Aggression in Sports

Posted on: 10th May 2023


Required Text:


-          International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology: Aggression and violence in sport: Moving beyond the debate


-          Sanderson, C. A. (2017). Sport Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press / ISBN: 978-0-19-991744-0

Relevant Chapter: 8


Paper guideline

Paper guidelines


These papers are about 3 (minimum) or 4 pages in length, with standard one-inch margins, double-spaced with an 11- or 12-point font. The prompts are constructed specifically to promote a paper about this length. When writing, if all terms are described and supported, and/or personal examples and perspectives are integrated, the paper will approximate or exceed this length.  Papers consisting of a short paragraph with a few sentences generally lack substance and thoroughness for full credit. While going over two pages is acceptable (grades won't be marked down for it), aim for at least 3 pages in length. Note the minimum length does not include the title or reference pages.


In terms of formatting, APA style should be adhered to. For a student paper, there should be an APA style title page (abstract not needed) and headings (e.g., level 2) which break apart sections at logical spots. Assuming you use the book for most material, please cite it in APA style. If you use additional sources (articles, websites) those should be cited appropriately in text and on the reference page.

A helpful APA style resource is the OWL at Purdue University, which may be found at:



Discussion aggression in sport. First, define aggression and various types. How do you differentiate between some forms of aggression and what could otherwise be considered violence? Discuss situational factors associated with athlete aggression. Offer examples to help illustrate these points.

Thereafter, offer some personal perspectives: What is your opinion of aggression in sport?  Do aggression (or even violence) have a legitimate place in sport? Perhaps only certain sport(s)? With this information, can anything be done to reduce athletic aggression? Offer rationale and specific step(s)/solution(s).

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Aggression in Sports

Sports participation has many positive aspects for the sport's participants as players or spectators. On the other hand, athlete events are always associated with aggressive behavior. But then, what is aggression? Aggression is verbal or physical behavior that leads to self-assertion; it is frequently angry and destructive, and it is intended to be injurious, either physically or emotionally, and it is aimed at dominating one person over another (Sofia & Cruz, 2017). It may arise from innate drives and be a response to frustration. Overly violent and destructive conduct, subtle attitudes of antagonism and obstructionism, or healthy self-expression can all be signs of it. Aggression in sports is a characteristic that can have many positive and negative effects on performance. Most people consider aggression to be a negative psychological trait. However, some sports psychologists and coaches agree that aggression can be a factor in improving performance.

There are different types of aggression, namely: reactive-expressive, that is, verbal and physical aggression, reactive-expressive, and proactive relational aggression, which can break human relationships, for instance, by spreading malicious rumors. However, aggression in sports is differentiated into hostile aggression and instrumental aggression (Shachar et al., 2016).

Hostile aggression refers to actions motivated by anger intended solely to hurt someone. Thus, the perpetrator wants the victim to suffer from this form. For example, a soccer player may deliberately and illegally trip an opponent to hurt that person. This is unacceptable in most cases, and that's why, in such cases, the perpetrators may be banned from the sport for a certain period or removed from the game for some time before resuming. For example, when a bowler throws a bouncer to deliberately shake up the batsman's concentration, This is usually with the intent of injury.

Instrumental aggression is the display of negative behavior to achieve a planned result. This type of aggression has unique characteristics that differentiate it from hostile aggression. Intentional and planned out beforehand, goal-oriented, committed to causing harm (physical, social, or emotional), intended to place the aggressor in a favorable position and avoid failure or unfavorable consequences. To win the ball, a rugby player, for example, will employ aggression to tackle his opponent. The player's aggressiveness is aimed to retake possession of the ball, not to damage the opponent.

One could differentiate between the different forms of aggression. As for sports aggression, many people confuse and make mistakes between the different forms of sports aggression. Aggression can be visible in a crowd's reaction to on-field activity, and it can also be perceived as a natural component of the sport. Some sports need physical contact, and aggressiveness is unavoidable because it is a natural aspect of the game. Many sporting activities mistakenly categorized as hostility are not classified as such by commentators and forecasts. As a result, we can assume that the following examples are not considered aggressiveness based on the definition of hostility in sports:

·         A challenge that leads to unintentional injuries, such as a soccer player going into a 50/50 challenge.

·         After a bad shot, a furious tennis player vents his frustration on the racket by slamming it on the ground.

·          A form of destructive aggression aimed towards a specific item, such as a door.

·         Verbal abuse or instances where teammates act as a barrier where aggression is directed at a victim with no likelihood of physically damaging the opponent.

Situational Factors Associated with Athlete Aggression.

When an athlete's expectations for reinforcement for aggressive behavior are high (e.g., praise from parents, coaches, and peers), and the reward value outweighs the punishment value, aggression arises in sports (gaining a tactical or psychological advantage with a personal foul). Situational expectations, such as game time, crowd encouragement, and score position, influence athletes' decisions about when it is appropriate to be aggressive (Krishnaheni & Shahin, 2014).

Here are some of the factors deemed to have many sport-specific behaviors.;

·         The game's structure

·         Perception of the victim's motivation

·         Apprehension of retaliation

·         The temperature of the environment.

Structure of the Game

Several game-related variables highlight aggression in sports, and these include such;

            Point differential- as scores between two opposing teams increase, frustration build-up can lead to aggression.

            Home or away-it has been known, especially in soccer, that teams playing away have shown many tendencies of more aggression.

            Participation outcome- losing teams have shown significantly heightened aggression than their winning counterparts.

            Period of sporting play- aggressive behavior has increased in multi-period play sports.

Perception of the Victim's Intent.

            When an athlete perceives the opponent intends to cause harm or injury, they are more inclined to act aggressively towards their opponent. For example, in rugby, if the players perceive that the opponent intends to cause harm, their response will be potentially influenced by their level of aggression.

Fear of Retaliation.

            Fear of retaliation can prevent players from acting aggressively against an opponent out of fear and respect. Players are likely to engage in unsportworthy behavior if they get the same in return.

Environmental Temperature.

            According to research, it's been shown that environmental temperatures effects on performance are curvilinear, in that performance increases to an optimum point before a visible decrease in performance (Sofia & Cruz, 2017).

Opinion on Aggression in Sports.

            As much as some studies and researchers say that aggression improves performance in games, I think it is because they mistake aggression for assertiveness. For example, in contact games like rugby, assertiveness is shown in how the players make their presence known through physical and verbal approaches whose intent is not to cause harm to the opponents. As both instrumental and hostile aggressiveness are motivated by the desire to damage another player or human person, they should be discouraged at all levels of competition.

The legitimacy of Aggressiveness in Sports.

            In combat sports like judo, karate, wrestling, or team contact sports like rugby, aggressive and violent activities forbidden outside or in non-contact sports like basketball and cricket are legal. These sports are characterized by high levels of hostility and frequent violent physical contact, which may be tolerated by the game's rules and is not intended to cause injury. Outside of the game, however, the same aggressive behavior may be classified as criminal (Shachar. et al., 2016)

            However, excessive violence that is not in line with the game's competitive spirit is illegitimate and, in certain cases, illegal. There are some gray zones in some sports, such as rugby, where aggressiveness is considered a valid game aspect.

Steps to Control Aggression and Violence by Athletes.

As much as aggressiveness is legitimate in combat and contact games, high degrees of aggressiveness deemed to cause harm to the opponents are discouraged and termed as illegitimate actions (Fatma, Khan & Husain, 2017). Therefore, many steps are set forward to control aggressiveness and violence in sports. As we all know, violence in sports is ugly to both athletes and fans. The following steps must be taken:

·        Young athletes must be taught how to be forceful but not aggressive, and athletes who engage in aggressive behavior must be severely penalized, well beyond any game-based reinforcement.

·        Appropriate role play can help an athlete manage his or her rage.

·        In emotionally heated game situations, athletes should be rewarded for demonstrating restraint and tolerance.

·        Adequate counseling and rehabilitation can help aggressive athletes.

·        The organizers should create a welcoming mood that is more analogous to a family gathering.

·        The tolerance and patience of the coach or leader will reduce violent behavior in athletes.


Sofia, R., & Cruz, J. F. A. (2017). Unveiling anger and aggression in sports: The effects of type of sport, competitive category and success level. Revista de psicología del deporte26(2), 21-28.

Shachar, K., Ronen-Rosenbaum, T., Rosenbaum, M., Orkibi, H., & Hamama, L. (2016). Reducing child aggression through sports intervention: The role of self-control skills and emotions. Children and youth services review71, 241-249.

Krishnaveni, K., & Shahin, A. (2014). Aggression and its influence on sports performance. International Journal of Physical Education, Sports and Health1(2), 29-32.

Fatma, H., Khan, T. F., & Husain, M. (2017). Psychobiology of aggression in sports. Indian Journal of Health and Wellbeing8(7), 744-747.


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