It’s the Rage

by on Oct.23, 2012, under Children's Health

Have you ever overreacted to something that happened at a sporting event? Maybe an umpire called your son out at a Little League baseball game, and you were sure he made it to home plate ahead of the ball. If you ran onto the field screaming and cursing at the umpire, you exhibited a growing phenomenon called sport rage.

Sport rage is an angry, aggressive response that is out of proportion to the situation, explained Robert Schleser, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Illinois Institute of Technology. Rage responses can occur in any situation or sport. Its probably just as likely to happen on a tennis court as on the football field.

Why sport rage has become more prevalent — just as road rage has — is hard to determine. Dr. Schleser suspected that there are many contributing factors. “Aggressiveness is valued in sports, and the line between good aggressive play and sport rage is hard to define,” he noted. He pointed to the availability of role models engaging in angry, aggressive behavior with little or no consequences as a reason for more and more people acting out in this manner.

Because children view athletes and adults as role models, Dr. Schleser contended children who witness sport rage will be more likely to engage in the same behavior. We need to reestablish the point of sports, he said. Emphasize playing well and fairly, and to have respect for the sport and its officials. Most importantly, we need to remember that its a game. Kids should be taught that their self-worth is not dependent on winning a Pee Wee league soccer game.

Dr. Darrell J. Burnett, a clinical/sport psychologist and volunteer youth league coach, offered these tips to kids in an effort to foster sportsmanship:

If you make a mistake, don’t pout or make excuses. Learn from it, and be ready to continue to play.
If a teammate makes a mistake, offer encouragement, not criticism.
If you win, don’t rub it in.
If you lose, don’t make excuses
I abide by the rules of the game.
I try to avoid arguments.
Dr. Burnett also provides this checklist:

Sportsmanship Checklist for Kids (and Adults!)

I share in the responsibilities of the team.
I give everyone a chance to play according to the rules.
I always play fair.
I follow the directions of the coach.
I respect the other team’s effort.
I offer encouragement to my teammates.
I accept the judgment calls of the game officials.
I end the game smoothly.

To help deal with sport rage and deter future episodes, Dr. Schleser advised that punishment should be swift, strong, and inevitable. For instance, if a football player punches an opponent for blocking his kick, he should be benched for the rest of the game. It should never be tolerated, he said.

We need to keep in mind, however, that sport is about physical competition. Tempers do flare, and thats normal, added Dr. Schleser. But rage is a disproportionate response. Officials should be taught the difference.

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