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CHAPTER 23. Aggression in Sport. Session Outline. What Is Aggression?. Causes of Aggression. Aggression in Sport: Special Considerations. Implications for Practice. What Is Aggression?. Aggression.

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Aggression in Sport


Session Outline

  • What Is Aggression?
  • Causes of Aggression
  • Aggression in Sport: Special Considerations
  • Implications for Practice

What Is Aggression?


“Any form of behavior directed toward the goal of harming or injuring another living being who is motivated to avoid such treatment” (Baron & Richardson, 1994)


Criteria for Aggression

  • Aggression is a behavior.
  • Aggression involves harm or injury.
  • Aggression is directed toward a living organism.
  • Aggression involves intent.

Types of Aggression

Hostile or reactive aggression

The primary goal is to inflict injury or psychological harm on another.

Instrumental aggression

This is aggression occurring in the quest of some nonaggressive goal.


Causes of Aggression

Instinct Theory

Individuals have an innate instinct to be aggressive, which builds up until it must be expressed (directly or via catharsis). [no support]


Causes of Aggression

Frustration-Aggression Theory

Frustration always causes aggression. [no support]


Causes of Aggression

Social Learning Theory

Aggression is learned through observing others (modeling) and then having similar behavior reinforced.[no support]


Causes of Aggression

Revised Frustration-Aggression Theory

Combines elements of the frustration-aggression theory with the social learning theory[support]


Causes of Aggression

Revised Frustration-Aggression Theory


Aggression in Sport

Special considerations

  • Spectator aggression is associated with
  • small-scale, on-the-field aggressive acts;
  • aroused conditions;
  • alcohol use;
  • younger, disadvantaged male spectators; and
  • (in some cases) fan enjoyment.

Aggression in Sport

Special considerations

  • Game reasoning and aggression
  • Many athletes view aggression as inappropriate in general but appropriate in the sport environment. This is called “bracketed morality.”

Aggression in Sport

Special considerations

  • Athletic performance and aggression
  • No clear pattern has been found, but professionals must decide if they value enhanced performance at the cost of increased aggression.

Aggression in Sport

Special considerations

  • Team moral atmosphere and aggression
  • Aggression in young athletes has been predicted by perceptions of teammates’ aggressive behavior in the same situation and the young athletes’ willingness to injure others at their coach’s request.
  • Team norms also contribute to the moral atmosphere that influences aggression in athletes.

Aggression in Sport

Special considerations

  • Sport-specific aggression determinants include athletes behaving aggressively because
  • someone has committed aggression against them,
  • they are highly ego oriented and have a low level of moral development,
  • they want to show how tough they are,
  • they see it as part of their role, and
  • they feel group pressures to be aggressive.

Implications for Practice

  • Recognize when aggression is most likely to occur—when individuals are frustrated and aroused, often because they
  • are losing,
  • perceive unfair officiating,
  • are embarrassed,
  • are physically in pain, or
  • are playing below capabilities.

Implications for Practice

  • Control aggression via stress or emotion management training.
  • Keep winning in perspective.
  • Distinguish between aggression and assertive or intense play.
  • Teach nonviolent conflict resolution skills.
  • Teach appropriate behavior.



Implications for Practice

Control spectator aggression.

1. Develop strict alcohol control policies.

2. Immediately penalize spectators for aggressive acts.

3. Hire officials who don’t tolerate aggression.

4. Inform coaches that aggression won’t be tolerated.

5. Work with media not to glorify aggressive acts.


ISSP Position Stand on Aggressionand Violence in Sport

Recommendation 1

  • Management should make fundamental penalty revisions so that 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, that emphasizes a fair-play code of conduct among participants.



ISSP Position Stand on Aggressionand Violence in Sport

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.



ISSP Position Stand on Aggressionand Violence in Sport

Recommendation 5

  • The media must place in proper perspective the isolated incidents of aggression that occur in sport, rather than making them “highlights.”

Recommendation 6

  • The media should promote a campaign to decrease violence and hostile aggression in sport, which should also involve the participa-tion and commitment of athletes, coaches, management, officials, and spectators.



ISSP Position Stand on Aggressionand Violence in Sport

Recommendation 7

  • Coaches, managers, athletes, media, officials, and authority figures (i.e., police) should take part in workshops on aggression and violence to ensure they understand the topic of aggres-sion, why it occurs, the cost of aggressive acts, and ways in which aggressive behavior can be controlled.



ISSP Position Stand on Aggressionand Violence in Sport

Recommendation 8

  • Coaches, managers, officials, and the media should encourage athletes to engage in prosocial behavior and should punish those who perform acts of hostility.



ISSP Position Stand on Aggressionand Violence in Sport

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 parts of the answer to inhibiting aggression in sport. Ultimately, the athlete must assume responsibility.