How to Teach Football Players to Control The Violence

The NFL must provide education to football players before the violence starts.

Posted Sep 22, 2014

Football is America’s favorite pastime. There is no debating the television ratings, the enormous salaries and the glorified lives of football players in the media. There is also no debating the atrocities committed in recent weeks by football players against their alleged loved ones, members of their families that they assaulted in acts of violence. Despite the graphic images of this violence spilled throughout the internet, the ratings climb and fans go wild.

 It is time for the NFL and football leaders everywhere to use these heinous events as teachable moments and memories of a football culture once past, and instead commit to a football culture that will not tolerate off-field player violence, period.

 The NFL’s historical slap on the wrist response and desire to portray the violence as a bad character problem is outdated, irresponsible and unethical. The bad character is not a single football player, it’s the game itself. NFL leadership must decide to face the truth and admit that the violence that is worshiped and encouraged during a football game does not stop at the end of the game because players don’t know how to stop it.

 I, for one, believe the problem of off-field violence goes beyond the simplistic view that these players are just bad people. These players have been conditioned by their football masters to play their games so well that they can’t distinguish between playtime and reality. Of course, all of this is also confounded by the many concussions that most NFL footballs players have had in their football career, altering their brain chemistry and making them more susceptible to impulsive, violent behavior.

 The NFL must make right on all that is wrong and put the well being of the players and their families before the game and insist on non-violent off-field behavior. They need to commit to a zero-tolerance policy of off-field violent behavior. Additionally, they must provide education, support and training for football players before the violence occurs.

 As a psychologist, I firmly believe this can be accomplished if football leadership is motivated to accomplish it. Cognitive behavioral brain training is one component of what is required. Dads, coaches and all other adults involved need to consistently repeat before, during and after practices and games the following:

“You will not be violent in any way towards any person unless you are playing in an official football game.” And players can then repeat the mantra, “I will not be violent, by hitting, punching, pushing, or showing aggression, in any setting except during a football game and if I do, I do not have the moral character to wear this uniform and play this game.”

 Children are concrete thinkers and training them young in absolute terms may help solve the problem of off-field violence. If children learn when they are young in explicit terms that off-field violence is not tolerated, they may very well act accordingly for the duration.

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