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Tiger’s Root Problem, Compound Grief

By on October 17th, 2012 in Member Post 16 Comments »

Other than the poor play calling there is a big reason why our players are having such a hard time with mental errors both on offense and defense. It is called grief and … compound grief. We have not taken into account the tremendous affect that death has taken on our team this year.

It started with the tragic death of their teammates this Summer. Young kids trying to deal with those deaths at a time they thought they were invincible. Suddenly football is not the most important thing in the world and you loose your edge.

No matter how they think they are back to normal they are not and will not for months to come. It affects their attention spans, their ability to make good decisions, to make decisions at all some times, and difficulty completing tasks, and it is a tremendous drain on their energy level and endurance.

Then you add the death of a mother of a young man they love and admire, Mrs. Prosch. It is like having a scab ripped off your knee, and compound grief begins, PTSD grief starts and all the emotions of those Summer deaths boils up like it just happened all over again.

When a team normally shows the most improvement between the 1st and 2nd game they come out and regress due to this second grief. Then a couple of weeks later a trainer/coach dies just before the LSU game, compounding the grief again on the team and coaches. And the next week was the funeral that some players and coaches attended, but all had to face death again and the emotions once again.

In this microwave society that expects us to get over grief in 3 days and get on with life, it does not just disappear in a few days or weeks….it takes months and months. Even when people think they are over things and back to normal months later people will testify that they didn’t know how affected they were in every aspect of their lives until they come out of the fog.

It has only been a few short months, from my observation as a professional chaplain for hospice and a hospital, I am observing all the side affects of compound grief in this football team. Slow learning new schemes, stupid penalties, making the same mistakes over and over again after being coached up over and over again, loss of edge, physically and emotionally depleted in the 4th quarter.

These kids are fighting hard and don’t give up but the side affects of this compound grief are preventing them from playing like they normally would and like we and the coaches expect them to do.

The coaches and fans are shaking their heads in disbelief, pulling their hair out. But unfortunately it is going to take a lot more time before they get it back together; maybe by the end of the year against GA and Bama. Yet, don’t count on it, and there is nothing the boys or coaches can do about it but keep plugin’ away and let time and the grief process take its course.

In hospice we visit the family regularly for a year to 18 months after a loved one dies, 3 – 4 months will hardly scratch the surface of the compound grief this team and coaches are facing, it will take time. Brother Chet is probably doing all he can, but it will take time.

As a trained professional with death and dying, when my dad died and then his brother 3 days later and then a week later when I went back to work at the hospital and experienced many deaths over a 3 day period I had had enough death for a while. I had been used to covering 10 floors and remembering every patient and visit to chart at the end of rounds, but after my compound deaths I had to myself notes when I left each room so I could do my charting.

I had to do that for six months before I got back close to normal and I was trained how to handle grief. Can you imagine how affected out team and coaches have been. It’s the reason we are where we are… will take time before we get back to where we should be.

Let’s support our team and coaches because they will be back and their extraordinary difficulties will make them even better than they would have been.

We are fortunate to have Coach Chizik, a strong Christian with great Character, leading our young men at this time. All things happen for a reason. Chizik is probably here more for this time than he was here for our National Championship.

War Eagle,

Mike Sides


  1. TigerWoman TigerWoman says:

    This makes a lot of sense. Thanks for sharing

  2. wde1988 wde1988 says:

    This is a unique insight to what you think is going on… I just haven’t been able to verify this elsewhere.

    Still, I enjoyed the read.


    • mikeautiger says:

      Just google grief symptoms, WEBMD has info that talks about the symptoms that is a good start to show a wide range so symptoms I talked about.

      • wde1988 wde1988 says:

        I am talking about a single reporter advocating these facts as you lay them out since the tragedy happened in the summer.

        I don’t disagree – I just don’t see where it’s being ed.

        You make a good case though.


        • wde1988 wde1988 says:

          Incidentally though, if it was as you hypothesize, how do you explain bama winning the NC when Tuscaloosa (much like the rest of the State) was ripped apart by Tornados.

          They had people close to the team die if I recall. They all saw the dead and wounded that day. Are you trying to tell us – we aren’t as mentally tough as they are?

          Last I remember – they won the NC.


          • JayTS says:

            It’s one thing when you lose someone to an unavoidable natural disaster. It’s another thing when someone else takes them away, as was the case with Ledarious Phillips and Ed Christian. Or even when someone passes suddenly and unexpectedly, like assistant Joe Bagwell.

            I’ve lost a friend to a car crash and a friend to murder. It took me exponentially longer to cope with the murder than the car crash.

  3. AUwaterboy AUwaterboy says:

    I’m sure that these tragedies have been a big part of the problem.
    Thanks for sharing your insight.

  4. KoolBell KoolBell says:

    Tremendous work you do as a chosen profession. I for one have been on the receiving side of Hospice with both of my parents dying. The work you guys do for terminal patients is nothing short of heavenly. Thanks for all that you do.

    As to the football team, I had not considered that aspect, it is a very interesting point that you make, and one that needs more publicity.

    War Eagle!

  5. I had really not thought about this before. It makes sense that its at least part of the problem. The defeats have to be just piling on the grief feelings they started the year out with making it tougher each week to be focused and get themselves up to play.

  6. Don’t wanta sound like a meanie-weanie, but oh what the heck…
    Who hasn’t had someone close to them die, even if just a pet?
    Actually the pets dieing bother me more.
    This team can’t tackle or block, and the occasional Blake catch/McCalleb run doesn’t make up for it.
    Auburn +8 against Vandy, nuff, said.
    What’s it gonna be against Bama? +88?

    Frank WDE

    • mikeautiger says:

      LOL, I agree we have all lost someone. My insight has more to do with the mental aspect of not lining up right to make the block or tackle, the mental aspect that sets you up for success or failure. I think the mental aspect of grief also affects the edge that gives us the empties to make the physical tackle or block. I not saying the grief is the major problem but it affects all aspects of their play in a shuttle way that all the little things add up to make the big problem. Example, they know they are loosing they press hard to make e play and in that pressing they make little mistakes like lining up off sides on a bad put or illegal motion etcetera. As a pilot we find most accidents do not happen because of one big mistake but a series of small wrongs decisions tha add up to the big crash. That is where I think our kids are lots of little mental mistakes due to grief that add up to the big loss. Thanks for your comments.

    • mikeautiger says:

      I forgot to also make the point to you it is not the one death most of us can work out of faster but the compounding of 4 deaths of people these kids knew personally that makes this so omportant and affect them so much.

  7. Really good read.

    As someone who has lost several family members including one that had to spend his last days in hospice, I know it takes a while for the fog to lift. As a hospice worker, I also know you know what your talking about. This has, had to be a factor in the players making mental mistakes.

  8. AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

    Outstanding post.

    Thanks Mike, for raising awareness on this very important subject. And for highlighting how it may have affected the football team’s mental state in trying to function – while at the same time having to overcome the effect of multiple deaths.

  9. AUgirlinGA says:

    Well said Mike! And thanks for adding that new perspective on what is being made out to be such a “bad playing” year! I hope we don’t jump the gun and start running off coaches due to the tough year these guys have had.
    “I love Auburn if the win, lose, or tie!! I love Auburn like my name was Pat Dye!”

    War Eagle!!

  10. JayTS says:

    I agree with this 100%. I attended Auburn from Fall ’05 through Fall ’09. You may remember that Auburn freshman Lauren Burk was murdered in March of 2008. Lauren was a very good friend of mine since high school.
    I thought her death didn’t affect me that much. I didn’t go to class for a few days, but after that I went right back to my normal routine. I thought I could handle it. A month later, I thought I was back to “normal”.
    It wasn’t until well over a year later that I really lifted out of the fog of grief. It was then that I realized how profoundly her death had affected me. I nearly failed out of school. I lost 20 pounds. I had been such an a*****e that I lost half of my friends.
    It is really, really hard for college aged kids to be faced with mortality, especially premature death at the hands of a malicious moron. They may put a brave face on things, go out and do what is expected of them, and even believe that they are okay. But they aren’t. Those on the team who knew Ledarious Phillips and Ed Christian are likely more affected than they are even aware. Compound that with the passing of Mrs. Prosch and assistant Joe Bagwell, and it’s a wonder they are able to perform at all.
    Yes, it’s incredibly frustrating to witness the complete ineptitude of the 2012 Auburn football team, and I haven’t even considered this aspect until reading this post, but it really does explain a lot. These kids are trying to focus on X’s and O’s while trying to cope with a slew of deaths around them. Thanks for the perspective, Mike.

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