It’s not uncommon to see an athlete or coach display an outburst of anger or frustration during or immediately after a competition. But when an athlete injures himself during such a display of raw emotion, it creates headlines.
The Associated Press recently wrote an article about how athletes exhibit their anger in dealing with frustration or undesireable outcomes. The topic was brought to light by New York Knicks’ Amare Stoudemire, who broke his hand when punching out the glass of a fire extinguisher as his way of dealing with a difficult loss following the game.
The article quoted several sport psychologists who offered their thoughts on why athletes exhibit that type of behavior, and whether or not that behavior is really much different than the actions of the general public. One expert interviewed was Jack Watson, co-editor of the forthcoming book Ethical Issues in Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology, who said athletes generally don’t deal well with losing.
“It actually affects their self-perception of who they are,” Watson was quoted as saying. “The anger is an expression of … extreme frustration, because the way they define themselves has been negatively influenced.”
While many people don’t resort to physical actions to express their anger or frustration, aggression has been ingrained in the heads of athletes of various sports, so it shouldn’t be shocking to see them act out in this way.
“Professional athletes have been trained their whole lives to be physical, to express themselves in physical ways,” said Watson, a professor of sport and exercise psychology at West Virginia University. “Being able to turn that switch off and being able to get back to what society expects of you, it’s probably difficult at times.”