The Angry Athlete

December 28, 2015

 You can watch any sporting event on the tube and see a particular athlete that is a little different than the others. I am not specifically talking about the star athlete. It could be the athlete that seems to have their motor running at a different speed, the athlete that appears frantic, angry, and relentless and looks like a loose cannon. I’ll be watching a football game and wonder why a guy on one team seems to be adding extra zealous physical maneuvers on another player when the play doesn’t call for it. Why is this guy playing like his pants are on fire?  What is driving this nutbag? Is he trying to rack up penalty yards or is he one of those players that is trying to make a statement?

Most of us have seen this person on the court, playing field, diamond, rink and playground. I remember the kid that threw the dodge ball harder and sometimes aimed to malign and hurt the other kids. Was he a just a bully with social issues? or was he just a kid with superior strength that didn’t have the common sense yet to control his emotions? As you play more team sports and even one on one sports, you will come across these athletes that are bringing their personalities and emotions to the game and as a teammate or opponent you better know how to deal with these people. 

While playing in a church league softball game, I saw an overtly emotional player meltdown in front of everybody on the diamond and stands. He was the opponent’s best player and he very vocal as a player. This was a church league were such behavior is supposed to be held in check as we play with glory. His competitive fire, as we call it, was pushed to a limit because our team was winning and he couldn’t will his team to victory. He was told to leave the game, but not before he cursed us all and had to be restrained. I saw him a year later and was allowed to play again, but not before he apologized to everybody. He turned out to be so embarrassed by his behavior that we became a new person, the person he really wanted to be.

Many of the top athletes in any sports are the stoic and a cool as a cucumber type who have mastered their emotions and manifest their internal engine into better performance. Of course, that is not going to be everybody but somewhere down the line every great athlete knows when to turn down the emotion and turn up the focus. Their focus and attention to detail is what will separate them from the competition. You also will not see an overtly emotional player who is performing in a groove or mental zone. When you are playing in higher consciousness, the thinking and reacting is not part of your reactions, and you are performing at your peak.

When you come across the manic player on the field, you can antagonize them more or try to use it against them. They will either foul you or do something that is detrimental to their teams’ performance. You can use a martial art approach of letting them over use their energy to make forced mistakes.  In hockey each team has their own enforcer whose main job is to neutralize another team’s emotional fortitude. In baseball, some pitchers will throw inside pitchers to intimidate another player who deemed a “bad guy.” Lastly, the team that can find ways to gain emotional and physical superiority usually wins and sometimes it isn’t clean and pretty. Not all emotion is bad and it can motivate teams and players but it not a long-term playing strategy, sooner or later the cooler heads will prevail.