Sports Aggression: What’s Good, What’s Bad?
When it comes to sports aggression there are subtle — yet very important — differences between what sport psychologists view as healthy and appropriate versus unnecessary, potentially dangerous aggression. Please read the following examples of sports aggression and determine what you think is healthy versus unhealthy aggression:
- A hockey player punches an opponent after the play has been whistled dead
- A basketball player boxes out hard while going for a rebound
- A wrestler drives an opponent hard to the mat in an attempt to get a pin
- A football player deliberately “chop blocks” an opponent
The four scenarios above all share one constant in that they were aggressive acts, but they also differ in one very important way – the intention behind the act. Instrumental aggression in sports occurs during the normal course of on-field action and is designed solely for individual/team success. In the examples above, the basketball player and wrestler would be good examples — in each case the individual is using aggression within the confines of the rules and only so that he may help his success on the court/mat. Hostile aggression, however, is the type of aggression used solely to harm an opponent — as in the cases of the hockey and football players described above. Punching a player after the play and chop blocking an opponent on the field are examples of dangerous acts with the intention to harm and intimidate, with both leading to penalties and sometimes even suspensions.
There is a fine line between appropriate and inappropriate aggression in sports, making this an important topic for parents, coaches, and student athletes to fully understand. A big part of sportsmanship is playing by the rules and ensuring the safety of all athletes, making the lessons on sports aggression that much more important for everyone involved.
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