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Grief is a natural response to loss and can significantly impact your emotional well-being.

Below is a guide created specifically for soccer coaches, offering insights and strategies on understanding and supporting players experiencing grief.

PCOM Downloadable Coach's Toolkit Includes:

  • What is grief

  • Symptoms

  • On field help

  • When to be concerned about your player's grief

  • Resources

We hope you find this toolkit helpful in understanding and managing these mental health issues that could affect your young soccer player.

Note: Always consult your healthcare provider for a diagnosis and treatment plan tailored to your individual needs. This information should not be used for diagnosing or treating health problem or disease; anyone seeking personal medical advice should consult with a licensed professional.



Standing by Your Player: A Coach's Guide to Understanding Grief in Young Athletes

Hello Coaches! Life throws unexpected curveballs, and sometimes our young players are faced with challenging situations, like the loss of a loved one. As the backbone of your team, you have an important role in recognizing and supporting players navigating through grief.


Let's craft  a scenario around grief, framed within a setting on a soccer pitch to help you support your players. 

Picture this:

It's a sunny Saturday morning, perfect for a game of soccer. Your team has been prepping hard for this weekend's match. But as the practice starts, you can't help but notice that one of your players, Alex, seems out of sorts.

Usually a dynamo, full of banter and spirit, Alex's movements today are slower, almost like they're playing in a fog. They don’t laugh at the usual jokes, they're missing easy passes, and there's a visible hesitance in their step. During the scrimmage, a missed goal opportunity doesn’t bring the typical self-encouraging clap or a promise to make the next one. Instead, there's a sigh, a distant gaze, and a heavy heart.

Whispers among teammates:

  • "Did you hear? Alex's grandma passed away last week."

  • "They were really close. Must be hard to be on the pitch right now."

  • “Coach, maybe Alex needs some time?”

That distinct shift from their usual demeanor, the palpable weight in every step, the foggy disconnect from the game? That's grief.

Watching a player move through their grief, their struggle to find joy in the game they love, and the muted presence amongst a team that's more like family? That's witnessing grief in action.

For a coach, recognizing this profound emotional pain is essential. Soccer is about passion and connection, but sometimes life events can overshadow even the brightest of spirits. By understanding and addressing grief, coaches can ensure that every player, like Alex, feels seen, heard, and supported — both within the game's lines and beyond.


Grief is a complex emotional response that can manifest differently in everyone. It's essential to be observant and compassionate when you suspect a player might be grieving.

Signs of Grief in Your Players

  • Changes in Play: They might seem less focused or more easily frustrated during games.

  • Isolation: A withdrawal from teammates or reluctance to participate in team activities.

  • Emotional Outbursts: Unexpected bouts of sadness, anger, or quietness.

  • Physical Symptoms: Sleep disruptions, appetite changes, or fatigue.

Coaching Tactics to Support Grieving Players

  • Open Dialogue: Approach your player gently, expressing concern and letting them know you're there for support. Sometimes, just being heard can make a difference.

  • Flexibility and Understanding: Consider offering breaks or lighter duties, understanding that their focus might be divided during this time.

  • Foster Team Support: Encourage a culture of understanding and support among teammates. Sometimes, peer support can be incredibly healing.

Stepping Up as Their Sturdiest Defender:

  1. Educate Yourself: Understand the stages of grief and how it might manifest in children and teens.

  2. Engage with Coaches: Share the situation so they can offer additional support and understanding during practices and matches.

  3. Family First: Ensure that, amidst schedules and commitments, your family finds time to comfort, reminisce, and heal together.


If a player's grief appears to be affecting their overall well-being or if they seem stuck in their grieving process, it might be necessary to suggest counseling or professional grief support.


Navigating grief is challenging, especially for young individuals. By being an understanding and supportive figure, you can help them find their footing during a turbulent time, ensuring they don't feel alone on or off the field.

Your role as a coach is multifaceted, extending beyond just soccer drills and tactics. By standing by your grieving player, you underscore the importance of compassion, empathy, and community in team sports and life.

While soccer teaches resilience and tenacity, real-life challenges like grief provide a deeper lesson in vulnerability and healing. As their biggest fans, it's our responsibility to guide, support, and walk alongside our young players during these trying times.

Together, with compassion and understanding, we can help our children navigate grief and find their way back to joy, both on and off the field



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