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The De-escalation Of The Football Player (2013)

One evening some of my teammates and I were out celebrating a big win and as usual we were getting the majority of the attention from the female patrons in at- tendance at the club we were patronizing. Unbeknownst to us we had the misfortune of too much attention. There were some regular guys or shall I say non- football players there that did not particularly care for the attention we were getting. Eventually the jealousy of those gentlemen got the best of them and we were approached or as we interpreted we were challenged. In our minds this was nothing more than an overtime period from the football game that we had just played and what possibly could have been settled in an amicable manner turned into a melee with the end result not being a good look for “the other guys”. Everything that we were taught to do on the field instantly felt right to do in the club. We had no problem asserting ourselves.

Statistically speaking the number of incidents involving acts of aggression with football players support the idea that the time has come for change to insure that the character of the game and its competitors is not irreparably tarnished. Collision is the name of the game. If a football player is trained to collide and be the tough guy how can a football player easily assimilate into co-existing with the common person daily? What can a player use to substitute the aggression he is forced to have to survive the game? How can a player easily conform? Simply put some can’t. In order to control the tension that lies within a football player appropriate offseason anger control/intervention skills have to be developed. NFL arrests are up 75% this offseason as compared to last offseason. There have been 47 arrests since the end of the regular season as opposed to 9 during the regular season. In the time since the Super Bowl was played the NFL has had 30 plus arrest as opposed to the other three major sports having a combined 8 arrests (it should be duly noted that two of the other three major sports were in season during this time). With these numbers growing yearly professional football is in desperate need of a fix.

De-escalating is a reduction process that’s put in place to remove tension. Tension can be one of the underlying causes for the amount of arrests for NFL foot- ball players. A football game can be described in two words, aggravated mayhem. The description of a football player is a fearless gladiator willing to sacrifice his body for the greater good of the team, of the organization, of the city it represents and for the game itself.

It seems that daily during the offseason the supposedly downtime for a football player we read about an NFL player getting arrested for various charges i.e. destruction, assault with the intent to harm, disturbing the peace, domestic violence and/or resisting arrest. If you were to take any of the aforementioned offenses and relegate it to the football field a player is taught to cause destruction. A player is taught to assault the opponent. A player is taught to be a disturbance in reference to what the opponent is trying to do. A player is taught to resist the opponent’s attempt at success by enforcing their will upon them. With that being said, is the player really to blame for the acts of aggression that we see that lead to the many offseason arrest? Are the players that are caught under the influence, a product of self-medication, something many do during the sea- son for maintenance purposes and to survive?

Often we hear the term that football is 90% mental 10% physical. Well what happens to that mental capacity once the game is over? What happens to that mentality of aggression when what it’s been trained to do at such an intense rate is not withstanding? What happens when that mentality is not commonplace? What happens when there is no way to exert the physical aspect of what a particular athlete has been trained to do when confronted? What happens when a football player is challenged outside of the game? Is it feasible to think that a football player will ever back down? We didn’t.

Football players are trained to display aggression with intent, understanding that if they don’t they are at risk of serious bodily harm as well as being jobless. Could that same aggressive mentality be the source of the outburst that continue to be displayed and that plagues the NFL during the offseason? As mentioned earlier there is a stark difference between the arrest rates amongst NFL players during the season as opposed to during the off-season. Why you ask? Where does a player go to release that energy?

De-escalating isn’t an option during the season. An escalated player tends to be a good player that’s ready to play. What does not occur is the de-escalation of the football player after the game is over. What does not occur is the de-escalation of the football player after the season has concluded. Is this what leads to NFL football players having incidents of destruction whether it be of property or character? Should players be obligated to spend part of their down time getting instruction on how to differentiate the or is that asking too much? To protect the shield should owners overlook a players desire to separate themselves from the game and make it a requirement and/or add an addendum to each players con- tract that states that they attend a certain amount of tantric sessions as a methodology of self control.

Would this bring about a positive affect on the players ability to disassociate themselves from the role of gladiators during the off-season? Would this assist a player with displaying an increase in their ability to assimilate to commonplace calm and communicate effectively without assuming everything is just another challenge and/or opportunity to exert themselves and display their toughness? Could this have prevented my teammates and I from exerting ourselves that evening? Would we have looked at those individuals as just some guys as opposed to challenging competitors? There is an aspect of mental health involved in the string of arrest that we see with athletes as the number of offseason arrests continues to grow, but there has not been a parallel in the amount of programmatic solutions put in place to address this issue. Simple suspensions and monetary fines don’t address the prob- lem, now is the time to create a solution. Seventy five percent of a NFL football player’s year is that of a warrior, that of an aggressor, that of a physical respon- der. Professional football is not only a job anymore it has become a lifestyle.

Speaking with Dr. Darius Cooper, Ph.D., NCC, LPC on this topic he talks about the process that occurs stating that individuals players may fail to connect their activities to victimization thereby continuing to place them in the same situations and engage in the same behaviors that facilitated, provoked or precipitated their earlier victimization and possible future victimization. Meaning that some individuals may have some tendency to act as if long-term negative consequences don’t exist.

Dr. Cooper has put a plan in place with curriculum that stresses goals to focus on highest risk variables related to victimization and ways to avoid and or prevent those situations. His theory to be taught within this curriculum would include the routine activities theory, self-control, control balance theory, situated transaction and the cycle of violence. This program would be delivered in various methods such as workshops, lectures or seminar settings. PowerPoint and psychodrama plays would also be used to give football players an awareness of how situations are escalating and ways to escape those situations immediately. Additionally in Victimology, 5th edition written by Doerner & Lab it is stated that: Routine activities refer to the fact that individuals may place themselves at risk of victimization by their everyday activities. Mobility, suitable target, lack of guardianship and the increased motivation of offenders has allowed for greater levels of theft. One example is warm months draw people out, gatherings such as social events or clubs, the use of alcohol, the code of silence in certain envi- ronments and the fact that athletes themselves are suitable targets can be fac- tors in victimization. What this means is that our choices to where to go, what to do, and how to process influence the chances of becoming a victim indicating that the cycle of violence consist of three distinct stages: (1) the tension-building phase, (2) the battering episode and, (3) the reconciliation period. Understanding what variables are related to each phase has taught individuals how to prevent the entrance of these phases and ways to defuse these stages once entered. However it is crucial to defuse the situation in stage one because usually in stage two, violence has already occurred. Dr. Cooper’s program would consist of milestones to conclude with a reduction in on and off the field issues regarding professional athletes. Second, this program should raise awareness regarding culturally sensitive issues. Third, this program would work towards increasing healthier relationships for athletes and their social network. These networks would be inclusive in such a way that they would serve as a protective fabric that reduces the athletes from participating in on- and off- the-field issues. Furthermore, this program, because of its cultural and network issues, would promote athletes toward becoming more responsible in their com- munities. Finally, this program should reflect what positive and healthy athletes should strive for, which is in line with the organization’s overall reputation.


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