When reading an article recently, I came across two areas of codependency that stuck out. One is the idea of being in a “toxic relationship.” The other was the idea that when someone is codependent, they struggle to have fun and let go. This is somewhat easy to see in addiction and mental health, but sometimes more difficult in everyday life, or even in sports.
It isn’t uncommon for teams to enable players due to their talent. Some forms of enabling include repeatedly bailing people out of trouble, rescuing, avoiding the problem and trying to “fix” or control others. These are hallmarks of codependent behavior, and they are justified in sports based on talent, and the need to win at all costs. The idea of having fun and letting go isn’t in the equation, even though playing sports, both on an individual and team level, is meant to be about fun.
When teaching sports to children and working with sports performance, it is important to remember that the reason we play is to have fun and learn how to interact with others. There are other things to learn, some depending on the sport, and while a goal is to win, it isn’t THE goal. Granted, there is a difference between teaching a child a sport and playing in the NFL for example. Even colleges are willing to spend 50 million dollars just for a head coach. There is money involved, and as that money grows, enabling behavior continues to grow as well. Lost in that equation is the person that is being enabled.
Recent example of Josh Gordon highlight the difficulties that come with continuously enabling behaviors. Gordon was already suspended a majority of the season due to multiple failures of the NFL drug policy. The enabling starts with fans suggesting that there is a problem with the drug policy, or making excuses for the behavior (like marijuana is a harmless drug). The main purpose, outside of possibly justifying their own behaviors, is to get that player back on the field so the team can have a better chance to win. Is this helpful to Gordon? Doesn’t look that way. He was suspended for the final game of this season after missing a walkthrough, possibly costing him unrestricted free agent status.
Both of these players are talented and undoubtedly helpful to their team when on the field. The problem is that there is a pattern of behavior that is consistent and will ultimately be detrimental to these men, both now and down the road. The “toxic” relationship exists within the team as well. Not knowing if they will be available to play based on what they may do next has its own consequences. None of this sounds very fun.
The long term fear with addiction and enabling behavior, is that if the hard line is taken now, the player may bail and the team will not get the benefit of their services. It sounds like that is happening anyways, which usually does when the behavior is not addressed. This can be approached differently, addressing the behavior while showing support. Continuously giving chances doesn’t work without offering help to change that behavior. If a person refuses to accept that help, then moving on and letting go is the only option. While it seems strange, that has a better chance of helping in the long run, both for the team and the individual.