• Michael Patterson

Anger. Is it bad?

As a rugby player you will face causes of anger and cannot entirely avoid situations that make you angry. You cannot assume anger is good or bad. It should not really be classified as one or the other because it can be both.

Anger can be useful and you would not want to live your life without any anger at all as odd as that seems. Anger is energy so it can help motivate you to try harder in a match or training session but ONLY if you are able to control it and not let it control you.

Anger and aggression go side by side and some will say that athletes in contact sports like rugby need both to succeed but I disagree. What is needed is controlled anger along with assertive behaviour. Assertive behaviour better fits with the energy coming from anger whereas aggression is more closely related and aligned with uncontrolled anger.

Assertion – relating to sport is playing with controlled emotion while keeping within the rules of the game. It has 4 main criteria:

  1. It is goal directed.

  2. It is not intended to harm or injure anyone or anything.

  3. It uses legitmate force.

  4. It does not break the rules of the game.

"I just lost it. I lost complete control for a few seconds and did not even think about getting sent off and letting my teammates down because they would have to play with only 14 players for the last 10 minutes. All I cared about was getting revenge on that player for what he had done to me. – Pro Rugby Player"

Consequences come with uncontrolled angry behaviour. To control your anger you need to understand the cycle you go through.

  1. Cause – something stirs your emotions leading to negative thoughts and feelings.

  2. Escalation – your body physically reacts, your muscles tense and breathing speeds up and you can feel a burst of energy called adrenaline.

  3. Crisis – you don’t really think clearly, you aren’t able to make good decisions or judgements about what you are doing or going to do. You don’t seem to care about the consequences.

  4. Recovery – your body starts to return to normal and the anger diminishes.

  5. Restoration – you become much calmer and may start to think about what you have done. Guilt may set in if you have done something outside the rules or unethical.

How Do You Manage Your Anger?

When you start to feel angry, instead of thinking about the cause of those feelings, thing about how you are going to channel that extra energy. For example: perhaps your opponent made a late tackle on you which you weren’t expecting and you took a bit of a knock hitting the ground. Instead of thinking about taking revenge and risking being given a penalty or yellow card, focus your thoughts on making your next tackle a big and clean tackle – using that energy to benefit your team. Get your revenge on the scoreboard, not in the sin bin.

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