Marriage and Divorce in the Sports Industry – Winning or Losing? Brian Morgan Liberty University CCOU 301 Christian Counseling for Marriage & Family Abstract This paper will examine the question: Marriage and divorce in the sports industry – winning or losing? More and more common are discussions of divorce and increased divorce rates in modern society. This has been and continues to be a focus of public attention and discussions in all mass media. As a serious social problem, divorces cause numerous effects on our social life, especially on a modern, younger generation.
No other category of society has the everyday influence on so many as does sports. Media coverage places athletes and coaches in a constant spotlight for all to see. Through various sources from various sports, this paper examines the following aspects of divorce in sports: who it affects, what makes athletes’ and coaches’ marriages different, and in what ways their marriages are like any others. Because of the high profile of sports personalities, a generation is being molded by their behaviors, both positively and negatively.
Marriage and Divorce in the Sports Industry –Winning or Losing? Obviously, the life of a professional athlete is a dream for many little boys and girls out there who think of spending the millions of dollars they will make, the type of expensive car they drive, how big their house will be, and of course what the man or woman of their dreams they settle down with will be like. The typical athlete enters the professional ranks at 20-years-old, and purchases the items listed above and then attempts to fulfill those initial material desires.
After finding themselves rich, young and desirable—all certainly attributes that lend themselves to tugging on a mate’s heartstrings—it’s only natural that wedding bells are the next progression as that rookie contract is running out and free agency looms like holy matrimony. With the final announcement of “I now pronounce you man and wife,” both parties seem unaware that an athlete or coach is married to his or her sport first and shares what’s left of life with his or her spouse. Who It Affects Has society finally reached the tipping point where divorce is more prevalent than successful marriage?
Unfortunately, it seems this has become the case with regard to professional athletes. Reports say a common estimate of the divorce rate for pro athletes ranges from 60-80 percent (Kreidler, 2010). Professional athletes Michael Jordan , Lance Armstrong, Dion Sanders, Tiger Woods, Andre Agassi , and Mike Tyson are not only linked by successful sports careers but also by failed marriages. Divorce among professional athletes is not limited to a single sport in particular, as those previously named represent basketball, cycling, boxing, golf, tennis, and baseball.
In addition, coaches aren’t immune to the same struggles in a study conducted by Charles Fisher, on the divorce rates among Divisions I, II, and III head basketball coaches, Fisher found that the average rate among coaches was 29% (Fisher, 2006). Additionally, these athletes serve as American icons and role models for the everyday citizen. All are also listed in Bleacher reports list of “The 100 Most Charismatic Athletes of All Time” posted on May 10, 2012 (Wood, 2012). Popularity leads to a fan following or a role model perspective and the sports business means many different things to different people.
Sports and their so called “superstars” stir up deep passions within spectators and players alike in many countries around the world. A reasonable estimate of the total U. S. sports market would be $400 to $435 billion yearly (Plunkett Research, 2012). Universities, it seems, have taken a more liberal stance on hiring coaches with past marital issues. According to a recent New York Times article, athletic directors make little to no distinction between hiring coaches who are single, married, or divorced.
The article goes on to compare West Virginia hiring in 2010 of head football coach Dan Holgorsen to the comment of former University of Miami and Dallas Cowboy head football coach Jimmy Johnson. West Virginia Athletic Director Oliver Luck said that in hiring his team’s new coach Holgorsen, who is divorced, marital status was not a factor. “To me it’s not really relevant,” Luck said. “If you’re ruling out people who are divorced or single, you’re ruling out the wide swath of the American male public. Contrast that to Johnson’s comments in 1992: “There are a lot of social functions to deal with in being a college coach, and I don’t have them anymore. It was good I was married then. ” (Thamel, 2010). Clearly, this picture of the stereotypical coach twenty years ago points out the changing trend in sports and the acceptance level of failed marriages. A consequence sometimes overlooked is the impact divorce has on the athlete’s performance. It is very difficult to perform at such a high level of competition when your mind is preoccupied. And if performance suffers, it will most likely have a negative effect on future contract negotiations.
One obvious illustration is that of recently divorced professional golfer Tiger Woods. Prior to the sex scandal of 2009, Woods was averaging one Professional Golfers Association win about every seven months. Following the scandal it took Tiger until May of 2012, nearly three years to gain his next victory. The trend with professional athletes is reflective of what society as a whole is beginning to experience. The daily pressures and factors in life can be less than ideal. The fallout from sports related divorces spans across the obvious to the subliminal. Not mentioning the effects that any divorce has on the children of the divorce.
Statistics indicate that children of divorced parents are four times more likely to report relational problems with peers and friends than children whose parents have kept their marriages intact (Tysse, 1993). So who does divorce in sports affect? By analyzing the data and looking at the trends, it is feasible to believe that it has the capability to affect a significant portion of our population. Often society’s views are molded and accepted based on the popularity of the championships won by athletes and coaches that are continually placed on media pedestals for examination and critiquing.
Similarities of Marriages in Sports to Other Marriages Athletes and coaches may live a rather unique lifestyle and those that are professionals even more of an out of the ordinary lifestyle but within these are real people. These real people experience the same emotions and thoughts as every other married couple. Every marriage experiences relationships issues pertaining to emotions, money and priorities. In his book “Why You Do the Things You Do,” Dr. Tim Clinton and Dr. Gary Sibcy point out that our emotions are what often color and shade our view of the world we live in.
These emotions then are what motivate and direct us toward a goal (Clinton, 2006). The harmful effects of negative emotions on relationships are somewhat obviously. However, while positive emotions can buffer negative emotions, the process by which positive emotions influence negative emotions in relationships is questionable. When goals are not seen in the same way emotional distance is created and it challenges a marriage because it creates a lack of intimacy and closeness. It doesn’t happen overnight. Rather, emotional distance creeps up on you over time, which makes it difficult to resolve.
Dr. Clinton and Dr. Sibcy list five triggers for emotional storms; Relationship, Disputes, Transition, Unresolved Greif, Loneliness and Negative Thinking (Clinton, 2006). All of these potential problems are common in all marriages. However transition and loneliness are more prevalent for possible issues in sports related marriages. In her book, “Mrs. Coach” Cathy Kronick details the numerous buying and selling of homes the transitions and especially the stress it added to the children as her husband, Dave Currey, moved from coast to coast with four different programs (Kronick, 2011).
The transitions that most married couples struggle with are unique and for sports couples the problem in transitioning is not just in the many moves but after retirement. Wives of retired coaches and athletes have to adjust to their husbands’ spending more time at home, that they missed team functions and community events and that they bore the brunt of the transition. Loneliness in marriage is a lethal virus which invades the relationship, in silence, slowly and without causing initial pain destroys many of God ordained unions.
In their article “Married and Lonely”, Dennis Rainey states, “I believe that isolation is Satan’s chief strategy for destroying marriage” (Rainey, 2012). In John 10:10 Jesus reminds us of the intentions of Satan. ” The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (Bible , NIV, 2002). Rainey goes on to add that one of the specific instances of loneliness occurs when there exists a feeling that your spouse isn’t hearing you and doesn’t understand (Rainey, 2012).
Compare that to the observation of Michael D and Ralph Sabock, in their book, “Coaching: A Realistic Perspective,” that coaches commonly make the mistake of assuming that everyone around them, including their family, shares their boundless enthusiasm for the sport they are coaching. Of course this is not the case (Sabock, 2011). Athletes and coaches often get so consumed in themselves, as do a lot of other professionals in the world, that they no longer validate their spouse’s significance in the marriage. As for wives, Dr.
Emerson Eggerich states in his book, Love and Respect: (Eggrichs, 2004) “God has made women so that they want to be esteemed. ” Continuing on he suggests that respect, honor and esteem are essential components of the love that is desired by a woman from a man (pg. 174). This is a multi-tier problem that usher into the equation another common marital problem in couples, different priorities. In Terry Owens book, Super Bowl Marriage, Owens compares this potential problem in marriage to that of the tactics of former all pro linebacker of the Chicago Bears, Brian Urlacher.
Urlacher meticulously studied his opponent and knew exactly what the characteristics of the opponent were. The book goes on to point out that in marriages the adversary is often under estimated (Owens, 2005). The adversary in most marriages when it comes to this area is not the outside world but rather a spouse’s own self centeredness and our own natural inclination to think of ourselves first. The Word of God addresses how a believer should act when it comes to this potential issue in Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. ” (Bible , NIV, 2002) Marriages that are influenced heavily by one or both spouses involved in sports as a profession obviously have unique struggles but also share with most marriages in the hurdles involved in making marriage successful. Although many couples divorce, there are as many, quite possibly more, who stay together and manage to make their marriage work despite many problems. What Makes Athletes and Coaches Marriages Different
The unusual trend is when sports related marriages succeed rather than fail and often fail multiple times. In so many ways the lives of athletes and coaches are so dramatically different from the perceived norm and the challenges in their marriages are also dramatically different. Mark Kreidler of ESPN writes in his article, Tiger Woods’ divorce? Part of the game, that “But most of these relationships among the elite — they aren’t normal. Why? Because these people aren’t normal” (Kreidler, 2010). Plato said, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. Athletics and the competitiveness that it demands can bring out the best and the worst of people and in their relationships as well. The most common causes of failed marriages for professional athletes involve an overall lifestyle not conducive to marriage. Constant traveling away from family, the stress associated with intense competition in the industry and an identity crisis sustained in post-playing days are just a sampling of the list of challenges. Stress is an underlining factor in most challenges athletes and coaches experience in their marriages.
Anyone having any exposure to sports as an industry can recognize the basic truth here: an athlete or coach’s life features long hours, hotels night after night, and a barrage of constant adrenalin. Most players don’t quit the sport because their marriage is in trouble. If anything, they throw themselves deeper into their profession, which of course makes the ultimate failure of the marriage more likely. This dangerous spiral spins the athlete or coach on a crash course for personal disaster in their career and marriage.
In addition the money, and the opportunity at this level to make it, can create more problems than advantages. Listed in Forbes magazine’s top 50 of the highest paid athletes are Tiger Woods #1, Kobe Bryant #2, Alex Rodriguez #8, and Jeff Gordon at #26 all divorced (Wood, 2012). USA Today reports the following average salaries of professional athletes, Major League Baseball 3. 32 million , National Basketball Association 5. 15 million, National Hockey League 2. 4 million and National Football League 1. 9 million (Wiles, 2012).
The average compensation for major college coaches in 2011 was $1. 47million (Fisher, 2006). Money then creates and fear syndrome. The husband, who in most cases is the pro athlete, lives in fear and the wife also lives in fear. Two people share a marriage, yet they’re both scared to death. His fears are that he could get hurt and never play again; never get the chance to be the No. 1 guy, like he’s always been, or earn the money he always expected to make. His fear is that one day, all this will be gone. The career, the cheers, the excitement and then what?
What can take the place of the adrenaline rush of running onto the field on opening day to thousands of screaming fans? What can take the place of the travel and the camaraderie? What will take the place of the salary? Her fears are similar. What if he gets hurt? How’s he going to treat me when he comes home after striking out three times and hearing the booing and the cursing? What if he doesn’t do well and his career ends right away? What will he do when his career is over? How will we adjust to living with each other every day, 365 ays a year, something we’ve never, ever done? How can I take the place of what’s eventually going to be taken away from him—his identity as a professional athlete? The same USA Today article reports that 78% of former NFL players either go bankrupt or experience severe financial distress. The statistics for NBA players aren’t much cheerier: 60% go bankrupt within five years of retirement (Wiles, 2012). Divorces involving athletes often occur soon after retirement, when their bank accounts are swollen but their paychecks have disappeared.
Dr. Eggrichs points us to the Biblical model of a husband having the desire to provide and placing a high value on it from Genesis 2:15,” The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. ” (Bible , NIV, 2002). As suggested by Dr. Eggrich that this is a natural desire of man that was instilled by God (Eggrichs, 2004). The stress related to this self imposed pressure naturally takes a tremendous toll of marriages. Another issue in marriages involving sports is the possibility of infidelity.
Although not unique to this situation as a recent statistic shows that 22% of men and 14% of women admit to having an extramarital affair (Divorce Statistics Info, 2012). The truth is that, for professional athletes, infidelity is often a part of the lifestyle, unfortunately it is routinely is overlooked or ignored by avid fans, and in most cases only reported in tabloids. The exception is when additional factors make it impossible to ignore. In the case of New York Yankee superstar Alex Rodriguez, where infidelity was a primary basis for the divorce, he was quoted that the marriage was “irretrievably broken,”.
However in the article goes on to claim Florida’s no-fault law on divorce cases then criticized his former wife stating it was “immaterial and impertinent” issues like his alleged “extra marital affairs and other marital misconduct” (Getty, 2008). In light of this scripture makes it clear of what the Lord thinks of infidelity and of what court really will have the final say in Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. (Bible , NIV, 2002). According to Terry Owens often in marriages giving up becomes the first option not the last resort. In most cases he suggests that spouses do not take the same approach in their marriages as they do in their professions as it pertains to giving up (Owens, 2005). How appropriate is that as it pertains to athletes and coaches. Dodger great coach Tommy Lasorda once said. “The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in not giving up” (Lasorda). Conclusion
Divorce takes a toll on all parties involved and often parties not directly involved as it pertains to the world of sports. Not only will both the husband and wife have to reconcile all the emotional and psychological aspects involved in this event, but they will have to come to terms with the negative financial consequences, media hype and often negative performance issues that follow. The trend with professional athletes and coaches is reflective of what society as a whole is beginning to experience. The daily pressures, factors and expectation from daily lifestyles can be demanding at best.
Taking the time to recognize there is a problem, and seek help to work through the problem should be a strategic plan in all marriages but especially in those that will obviously encounter elevated levels of stress and expectations. Marriages, no matter in what arena, need to be based on God’s original plan that was validated in the book of Matthew when Jesus said, “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate. ” Matthew 10:5-9 (Bible , NIV, 2002). Former NFL quarterback Joe Namath’s quote points toward an attitude not only in sports but in life and marriage a vital part of one’s life: “If you aren’t going all the way, why go at all? ” (Namath) Bibliography Badenhausen, K. (2012, June 18). forbes. com. Retrieved October 2, 2012, from Mayweather Tops List Of The World’s 100 Highest-Paid Athletes: http://www. forbes. com/sites/kurtbadenhausen/2012/06/18/mayweather-tops-list-of-the-worlds-100-highest-paid-athletes/ Bible , NIV. 2002). Nashville: Thomas Nelson. Clinton, D. T. (2006). Why You Do the Things You Do. Nashville: Thomas Nelson. Divorce Statistics Info. (2012, May 12). Latest Infidelity Statistics of USA. Retrieved October 3, 2012, from divorcestatistics. info: http://www. divorcestatistics. info/latest-infidelity-statistics-of-usa. html Eggrichs, D. E. (2004). Love & Respect. Nashville: Thomas Nelson. Fisher, C. (2006). A Comtparison of the Divorce Rate of Division I, II & III Head Basketball Coaches. Fullerton: California State University. Getty, S. H. (2008, September 18). Yankees Star Alex Rodriguez Settles Divorce.
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Retrieved October 2, 2012, from familylife. com: http://www. familylife. com/articles/topics/marriage/staying-married/commitment/married-and-lonely Sabock, M. D. (2011). Coaching A Realistic Perspective. New York: Roman and Littlefield. Thamel, P. (2010, December 31). College Footabll. Retrieved October 1, 2012, from nytimes. com: http://www. nytimes. com/2011/01/01/sports/ncaafootball/01bachelors. html? pagewanted=all&_r=1& Tysse, B. (1993). Moral Dilemmas Of Early Adolescents of Divorced and Intact Families. Lexington: Journal Of Early Adolesence. Wiles, R. (2012, April 22). Pro athletes often fumble the financial ball.
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