This is an excerpt from Focused for Rugby by Adam Nicholls & Jon Callard.
What Is Anger?
Anger is an emotion that signifies a feeling of displeasure, which usually comes from fear (Hymans, 2009). Like all emotions, anger occurs for specific reasons. You can get angry toward other people when you think that they have committed a demeaning offence against you, whether that person is an opponent tackling you illegally off the ball, a coach not selecting you for a team, or a parent criticising your performance. Anger stems from the harm that the person has caused you or has the potential to cause you. You will probably also blame the person. For instance, you may currently be a club player who wants to represent your region. But if your coach does not pick you in your favoured position, he or she is harming your chances of playing at a higher level. Therefore, both harm and blame are present, so you could feel some anger.
Will You Still Be the Same Player if You Learn to Control Your Anger?
Commentators and coaches are perpetuating a myth when they say things such as, “If you take the anger out of the player, he will not be the same player.” We do not believe this. As we said at the start of this chapter, anger can be used positively if it is controlled. Consider a player who focuses on seeking revenge against other players. This player’s attention will be diverted from playing rugby, and he or she could spend time being sin-binned and suspended. If this player learned to direct his or her anger and the energy thus generated purely toward playing rugby, he or she would not be distracted by thoughts of gaining revenge on other players and would spend more time on the pitch. Would this make the player poorer? We don’t think so.
ABCs of Anger
Anger has an antecedent or a cause. Think about the settings or scenarios in which you have become angry and have reacted with angry behaviour. In particular, focus on the events that occurred immediately before your behaviour occurred. Anger can influence our behaviour. As with all behaviours, consequences come with angry behaviour, which can be seen by viewing table 10.1 on page 124.
Write down the ABCs of your anger in table 10.2 on page 125. Think of the times when you have been angry. List the antecedents, your behaviour, and finally the consequences of your behaviour.
To control your anger, you need to understand the phases that occur in an angry episode. Arnett (1987) suggested that anger includes five phases, which are outlined in figure 10.1 on page 125.
Phase 1: Antecedents The situation that you are engaged in starts stirring your emotions, leading to negative thoughts and feelings. A situation that provokes your feelings could be an opponent who breaks the rules.
Phase 2: Escalation During the escalation phase your body is preparing physically for a fight-or-flight response. Because of evolution, when we feel threatened we are programmed either to fight what is happening or to run away, which is referred to as flight. Either way, the response is an adrenalin surge within your body; your muscles become tense, and your breathing may increase.
Phase 3: Crisis During the crisis phase you are not able to make any rational judgements about what you are doing or are going to do, nor do you have any empathy for those around you.
Phase 4: Recovery Your anger begins to diminish in the recovery phase. Physiologically, your body is starting to return to normal. Your adrenalin level is going down, your muscles are relaxing, and your breathing is becoming slower. But you are also primed to get angry if another incident occurs.
Phase 5: Restoration You are much calmer in this phase and may start to reflect on your behaviour. In particular, you may even start feeling guilty for what you have done.
Read more from Focused for Rugby by Adam Nicholls, Jon Callard.