I am sure we are all familiar with coaches, players and parents who get angry. This emotion is often difficult to predict, as many times softball anger will occur depending on the importance of the game, the score of the game, the umpire calls and who the opponents are among other things. What we do not consider is that it is something that we all experience at some time and that it even acts as a defense tool when we are threatened in some way.
Some believe that anger is an emotion that simply displays passion for the game and shows that the coach really cares about the team and what happens during the game which I do not disagree with. The other conclusion is that it is just part of their DNA. That may also be true but I do not believe, that how we treat people during the expression of that anger is part of DNA but more a part of someone’s character.
Some believe that people that show anger should not attempt to control that anger because it can have negative mental and physical effects on the individual that is attempting to control it. Not only that, but if it is held in for too long, the angry person may eventually experience explosive anger which can be dangerous in so many ways. On the other side of that, uncontrolled anger is the least predictable and more likely to contribute to poor health, in addition to a team environment of unsureness and either walking on eggshells or possibly a total disregard for the coach. Some think that anger can be controlled and even prevented. This is not true. If it was true, we probably would not see anger the way we do.
Anger also creates a heightened level of arousal which can have a negative effect on awareness and the ability to focus on productive decision making. I watched a coach at the Mary Nutter Classic tournament who was so angry about a call at home that he missed the better dispute in the safe that was called out at third base. Had he calmly asked the base umpire to collaborate with the home plate umpire on the call at third base, he may have had a safe runner at third rather than an angry umpire and an out at third. My guess is that because the coach was not able to convince the plate umpire to change his call at the plate, he remained frustrated for the remainder of the game.
So how does anger relate to softball and how can it affect performance? Some coaches believe that by getting angry at the players, they are making them tougher. I have heard of and seen both. In the case with the coach who was angry at the umpire, two things could possibly happen, either the athletes might have gotten angry along with him, or depending on their history, they may have been nervous waiting for the anger to turn on them. Either way, unless the team has developed mental training strategies, the players could be distracted by the anger and unable to remain in the zone for the rest of the game.
The athletes that get angry at the umpire with the coach, often have parents and fans who join in on the heckling with the umpire. This environment takes the focus away from the task at hand and in some cases can create an umpire bias where the close calls will go against the angry team. This can happen any time the umpires has been approached with anger or they think they have been shown up and even more likely if the umpire is inexperienced. Fans will many times continue to call out the umpire for the duration of the game. It is interesting to sit in the stands in the middle of a such a game. The team that has the coach who might turn the anger on them in the form of comments and frustration, is likely not enjoying the game and is waiting for the coach to make a comment or to tell them to get their head in the game.
Constructive Use Of Softball Anger
I am not saying that no one can be angry. It is not a bad thing for an angry coach, player or fan to express that anger as long as it is not made personal towards the person they are angry with. Destructive language such as name calling and sarcasm or physical abuse are not productive and can create a new form of emotional stress. The angry person should use words to describe their anger. If a coach is upset with the team, telling them that they are disappointed or annoyed with the behavior that occurred is appropriate. The players will understand that and be able to put it in context.
If the coach can tell the person or team why they are angry, it will be more productive than simply acting out because then there is a direction for a solution. This does take practice and it does take some control. Role Playing is a great way to practice this. We don’t often think of how a player can get angry and what they do with their anger. It is an emotion that needs to be considered as any other.
Anger can not be eliminated however there are ways to manage anger that will allow the person to maintain their passion without having any negative effects as a result.
Dealing with an angry person
- make eye contact
- lets the person know that you are attentive and listening
- stop what you are doing and give your full attention
- let them know you take them seriously
- speak in a calm voice and be relaxed
- helps to decrease the emotional intensity of the situation
- be open and honest
- work with the individual to resolve the issue that is important to them and prevent frustration
- let the person have his/her say
- The person may just want to be heard and taken seriously
- ask for specific examples of what the person is upset about
- be clear about what the exact situation is and get clarification
- be careful to define the problem
- you both need to clearly understand what created the anger
- ask open ended questions
- why, how, what and where are good questions to find out exactly what the situation is to better understand and bring actions if required or closure if needed.