Passion has long been considered a prerequisite for elite athletes. Most coaches will tell you that passion is the key characteristic that separates a great athlete from an elite athlete. An athlete can be great base solely upon the natural athletic ability, but the presence of an intense drive to succeed is what can make an athlete elite. Passion can even make an average athlete a good athlete. I’m an athlete that was fortunate enough to play Division 1 football and even sign a couple of professional football contracts. I wouldn’t however say that I was an elite or even great athlete. I had slightly above average athletic ability and it was my passion that made me a very good athlete. It is important however to know the definition of passion. Passion as defined by Wikipedia is “strong and barely controllable emotion.” A close look at the definition of passion suggests that passion can work for you or against you. Uncontrolled passion can lead to disaster.
I didn’t get a chance to watch the game, but I saw highlights of Antonio Brown of the Pittsburg Steelers getting very upset on the sideline of this past Sunday’s game. He was shown throwing a water cooler and later on aggressively pulling away from one of the Pittsburgh Steelers coaches. Brown was reportedly upset over not being thrown the football when he was obviously wide open. When questioned about his outburst, Brown said, “I’m passionate about the game . . .” I’m not disputing that Brown is passionate, but at what point does your passion work against you and your team? Was Brown showing passion or was he having a temper tantrum? Temper tantrum as defined by Wikipedia is “an emotional outburst and a resistance to attempts at pacification and in some cases, hitting and other physically violent behavior.” I am in no way trying to accuse Antonio Brown of having a temper tantrum, but I want to point out how the characteristics of passion and temper tantrums closely resemble each other. A high school or collegiate athlete displaying that type of passion would probably face some type disciplinary action. It is therefore very important that we help our young athletes’ learn to control their passion and understand the difference between passion and a temper tantrum. It is okay and often times good to have great emotion for the game you play, but uncontrolled emotion has proved to be very detrimental to everyone involved. When emotion is high, reason is low. The inability to reason at a high level has never lead to good decisions.
We are at a day in age where many of our athletes’ continually get into trouble for off the field issues. Many of the mistakes they make are due to their inability to put their emotions aside and make reasonable decisions. It’s time we stop focusing so much on creating a passionate athlete and focus on creating a balanced athlete. A balanced athlete never allows his passion to cause him to make a decision that jeopardizes his purpose.