Rethinking Aggression and Violence in Sport

By John H. Kerr | Go to book overview
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In considering aspects of sport, one almost inevitably goes back to one's own experience. My experience of aggression and violence in sport began with my involvement in rugby. I started to play rugby when I was 11 years old, after making the transition from primary to grammar school. Although we participated in a variety of sports and physical activities at my primary school, the main sport was football (soccer) and the school had a team, made up of pupils in their final year, which played against other school teams. Compared with my contemporaries, I was singularly unskilled at soccer and ended up as goal keeper in the 'B' team. Even though the 'A' team keeper eventually became an international player, mine was a truly ignominious position. With my move to the grammar school, however, came the chance to play rugby union. As a beginner, I knew little about rugby, but learned quickly in the practices and games, where I could use my large body size and strength to advantage. Here was a game where I could be successful and enjoy the experience. I stuck at it, became more skilled and continued my involvement in the game for a further 40 years, initially as a player and subsequently as a coach.

Like many young people who become involved in sport, my single most important reason for playing rugby was enjoyment. In my early rugby days, I enjoyed the thrills of running with the ball in my hands and chasing and tackling opposing players. I enjoyed the physical contact and competitiveness at scrums and lineouts and the aggression and determination required to drive, hit and knock over opponents in loose play. Later, at higher levels, in addition to the pleasures mentioned above, I enjoyed both pitting my skills against individual opponents and being part of a successful team, with the camaraderie and banter that goes along with it. I enjoyed the satisfaction of being able to survive in a game of intense physicality and violent contact, where being aggressive was a necessary component for survival. Often, the better the opponents and the tougher and harder the match, the more I enjoyed it. There was an immense satisfaction from knowing that you had played well under challenging conditions.

My experience is by no means unique. There are many athletes who have played or are currently playing rugby and other games like American football, Aussie Rules football, ice hockey and perhaps soccer who have, or have had, similar experiences. The purpose of these reminiscences is to get across the fact


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