In most sports venting your anger while you?re playing isn?t a problem at all. In Ice Hockey, for example, you?re practically encouraged to send the puck flying down the goalie?s gullet, followed by an ice skate and a six-foot hockey stick for good measure.
Roy Keane has practically based his career on controlled and sometimes uncontrolled aggression ? just ask Alf Inge Haaland. However, the game of golf is a different matter: you get angry, you lose your edge. ?In golf, it?s you against the course and if anything else comes between that or clouds that in any way you?re more likely to have a bad round,? says sports psychologist Dr David Noonan, who has actually worked with a lot of PGA stars. You need to keep as focussed as possible from one shot to the next and an uncontrolled surge of anger can do as much damage to your game as Ian Woosnam?s caddy.
?To manage anger, you first have to understand it,? says Dr Charles Higham, an anger management consultant based in London. ?Anger is an emotional state that varies from a niggling annoyance to full blown rage.? Like other emotions, it is accompanied by physiological and biological changes; when you get angry, your heart rate and blood pressure go up, as do the levels of your energy hormones, adrenaline, and noradrenaline.
?Angry men on the golf course don?t just face behavioural dangers,? Higham continues, ?they also have a greater risk of heart disease, a byproduct of blood-pressure spikes, which thicken the artery walls and an excess of stress related hormones, leading to arterial plaque.? So whether you?ve found more sand than Lawrence of Arabia or the group in front are playing slower than Bruce Forsyth you can?t let the red mist descend or you will find yourself in a downward spiral of frustration, missed chances and ultimately ill health.
Embrace your anger
Anger isn?t all negative, of course. A shot of it can provide you with the necessary focus to get your game back on track or to shoot a personal best. Sports psychologists call this ?the law of the inverted U?. ?There is an optimal point of physiological arousal, where you get optimal performance, peak performance,? says psychologist Dr W Doyle Gentry, author of Anger-Free. ?If you?re below that, meaning you?re not fired up enough, you don?t perform well. You?re not motivated.
On the other hand, if you?re past peak in terms of physical arousal ? you?re so angry you can?t see straight ? and you?re also going to perform poorly. Good athletes have a way of staying in that optimal zone so that if they get angry, they can control it and focus on whatever they?re doing.?