UNC Tarheel Women’s Lacrosse player, Katie Hoeg, put it perfectly. “We wanted to be angry at a specific person, or anything,” Hoeg said, “But we knew there was nothing to be angry about. Like, this was completely out of our control. We have to do our part.” Anger often provides the illusion of control in a situation that is uncontrollable. It gets layered on and hides other “unacceptable” emotions, such as powerlessness, sadness, and loss. The range of reactions I’ve seen in my practice have been all over the map. For any athlete, and especially for those like Katie Hoeg, who are at the end of their athletic journeys, the sense of loss can be profound.
Here are 3 tips for coping with that loss:
- Know your motivation: Honor your emotions and also form a Plan B (or C or D) that incorporates elements of whatever you found most motivating about your sport. Were you most driven by accomplishments, fitness, social-life, or something else? If social-life, staying in contact with teammates might be especially important right now.
- Control the controllables: Likely, it was embracing the process that allowed you to be successful in your sport. Good outcomes were a bi-product. Determine which processes are most important toward your next big goal (e.g., sport-related like stick-handling, or life related like networking).
- Seek the kind of support you need/want: Luckily, the stigma of seeking counseling has been fading. Whether it be professional counseling or support from friends/family, it is good to express what you need (e.g., “I’m hoping you can simply listen, not pity me or try to fix it for me.”)