behavior need to be evaluated and


referred for the  appropriate kind of mental health  counseling.  Some leagues may


resist these kind of interventions, but I believe these kinds of programs are essential if violence in sport is to be minimized.


Jay P. Granat, Ph.D. is a Psychotherapist and the Founder of

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