Everyone knows about sports violence. The question is what is being done about it? One clear example of the way the NBA is dealing with violence has become headline news in the last month.
In December of 1997 the NBA’s league commissioner David Stern suspended Golden State Warrior Latrell Sprewell for one year because of his attack on head coach P.J. Carlesimo. Sprewell also lost his $32 million contract with the Warriors and his shoe contract with Converse.
Actions that are being taken against professional athletes involving violent acts both on and off the court are becoming more prominent in recent years. Longer suspensions, higher fines, and now even the thought of being suspended for a year have become the ways in which leagues are dealing with their professional athletes.
Even though many players have had to pay the price of committing acts of violence, is this type of punishment really going to change things in the long run?
Athletes who hold the same opinion as Charles Barkley are the ones who make finding a solution difficult. “I don’t care if I get fined. I make $3 million. What’s a couple of thousand dollars?” Attitudes like this may soon be changing due to the actions that were taken against Latrell Sprewell.
What are other ways of reducing the number of incidents that involve violence in sport? The focus should be on the ways of counteracting aggression.
In reviewing the literature four main components that impact sport behavior and can create changes in the field were identified: management, media, coaches, and athletes. The solution to the problem of violence in sport is not a simple one.
It involves many components, but researchers’ recommendations proposed in the literature, and by The International Society of Sport Psychology, if implemented, can start the process of keeping violence out of sports or at least reduce the problem of violence and aggression in the athletic domain.
The International Society of Sport Psychology has made nine recommendations to reduce sports violence:
Recommendation 1: Management should make fundamental penalty revisions so the rule-violating behavior results in punishments that have greater punitive value than potential reinforcement.
Recommendation 2: Management must ensure proper coaching of teams, particularly at junior levels, which emphasizes a fair play code-of-conduct among all participants.
Recommendation 3: Management should ban the use of alcoholic beverages at sporting events.
Recommendation 4: Management must make sure facilities are adequate regarding catering and spacing needs and the provision of modern amenities.
Recommendation 5: The media must place in proper perspective the isolated incidents of aggression that occur in sport rather than make them “highlights.”
Recommendation 6: The media should promote a campaign to decrease violence and hostile aggression in sport which will also involve the participation and commitment of athletes, coaches, management, officials, and spectators.
Recommendation 7: Coaches, managers, athletes, media, officials, and authority figures should take part in workshops on aggression and violence to ensure they understand the topic of aggression, why it occurs, the cost of aggressive acts, and how aggressive behavior can be controlled.
Recommendation 8: Coaches, managers, officials, and the media should encourage athletes to engage in prosocial behavior and punish those who perform acts of hostility.
Recommendation 9: Athletes should take part in programs aimed at helping them reduce behavioral tendencies toward aggression. The tightening of rules, imposing of harsher penalties, and changing of reinforcement patterns are only part of the answer to inhibiting aggression in sport. Ultimately, the athlete must assume responsibility for his or her behavior.
By incorporating these ideas with the development of an athlete the focus can be on the skills that it takes to be successful without the use of violence. Outside of wartime, sports is the only setting where violence and aggression are not only tolerated but also encouraged and rewarded by members of the society.
In recent years violence in sport has become a social problem and should be treated as such. If Latrell Sprewell worked at any other job and had assaulted his boss, he would be in jail. Violence should not be tolerated in the NBA or any other setting.
How Can Sports Psychologists Help?
Results of psychological assessment and personality profile of athletes conducted by team sport psychologists can help coaches and management in the selection process and team building. Some personality types have more of a tendency to have impulsive, aggressive behaviors than others.
A recent study conducted by Dr. Cristina Versari, a sport psychologist and career consultant, demonstrated that the personality type of athletes can help predict players behavior and performance. Her study included professional basketball players, olympic, and high school athletes.
Involving sport psychologists in the area of sports violence would not only be beneficial to the athletes, but also to the players and management. Helping to predict behavior and implementing certain methods that would help with team building would have a positive impact on the entire organization.
About the Author:
Clair Alvies is currently attending The University For Humanistic Studies in Solana Beach, California and is in the process of completing requirements for a Ph.D. in Sports Psychology. She received her Bachelor’s from U.C.S.D. While attending U.C.S.D. she played on the intercollegiate softball team. Wanting to stay active in the sports scene, she coached the Varsity Softball Team at Clairemont High School last season.gellco outdoorshogvarts