Sporting passion or aggression, the choice is yours.
People who really find their passion in life are very fortunate. Those who make a living from their passion are even better off and as the saying goes, if you can get paid for doing what you love, you will never work a day in your life.
When it comes to sport, if you want to succeed, enthusiasm is essential but when passion turns into aggression, it can be detrimental to not only your performance but also your mental health.
Olympic cyclist Laura Trott has been very vocal about how her love for the sport and success at the 2012 Olympics resulted in more mental strain than happiness. “I feel under much more pressure since London 2012,” she explained, “that pressure came not from the outside world but from myself.” Luckily, Laura was able to identify that her passion was hurting her, but sadly for many athletes, this isn’t the case.
When winning is the only option, it’s easy to become obsessed, with athletes becoming fully immersed to the extent that sport becomes their entire identity. Last year a study was published revealing that obsessively passionate athletes are more likely to engage in high levels of aggressive behaviour. Due to the competitive nature of the sport, when an athlete is posed with the threat of losing it becomes a threat to their entire identity and their natural response is to reject others and move into a blame culture (lash out).
Picture this: you’ve been training day-in, day-out for many years and as a professional footballer, it’s your time to shine. You have a penalty shot, but you miss in-front of an entire stadium of devoted fans who all blame you for their team losing. Combine this with the sky-high salary that you are being paid to help the team win and it’s a recipe for disaster. Coming from all angles, the level of pressure that professional athletes have to deal with is immense and it seems as though everything, personal self-worth, reputation and livelihood, is at stake. It is not difficult to imagine how the frustration of missing a goal and losing the game, could quickly transform into aggression. Physical activity can be a great outlet for anger, but it shouldn’t be the cause of it.
Being dedicated to sport is absolutely fine, but it’s important to be mindful of our passions and make sure that we can channel them correctly in order to be successful and happy in what we do. We need to remember that we’re only human and that not everyone can win all of the time, and to not let that anger detract from why we play the sport in the first place. Like Laura Trott, we need to recognise when the pressure is too much and aim to eliminate any negative emotions that could result in aggressive behaviour through techniques such as meditation and mindfulness. It is essential to remind ourselves that wins and losses don’t define us, just because you might have lost once, it does not mean that you’re not good enough. Also, it is equally important to be mindful of other teammates and competitors; everyone is under pressure to be the best so try to understand rather than find fault.
In the modern world there is so much emphasis on being the best, but what really matters is that you have tried your best. We work with Tigers Trust, associated Hull City Football club and England Athletics to help children and adults realise that the key to sporting success is having a positive outlook and determination. Natural abilities + passion + skill results in being the best. Promoting these values relieves the burden of constantly being expected to win for athletes, and helps them to look at their sport from a healthier perspective. Your passion should bring you joy, not make you aggressive.