The 5 Stages of Grief When an Athlete’s Season Ends

My season has been over for almost two months now, but some division I teams are still going, and the high school teams are finishing up now. We all know the athletes that cope and readjust back to a NARP (non-athletic regular person) lifestyle just fine. But then there’s some who struggle and some who are just inconsolable AKA me. Here are the signs and symptoms separated by stage of grief to watch for.

1. Denial

Two weeks till the end of the season. The athlete is completely aware of their imminent doom, but they continue to deny it.  They continue to live in their perfect fantasy world of never-ending season land. They frolick happily through the field of flowers until some schmuck mentions that they only have x amount of games left. Then you see this blank stare that says, “I’m fine, haha, that’s a long way off. No worries. I’m not worried. No one else is worried. The season isn’t even close to ending.” But the end is sneaking up on them and the gif above is an accurate representation of them starting to acknowledge the truth.

2. Anger


This can be the night before their last game. If it’s not a championship game everyone is kinda relaxed and the athlete who has reached stage two is fuming. Why isn’t everyone else pissed that tomorrow is our last game? Or if it is a big game they start doubting their athletic ability in every way. EX: I feel stupid for that crappy play I made yesterday, for fouling someone, for striking out, for getting yellow carded. Whatever their insignificant mistake was they will replay it their head over and over. Don’t talk them out of being angry, just give them their favorite gatorade and back away slowly. Don’t take it personally. The next day they probably will have moved onto stage three anyway.

3. Bargaining

You start begging for those non-conference games that got cancelled to be rescheduled. The clock starts to run out. You are running out of periods, innings, and injury time. Can I just please have one more at bat, one more play, just one more of something. I promise I’ll come to every 6 a.m. practice, workout, and meeting. I’ll be good. Just give me one more minute on the field.

4. Depression

This is by far the worst stage. You feel like you got hit by a freight train. It’s over. It’s really over. This sucks. This sport took up so much of your time and you don’t know what to do with your life until next season. You’re anxious and feel lost and empty without your hectic sports schedule so you start to go to the gym. Then your athletic trainer tells you off and to ease up and let your body recover. WHAT ELSE AM I SUPPOSED TO DO? That 2:30 feeling where everyone is tired? You are moping in your room looking for something to do other than think about how you can be at practice right now. You constantly check your email looking for messages from your coach. Are we doing any post season stuff? What about summer workouts? And then there’s the returning of the uniforms. You pretend like it’s no big deal, but your heart is actually being torn in half. This stage can last anywhere from 3 days to 2 weeks.

5. Acceptance

You start to feel better, and other priorities other than being sad about your sport take over. Finals, moving out, and partying are now in full swing. But here’s the best part…the travel season starts in less than a month! YAY MORE SPORTS…LIFE IS GREAT. HALLELUJAH. You start to focus on training and prepping for that season so you feel like your life has purpose again.

There never truly is an off season so the grief stages never last too long. 🙂


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