Sport psychologists commonly see athletes who have been referred to them for anger problems. In some cases, their inability to control their angry behaviors has cost them penalty minutes and hurt the team. In other cases, the fury that they experience diminishes their ability to pay attention to what is happening on the field and make wise decisions quickly.
But anger doesn’t have to be only a problem. When harnessed effectively anger can be fuel, according to New Jersey sport psychologist Dr. Mitch Abrams.
In sports, ” there’s a fine line between dangerous anger and productive anger” that can be empowering, Abrams says. The key element in determining the difference is the ability to channel the direction of the anger.
You want to be guiding and allowing your anger instead of it controlling you. This takes practice and awareness.
Mindfulness*. The key element in this type of anger management is mindfulness. Knowing yourself and how close to your tipping point you are. Often this means that you have experienced going overboard several times so that you become more aware of where your tipping point is.
Abrams suggests that athletes pay attention to the type of thoughts they are experiencing. If they start to think about retribution and physical harm to an opponent, that is a sign that their rage has become detrimental to their ability to pay attention to the important elements of what is happening right now.
Being mindfully aware of your anger gives you the emotional distance that allows you to remember what you value most. And what you value most is performing your best under adversity and helping your team. This perspective helps you channel your fury into power when you are fatigued.
Harnessing your anger can bring you confidence as you pull yourself back over the brink of being out of control. If anger has been harming your sport performance, you will benefit from daily mindfulness practice.
*Mindfulness- the full awareness of your present moment experience. This ability, and attention control, is strengthened by daily mindfulness meditation practice.