Posts Tagged ‘coping with loss’

With hearts heavy from death of player, Pokes prepare for No. 5 Texas

Casper Star Tribune – September 11, 2010 – Eric Schmoldt – After tragedy, Wyoming returns to field. Grieving continues to be a daily process. For the Wyoming Cowboys, it takes its next step today.

Just five days after the tragic death of freshman linebacker Ruben Narcisse in an automobile accident, the Pokes must return to the field for a game at No. 5 Texas.

“Emotions are going to be running high,â€? UW senior wide receiver David Leonard said. “It’s a tough time right now, but when you have tough times, you come together as a team and a family. I don’t think we have a choice.â€?

Subhed: “There’s no way around griefâ€?

As with the grieving process throughout this week, the responses the players and coaches will have today are wide-ranging and somewhat unpredictable.

Likely, each player will feel a little differently about the experience.

“It does affect a tight-knit group that has been in camp for months and knows each other really well just like a family,â€? said Dr. John F. Murray, a renowned sports psychologist based in Palm Beach, Fla. “You can’t really accelerate grief reactions or bereavement types of responses. They differ widely based on the relationship with that person and the individual that’s coping with it.

“[But] there’s no way around grief except through grief. You’re going to have to deal with it sometime.â€?

Few have dealt with a situation quite like this one.

Narcisse, a 19-year-old from Miami, Fla., was riding in a vehicle with three other teammates on their way back from Colorado early Monday morning.

The driver fell asleep and the vehicle drifted off the road, rolling down an embankment on Highway 287 in northern Colorado.

The three other passengers have been treated and released from hospitals, but Narcisse did not survive.

Now the Cowboys not only have to deal with the death of a teammate, but they must do so in the middle of the season while trying to play football.

“I would say that in that case you’ve got to put on your gameface quick and it might actually delay the response,â€? Murray said. “Some of the players might not deal with it until after the season or might not fully process it.

“[But] some kids won’t be affected at all. A lot has to do with their personal histories, what they’ve dealt with and what they’ve seen in terms of death.â€?

Subhed: “They grew up in life real quickâ€?

The Connecticut Huskies found themselves in a similar situation nearly a year ago.

Star cornerback Jasper Howard made 11 tackles and forced and recovered a fumble during a victory over Louisville last year. Hours later, he was stabbed to death on campus.

One week later, the Huskies were back on the field, honoring their fallen teammate.

“It was hard, but I also think it was good,â€? UConn coach Randy Edsall said. “It was therapy for us to get out there and really kind of get our mind off some of those things.

“We took his jersey with us to all the games. We still have his “JHâ€? on the back of our helmets this year because he would still be a senior and he’s an honorary captain for us.â€?

The Huskies lost a close game at West Virginia on the Saturday following Howard’s death.

The grieving process was far from over.

“The next task then was, on Monday after that Saturday, was to go to the funeral and to bury Jazz,â€? Edsall said. “That was something that was a difficult part to do and then you go back and play again the following Saturday. It’s very difficult, but our kids grew from it, they grew closer together and they grew up in life real quick.â€?

Subhed: “You’re still not over it todayâ€?

Jasper Howard’s face greets the Huskies every day.

A plaque in their facility’s lobby greets them with a smile from a fallen teammate.

Inside their locker room, the cornerback’s locker sits behind glass, untouched.

“It was just something we felt like we had to do,â€? Edsall said. “In life, things do happen, but you still have to move on and find ways to honor the young man. You never forget about it and you never will.â€?

The Cowboys are following a similar approach.

They’ll wear helmet decals with Narcisse’s initials during today’s game and a player will wear Narcisse’s No. 12 jersey, probably for at least the rest of this year.

Back in Laramie, the young linebacker’s locker will remain as it was for the next four seasons, when Narcisse would have graduated.

“It helps to memorialize that person’s meaning to the team,â€? Murray said. “It could also work to their benefit to help inspire the team with a little reminder that they’re playing for somebody who died.â€?

The constant reminders will keep the memory of Narcisse fresh on the mind for the next few seasons.

It will also mean a constant reminder that the grieving process may not end after one game, one week, one month or even one year.

“Every day was a healing process for us as we went forward from the day that he was murdered,â€? Edsall said. “You’re still not over it today. We’ve dealt with it, but it’s something that’s never going to leave us.â€?

The Cowboys take the next step in the healing process today.

I hope you enjoyed this exploration into the world of sports psychology.

L.A. Angels keeping memory of late teammate Nick Adenhart close during march through playoffs

The Star Ledger – October 15, 2009 – Brian Costa – One hundred eighty-nine days have passed since the night that changed the Angels season. And not one has gone by without a reminder of Nick Adenhart.

His locker at Angel Stadium remains intact. His mural remains on the outfield wall. Patches bearing his name and uniform number, 34, remain stitched to their jerseys. And his own jersey hangs in the dugout during every game.

When the Angels begin the ALCS against the Yankees Friday night, they will be motivated by the memory of Adenhart, the 22-year-old pitcher killed by an alleged drunk driver on April 9.

He’s definitely been with us the whole way, the entire season and so far in the playoffs, reliever Kevin Jepsen said. And he’s going to continue to be with us every step of the way.

Some players were close to Adenhart. Some hardly knew him. But all have paid tribute to him.

When the Angels clinched the AL West last month, they ran out to touch Adenhart’s photo on the outfield wall at Angel Stadium and placed an unopened bottle of champagne by his locker. And as they have advanced through the playoffs, Adenhart has been a source of inspiration and even confidence.

I can go out there feeling like there’s no pressure on me, said catcher Bobby Wilson, who was one of Adenhart’s best friends. I’ve got my best buddy in my heart right now. If I can’t do it, I know he’s going to help me out.

Only a handful of teams in the history of professional sports have experienced what the Angels went through this year: the death of a teammate during the season.

Some of the most notable examples are the 1979 Yankees, who endured the death of captain Thurman Munson; the 2002 Cardinals, who lost pitcher Darryl Kile; and the 2007 Washington Redskins, who mourned the shooting death of safety Sean Taylor.

All were inspired to play on in memory of a fallen teammate. And while that motivation may not outweigh pitching, hitting and defense, a leading sports psychologist said it can have a powerful impact on a team’s play.

It can actually enhance the team’s performance if the meaningfulness of it is able to be synergized into a battle cry or a unifying theme to play for that player or to do what that player would want, said John F. Murray, a sports psychologist based in Palm Beach, Fla. It almost adds a spiritual component to performance to have something like that.

That doesn’t make the loss of Adenhart any less devastating.

On April 8, he tossed six shutout innings against the Athletics at Angel Stadium to begin what appeared to be a promising season. It was only his fourth career major-league start, but already, Adenhart appeared to be a much-improved pitcher after giving up 12 runs in 12 innings in 2008. He earned a rotation spot in spring training, making him the youngest pitcher on a major-league roster, and the Angels had high hopes for him in 2009.

I said last year he had all the talent in the world and couldn’t figure it out, said Rangers reliever Darren O’Day, a close friend of Adenhart and former Angels prospect. Then he figures it out, and then six hours later, he’s gone.

Adenhart was killed along with two friends when their car was broadsided at an intersection near Angel Stadium. And the Angels have been playing with him in mind ever since.

Pitcher Scot Shields started the routine of bringing Adenhart’s jersey down to the dugout before each game and hanging it over the Angels’ bench. When Shields went down with a season-ending knee injury in May, Jepsen took over the responsibility.

He’s not necessarily on your mind while you’re playing, Jepsen said. But you never forget about him. There’s always times when in between the games and everything, at least for me, he’ll pop up in my mind.

As Jepsen spoke Thursday, sitting in front of his locker in the visiting clubhouse at Yankee Stadium, Adenhart’s jersey hung in an otherwise empty locker a few feet away.

It will be there for the rest of the ALCS. If the Angels reach the World Series, they will continue to take it on the road with them. And if they win the World Series, they will give Adenhart’s family a full share of the bonus players receive, along with a championship ring.

It just shows you what kind of guy Nick is, Wilson said. A lot of guys, they love him and they only knew him a short amount of time. It just shows Nick’s character and his upbringing. This group of guys, we’re moving toward one common goal, and we have the inspiration of Nick within all of us.

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After an Epic Loss, Then What?

Sports psychology material – Wall Street Journal – Darren Everson – When you win the Masters, the Stanley Cup or one of sports’ other grand events, everyone knows what’s next. There are parades to ride in, White House visits to arrange. One of the best-known ad slogans of all time—“I’m going to Disney Worldâ€?—is about the itinerary of champions.

But what about the guys who come in a close second?

Tom Watson, above, on the final round of the British Open in Scotland last week.

There has been a slew of soul-crushing defeats in recent months, from Kenny Perry’s collapse at the Masters in April to Andy Roddick’s epic Wimbledon loss earlier this month to the latest: Tom Watson finishing second at the British Open on Sunday after missing a 10-foot par putt on the 18th hole that would have clinched it.

Earlier this month, Mr. Roddick narrowly lost the Wimbledon title to Roger Federer in the longest fifth set ever played in a Grand Slam final (16-14). Afterward he hung out in New York for a day and a half and had breakfast in his favorite diner, according to his agent. (Mr. Roddick said he didn’t want to talk about it.)
A Drive in the Country

Mr. Perry, who lost the Masters after holding a two-stroke lead with two holes remaining, got up at 5 a.m. a couple of days later and drove around rural Kentucky for three hours because he couldn’t sleep. “Lot of cattle,â€? he said at the time. “Lot of horses.â€?
Losses That Sting

A look at some of the most painful losses in pro sports history.

Mr. Watson, for his part, is getting right back on his horse: He is playing in the Senior British Open, which begins Thursday in Berkshire, England, and says he will play in the U.S. Senior Open next week. Despite getting little rest after losing the Open — “I asked him how he slept, and he said ‘Fitfully, for an hour,’â€? says his caddie, Neil Oxman — Mr. Watson says he never considered taking a week off. “There is still quite a vacuum in the stomach, but this, too, shall pass,â€? he said Tuesday. “Honestly, it’s not the most important thing in life.â€?

Rocco Mediate — who says Mr. Watson “has been and always will be my idolâ€? — knows exactly what his hero is going through. Mr. Mediate, a 46-year-old golfer who has never won a major, lost the 2008 U.S. Open to Tiger Woods on the first sudden-death playoff hole, which followed an 18-hole playoff, which came after Mr. Woods’s 12-foot putt on the final regulation hole to tie.

Going into the tournament, which was held in San Diego, Mr. Mediate had a good feeling about his chances. “A buddy of mine owns a restaurant up in Manhattan Beach, so I told him I’m bringing the trophy home,â€? Mr. Mediate says. “He said, ‘We’ll have a party.’â€?

They had the party, just without the trophy. Mr. Mediate drove to the restaurant but he left the tiny medal he got for second place in the car.

“It still hurts sometimes,â€? Mr. Mediate says.

Disappointment isn’t limited to sports, of course. Al Gore famously grew a beard and gained weight after losing the 2000 presidential election, and singer Kanye West had a profanity-laced fit at the MTV Europe Music Awards in 2006 when he didn’t win the best-video award.

But in sports, especially individual games like tennis and golf, losses are far more intensely personal. In most team sports, the end of the season is almost always followed by a ritual get-together. Players trickle into their home arena or stadium to clean out their lockers; in the process, they run into teammates and coaches, chat amiably and say good-bye for the offseason. After a tough loss, this can be a cathartic event — not much different from a wake.

Top athletes in individual sports may have entourages of coaches and trainers — some of whom take losing as personally as they do — but without teammates, they have fewer people to discuss their loss with. Palm Beach, Fla., sports psychologist John F. Murray, who has worked with pro and amateur athletes in all sports, says he often winds up filling that role himself for clients. “I always tell people it’s OK to feel bad for a while, but don’t dwell on it,â€? Mr. Murray says. “Take a day.â€?

Aaron Krickstein needed three. For three days after his classic 1991 U.S. Open loss to Jimmy Connors, he didn’t sleep and “vegetatedâ€? at his Florida home. Mr. Connors, who turned 39 that day, overcame a 5-2 fifth-set deficit to win the nearly five-hour match before a manic, pro-Connors crowd. “I never felt that way after a match in my whole career,â€? says Mr. Krickstein. “I heard I gave an interview afterward, but I was just kind of numb. I don’t know how Tom’s dealing with it, because it’s never going to go away, and he’s probably never going to have a chance like that again.â€?
‘Life Goes On’

Not every defeated athlete slinks off in a daze. “Life goes on,â€? says Mitch Williams, the former Philadelphia Phillies closer who gave up Joe Carter’s clinching home run in the Blue Jays’ 1993 World Series victory. (The Phillies were two outs away from forcing a Game 7.) Mr. Williams said he went back to his hotel just as he would have after any other game. The only thing he did differently was fly straight home to Texas from Toronto, which he says he did to shield his wife from the criticism to come. “She didn’t sign on for all of that stuff,â€? he says.

Maybe it’s just the benefit of hindsight. Or maybe professional athletes are just a different breed of bird. But Mr. Williams says he’s pretty sure Mr. Watson will be fine. “I’m sure Tom will just stick a tee in the ground and go play,â€? he says.

Many benefit today from the tools of sports psychology.