The difference between anger and competitiveness in sports

While you certainly can’t get far in athletics without a healthy passion for the game, sometimes the line between performance-enhancing enthusiasm and inappropriate anger becomes blurred. In recent posts, we’ve talked about a few professional players – from soccer to baseball – who have had to face consequences for their rage-driven outbursts.

How can you tell whether your frustration over an incomplete pass or tackle is indicative of a greater anger management issue or just a sign of your dedication?

Dr. Mitch Abrams, a psychologist who specializes in clinical, sport and forensic consulting, touched on this issue in his book, “Anger Management in Sport.” According to Dr. Abrams, it often comes down to instrumental aggression versus reactive aggression.

“Instrumental aggression is goal-directed aggression in which harm to another is not the primary goal, although it can be a secondary result of the action,” wrote Abrams. “Reactive aggression, by comparison, is behavior that has as its primary and sometimes solitary goal to do harm to someone,” and is “usually in response to a perceived injustice.”

Think about all the times you’ve ever gotten angry on the field. Have you ever lashed out at a teammate or opposing player because you felt they’d wronged you? Or do you use that aggression and adrenaline as fuel for your performance? It’s ok to get worked up over the course of a game, but how you release that energy makes all the difference.

If you often find yourself getting into altercations when you play sports, it could be a sign that you need anger management classes. Our Web-based programs have been developed to help you identify your triggers and respond to difficult situations without resorting to abuse or intimidation. Not sure if online anger management courses are for you? Browse through our program offerings or check out our testimonials page.

Carlos Todd PhD LCMHC

Dr. Carlos Todd PhD LCMHC specializes in anger management, family conflict resolution, marital and premarital conflict resolution. His extensive knowledge in the field of anger management may enable you to use his tested methods to deal with your anger issues.


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