Taking Care of Ourselves After Tragedy

The OSU athletic family lost one of its own when wrestler and football player Kosta Karageorge died. I did not have the pleasure of knowing Kosta, but I hear he was quite popular among his teammates. The fact that he joined the football team after finishing his wrestling eligibility shows what a competitor he was.

Many of us are in shock. We may not know how to feel or what to do. In light of this distress, I want to share some information and resources with you.

While there is no correct way to respond, here are some common emotional reactions to grief and trauma:

Shock/denial/numbness/a sense of unreality

Anxiety and fear, which may relate to insomnia and feeling on edge

Second guessing ourselves (“If only I’d…”)

Sadness and loss



Questions about why this happened

Although we don’t know the official cause of death, preliminary reports indicate that Kosta committed suicide. It’s difficult to understand suicide. Sometimes individuals experience such deep depression that they feel hopeless about things ever improving. It’s tragic they don’t realize that feelings are temporary, and that their depression will lift over time.

Student-athletes are at a greater risk for suicide due to a culture that celebrates toughness and denigrates vulnerability. Athletes have to be warriors in their sport, but it’s important to be real when you walk off the field. It’s okay to feel the gamut of emotions. It’s fine to cry. It’s also fine not to cry. Accept your feelings and understand that each person has a unique way of grieving. There is no “right” way to grieve.

If you are distressed or having suicidal thoughts or urges, please tell someone (parent, sibling, teammate, coach, athletic trainer, physician, psychologist, SASSO counselor, strength coach, faculty, dietitian, etc.) Telling someone is the first step to feeling better.

How do we take care of ourselves in times like this?

* Practice deep, belly breaths to decrease stress and help sleep

* Engage in your routine of class and practice if it feels helpful, or ask your coach about taking a break if you need rest. Exercise can be an effective coping strategy if you feel up for practice.

* Seek support from your team and family. It’s not morbid to talk about Kosta—those who were closer to him may wish to share stories about him. Try not to be alone for extended time periods these first few days.

* Try to get regular sleep and nutrition

* Talk to a counselor or spiritual advisor


Jen Carter, PhD and Steve Graef PhD, Sport Psychology 614-293-3600 (Your athletic trainer has our cell phone and direct office numbers)

Student Life Counseling & Consultation Service, 4th Floor Younkin, 614-292-5766 (CCS has “urgent” appointments available and students directly impacted by this tragedy will be prioritized for services)

CCS Self-Help for Grief

NCAA Videos


Are you AWARE?


To be high performing athletes, we have to be incredibly aware.  Aware of our position on the field, aware of what the opponent is doing, or aware of the situation going on around us.  Improved awareness is critical to the technical, tactical, and physical performance!  However, we often neglect the importance of awareness in helping us achieve a high level of success.  By being aware of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, we can learn to identify, evaluate, and perhaps change those elements that are essential for our performance.


Our own internal thoughts can be our best friend or our worst enemy.  However, in order for us to befriend our thoughts and use them strategically to help improve our performance, we must first become aware of the thoughts we have and their quality.  To do this, we can simply take note of our thoughts after a performance.  What was the content? Were they positive or negative? In what situation did they occur? Were they helpful or destructive?


Awareness of our emotional, as well as physical, feelings is especially helpful to our performance.  Becoming aware of when we become frustrated or anxious can help us to better understand the triggers that bring on these feelings, which allows us to establish a game plan for dealing with these emotions in the moment.  In addition, awareness of our physical state can allow us to increase our energy if we’re too relaxed, decrease our anxiety if we’re too panicky, and release muscle tension if we’re too tight.  However, without awareness we would have little knowledge of the physical state we are in before it is too late.


What behaviors do you engage in that yield the greatest success?  What things do you do that get in the way of you progressing? Awareness of what we do, why we do them, and their impact, can have huge implications for our performance.  Ultimately we want to do more of what makes us perform better and less of what makes us not.  Being aware of this helps us to make more informed and deliberate choices that can lead to better outcomes on and off the field.

Are you AWARE?

Four Tips to Manage ANGER

Have you ever felt the urge to hurl your golf club into the water hazard? Scream obscenities at opponents? Call yourself an idiot for making a mistake?

Managing anger is a challenge for all athletes. Here are four strategies to manage your anger most effectively:

Emo_boy_03_in_rage1)    Learn the difference between anger (the feeling) and aggression (the behavior). We often lump these together but they are indeed different.

–Anger is a healthy, human emotion we all experience (whether or not we’re aware of it). People describe anger as tightening in the chest, pounding heartbeat, flushed face, muscular tension, trembling, and/or racing thoughts. Anger can help by energizing and signaling a time to assert our rights.

–Aggression is a behavior that’s not healthy. Screaming, throwing things, acting violently—these behaviors serve only to increase anger, not diffuse it, and may cause serious harm to others.

2)    BREATHE. Deep breaths are simple yet powerful. However, we often forget to use them when we need them most. What do you notice about your breath right now? If you’re angry or anxious, your breath is likely shallow and quick. To practice diaphragmatic or belly breaths, inhale through your nose and let the breath travel deep into the pit of your belly. Push your belly out with air. Exhale completely through your mouth. Rinse and repeat. Let your breaths gently become slower and deeper.

3)    Challenge your thoughts. Is it true someone can “make” you get angry? NO. We are responsible for our own emotions and reactions. Other negative interpretations include “He’s trying to get to me” or “Nobody understands” or “I just blew the game”. Seek the facts and avoid jumping to conclusions. Athletes can use “trigger words”: words or phrases about the task at hand that are under their control, like “Quick and loose”, “Eye on the ball”, “Stay low”, “Do my best”, etc.

4)    Communicate directly. Tell someone what you want or don’t want: “I want to stop arguing” or “I don’t want to disrespect you.” We’re more likely to reach our goals when we state them clearly. Did you know that simply labeling an emotion (e.g. “I’m angry”) can decrease its intensity? Instead of “You’re purposely ticking me off,” say “I’m angry when you leave your stuff by the front door.”

What strategies work best for managing YOUR anger?