Mind Over Sports

Posts Tagged ‘Ray Rice

Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott has been suspended for six games and joins other NFL players who have also been suspended in the past for physically abusing their wives and girlfriends. This group includes Baltimore running back Ray Rice, Jets receiver Quincy Enunwa, and former Giants kicker Josh Brown.

Though I haven’t seen the research I would bet they all have a number of things in common: When they were growing up and began showing extraordinary talent, coaches looked the other way when they got into trouble rather than disciplining them. The result was they developed a feeling of entitlement. They seldom shared their emotions and problems with others preferring to keep them bottled up inside themselves. They seldom cried because they were taught at an early age that it’s not “manly” to cry. Later in life when these young men developed relationships with young women and became frustrated they were unable to control their emotions, resulting in physical abuse. And this is why the NFL often requires them to take courses in anger management.

I’m not sure what these courses involve but I’ve learned from experience when you put these young men in support group environments and allow them to talk about their personal issues and problems with their peers, it’s much more effective than one-on-one counseling. You diffuse their anger resulting in much healthier athletes, psychologically. The result is they are less likely to physically abuse their wives and girlfriends.

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Since 1986 I’ve been a Sport Psychology Consultant working with athletes and sports teams, most of them African-American, and I’ve found something that really is quite unique to that segment of our society.  That is, and this could be a cultural thing, many African-American parents actually encourage their male children to keep their feelings and emotions bottled up since it’s not “manly.”  In one instance, I even watched a mother discouraging her two year old son from crying and kept admonishing him for doing so.  Again, I could be wrong about this (that it’s cultural) and certainly there are many African-American parents who are loving and nurturing and encourage their male children to talk openly about their feelings and emotions, and these are the athletes I’ve found to be most well-adjusted and least likely to be involved in a domestic violence situation with a spouse.  Also, since some of these young men often make it to the NFL, I don’t understand why the NFL doesn’t require ALL teams to conduct group therapy sessions in the privacy of their own facilities allowing team members to openly discuss their personal problems (and feelings) with each other rather than keeping them bottled-up.  If they did, I think you would find the number of domestic violence cases in the NFL to be greatly diminished

When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged publicly that he had made a mistake in suspending Ray Rice for just two games for his involvement in a domestic violence case, he also announced that in the future, for a first domestic violence offense the suspension would be six months and for a second domestic violence offense, banishment from the league with the possibility of reinstatement after a year.

That’s great, but am I missing something? What type of “preventive measures” is he insisting NFL teams implement to head off potential domestic violence in the future? I’ve been advocating for years that that the NFL should require every team to create an internal support group system allowing players to share with each other problems they’re experiencing in their personal lives that could result in misdirected anger and how they interact with not only their wives or girlfriends, but also how they interact with their teammates. Many of these players have been taught at an early age not to talk about their feelings because it’s not macho and is a sign of weakness. That’s really too bad, but it’s never too late to be what you might have been. And here’s a secondary benefit: Once they let go of whatever issues they’re withholding and bottling-up, they’re going to feel better about themselves and their performance on the field with be enhanced considerably, not to mention the positive effect the sessions will have on team chemistry.

 


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