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Respect & Rivalry: The Balance towards Athlete's Mental Well-being

Sporting rivalries are common in sports. Feelings of hatred, resentment and even disrespect are feelings we do not want to harbour all the time. These feelings, if persisted on a long-term basis, will affect the longevity of an athlete's career and affect their growth, both personally and professionally.

Sports, especially those involve contact like football, involve athletes who are emotionally stimulated. These stimulation often lead to some sledging, in-game banter and, most evidently, fouls.

Such testosterone-charged encounters are largely (bar those deemed cynical) accepted in-game, after all, "what happens in the pitch, stays on the pitch". At times, the atmosphere reached a red hot temperature and it progressed all the way down the tunnel. Most of the time, however, a set of players who were at each other's throats in the game, will probably be involve in hand-shaking and shirt-exchange upon the final whistle.

The value of respect has been strongly emphasized in the modern game. Well-being of players and coaches are given priority, which also covers cultural, emotional and mental aspects of the game. Modern day coaches are more evident in practicing positive coaching, where such behaviour is infectious towards the football team. An exemplary coach at the highest level is Jurgen Klopp. Blessed with a charismatic grin excellent utilization of choice of words and the now-famous bear hugs, he is perhaps the most visible coach in showing rivalry doesn't discount you from respecting the opponents.

Research has found that acknowledging and respecting rivals’ performances and achievements helps one’s own team in finding the motivation to do better and assists in more effective and practical goal-setting. It provides players a sense of appreciation for the other team's talent and capability. Rivalry doesn't mean hate or mocking the other team. In fact, such negative behaviours doesn't bring any good to the mental well-being of players in approaching games.

Many coaches and managers nowadays downplay the element of rivalry. Partly because the know an overly psyched-up player won't do any good in concentrating on executing the game plan. Showing too much emotion might not be the best thing and as per our observations of heated derbies among two teams, it might be a great show for the fans, but doesn't really do any good for players' well-being. Perhaps Mika Häkkinen described it best with his interpretation of respect and rivalry.

Race drivers need to have discipline. But, at the same time, you need to have respect for your rivals. When you put your racing helmet on, it is a tough fight. There is a certain respect, but you are on the edge every time. On taking the helmet off, some drivers show great respect for others — how they talk and behave — and these kind of people get far in their lives. This is the kind of message that should be taught and learnt from the sport. If I meet my friends, family — there is respect.

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