Aggressive or hostile behavior is often seen everywhere on or off the playground. Different people have different definitions of aggressive behavior.
To simply put it, aggressive behavior is any behavior (injury or gesture) intended to injure an opponent physically or psychologically, or to say something that is intended to be disliked or avoided.
Aggression is often referred to as firmness (Assertive Behavior) because it has an importance on the playground. In sports, this aggressive behavior has both positive and negative effects. Many people dislike aggressive attitude in sports but some psychologists claim that an aggressive attitude helps to increase skills of the players. To understand the need for aggressive behavior in the game, we first need to know when a player behaves aggressively and why he does it.
Psychologists have come up with a number of theories as to the cause of any person’s aggressive behavior, not just players. The most popular theory related to sports is Frustration Aggression Theory. According to this theory, a person becomes aggressive when there is an obstacle in the way of his success. For example, when a bowler fails to get a batsman out on the field of cricket, he often throws the ball (body line) at him with the intention of injuring him and sending him to the dressing room. We know of the infamous series in the history of cricket called the Body Line Series.
Another theory is Instinct Theory. According to this theory, two types of instincts are active in humans. Life or creative instincts- ‘Eros‘, and death or destructive instincts -‘Thanatos‘.
According to Sigmund Freud, the proponent of this theory, the aggressive behavior of human beings is in fact a manifestation of his second instincts (Thanatos). He said that people usually express their instincts through socially acceptable work. Being physical on the field or Contact Sports is actually an expression of the destructive instinct of human behaviour.
Some theorists (Social Learning Theory of Bandura) argue that aggressive behavior is not innate or instinctive, rather it is related to a person’s education. Interaction of family and friends, the environment in which we grow up, our life experiences shape our personality. Depending on the type of our personality, we behave or react to our life situations.
The motivation for success on the playground, as well as the type of reaction to defeat, dictates how aggressive the behavior of a player will be. How others (teammates, captains, coaches, etc.) encourage or discourage aggressive behavior also affects immensely a player’s behavior.
In many cases, the overall situation of the game can also provoke aggressive behavior. For example: how long the game is being played, how much time is left to play, the opponent’s score, the response of the audiences, the bias behaviour of umpires etc.
As stated earlier, his personal characteristics also play an important role. Such as: the concept of ethics, the sense of humanity, and the level of his self-conceit or ego. How logical it is to hit the opponent, the differences in the idea of justice. As a result, even if a behavior is considered aggressive by others, the player concerned may not feel sorry for it.
An example is the case of Zidane- Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final. Materazzi provoked Zidane by using abusive language. In response to that, Zidane lost his control and physically hit Materazzi. For which Zidane was punished later. Here, the interesting point is that Materazzi did not regret at all his behavior in this incident, in fact, he saw it as a strategy. It is common for successful and senior players to be aggressive with relatively new players to affect them psychologically.
Now let’s come to the main question, is it really necessary to be aggressive on the playground?
There is a fine line between aggressive behavior and firm behavior on the playground. As a result, it is difficult for spectators and game managers to determine which behavior is aggressive and which is firm, just as it is difficult for players to control their behavior on the field. The subtle difference makes it almost impossible to maintain with the thrill on the game field.
In all games, players or spectators all root for victory for themselves or their team. If the competition in the game is shallow, then that game loses its appeal. If the goal is to win the game at any stake, then aggression is inevitable.
Aggressive behaviors on the playground are of two types. One is called Hostile Aggression and the other is called Strategic or Instrumental Aggression.
The first type of offensive behavior is intended to hit or injure an opponent. Behind this behavior is the personal anger, resentment or revenge of the individual or player.
Strategic or Instrumental Aggression:
The purpose of instrumental behavior is to achieve the goal by defeating the opponent. For example, when a footballer tackles an opponent for possession of the ball or when a fast bowler throws a bouncer just to catch the batsman unprepared.
Studies have shown that experienced and skilled players are more likely to use tactical offensive behavior for success and less use Hostile Aggression behavior. Experienced players are able to control themselves even during aggressive behavior. As a result, they do not violate the fine line between aggression and determination.
Strategic Instrumental Aggression is a good way to bring out the innate spirit of the sport and make the match enjoyable for all.
On the other hand, if the goal of aggression is to physically hit or humiliate the opponent, it is certainly disgraceful. But, if the attitude of the team is to win at any cost, aggressive behavior on the field is the inevitable consequence, there is no doubt on that.
It is important to train players to adapt to different types of stress in order to prevent aggressive behavior on the playing field. There is also a need to try to alleviate unexpected, unwanted, excessive stress (which is often the case nowadays, thanks to our supportive media).
Remember, the match is actually just a game and the playground is not a battlefield. The main purpose of the game is to build bridges of harmony between people, to establish acquaintances and relationships among nations, not to spread hatred.
The intention of the game is to build the body, acquire leadership qualities, discipline and respect for the law. Above all, to be strong in physical and mental health and to play a strong role in the formation and development of the nation.
Dr. Nasir Uddin AhmedPsychiatrist, National Institute of Mental Health, Dhaka.