Q&A Teammates & Coaches

Question of the Day

Hey, so I’ve been dealing with a lot this past month. A kid who I went to elementary school with killed himself in a very public way at the start of the month, which was the Friday of preseason at my high school. I am a coxswain for my school’s varsity team and ever since he died I’ve been slipping in terms of my coxing skills. My coach hasn’t really noticed much change because this is my first season with her as a coach and we could not get on the water the entire first week of the season due to several factors. All she really has noticed is that I am not as loud this year as I was last year (I was the coxswain who didn’t have a box in the 8 so I got to yell and have everyone on this side of Cambridge hear me during practice…)

Unfortunately I do not go to school in my town and no one at my school knows the kids who I grew up with and when I try and bring up the topic with them, conversations die because who wants to talk about the death of a kid who they never met. I feel like it is really hard for me because last year when a girl from my school died suddenly all sports and activities were canceled for a while and grief counselors were brought in, where as I went directly from hearing of my friends death to coxing a boat the next day. Also during the summer a girl who I played youth sports with died of cancer and it was a tragic even for my town’s community, whereas now where nobody knows my friend in my current community I feel like no one really cares about it. I have tried talking to a counselor and friends but no one knows him so they don’t really understand.

I am finding it hard to motivate my self to get out of bed in the morning so how can I motivate my rowers to push them selves during a 2k test or a HOCR piece? I have been thinking about quitting crew but a) it’s just getting to racing season for us and I have no replacement, b) WTF who does that, c) crew is basically a third of my life (my days go school, crew, homework repeat) so if I quit I will end up moaning in my room all the time which is not something I want to take up.

Do you have any advice? Also PS I am only a sophomore in high school as were all my friends who died. Thanks and sorry this is so depressing.

Wow. I am really sorry you’ve been dealing with all that.

I think you have two options, both of which you should do. First, talk with your coach one-on-one and explain what’s been going on. Let her know that you’ve been having a hard time lately due to the deaths of two friends and you think it’d be best to take some time off so you can gather your thoughts and figure out the best way to handle things. I know that this probably doesn’t seem like an option since there isn’t anyone to take your place but that doesn’t matter. Your health and well-being is a lot more important than that.Taking some personal time to deal with something as heavy as this doesn’t make you a bad teammate or weak or anything like that – it’s normal to need time to process everything that’s happened and if you’re already thinking about quitting, maybe taking time off is exactly what you need.

If you’re not sure how your coach will react, have your parents go with you. If you haven’t already, talk with them about how you’re feeling and ask if they’d come talk to your coach with you or just be there for support. I’ve said this a lot before but sometimes you do actually need your parents to be present when you talk with your coach and this is definitely one of those times.

Second, find a therapist in your town and ask your parents to set up an appointment for you. (You can also check out community mental health centers to see if they have free or low-cost therapy sessions you can take advantage of or your local hospital to see if they have support groups you can join.) If you aren’t finding the support you need at school or on your team, maybe talking with someone who is more connected to both events (even if it’s just due to location) will make things a little easier for you. Try to go on a regular basis too, at least for a month or so until you start to feel better.

Related: Suicide awareness + prevention

I can’t pretend to know what to say to make you feel better because I’ve never experienced something like this. My brother had a very close friend commit suicide at the start of his sophomore year of college and I was at a total loss for what to say or do. All I could really do was listen and make the suggestion to find a therapist to talk to, which he did for awhile. That’s really the best advice I can offer.

As for not wanting to spend all your time in your room, you’re right, that’s probably not the best thing to do. A few years ago the brother of a friend from college was killed in a drunk driving accident and my friend felt the same way, that if he took time off from everything he was doing he’d end up not leaving his bed. What he ended up doing was taking two weeks off from everything outside of his full-time job and used that time to do the things his brother loved doing. He was really into movies so each night he and his friends would watch a movie that his brother liked or go see a movie at the theater that had one of his brother’s favorite actors in it. His brother had also just rescued two cats so in addition to adopting them, he started volunteering for a few hours after work at the shelter they were adopted from (which I think he still does on a regular basis). Little things like that helped him to process the loss of his brother while still keeping his memory alive and finding ways to keep him connected to his every day life. You could do something similar – i.e. if your friend really liked reading, see if you can volunteer at the library or organize a book drive in their honor. If they really liked animals, see what your local shelter has on their “wish list” and donate a few items in their name.

I hope that helps and that you’re able to find a way to work through this. Definitely consider taking some time off from crew and finding someone in your town that you can talk to. You’re right that it becomes a lot harder to motivate other people when you can’t even motivate yourself so it’s important that you take some time to get yourself back to a good place. Good luck.

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