Utah Football: The team has resources to help players cope with their grief


During Pac-12 media day in late July, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham and the two Ute players attending the event, Britain Covey and Devin Lloyd, were asked about mental health issues and what they were doing to deal with the tragic death of running back Ty Jordan.

Now Utah faces yet another unthinkable tragedy.

Defensive back Aaron Lowe was shot and killed early Sunday morning in Salt Lake City.

The Utes have a bye – they won’t play again until Oct. 9 at USC – and they won’t speak to the media this week.

Ivan Maisel of On3, who has faced a heartbreaking loss in his personal life, explained what Utah coaches and players could be going through right now.

“It’s hard to imagine the vibe in the Utah Utes football building this week. Having two teammates, close friends, who die nine months apart is far from tragic, far from overwhelming, far beyond what a single word can encompass, ”Maisel wrote. “Long distance runner Ty Jordan died on Christmas night. Defensive back Aaron Lowe, who wore Jordan’s No.22 jersey this season as a tribute to his high school friend, was gunned down early Sunday morning after Utah defeated Washington State on the return home .

“Lowe’s teammates are fortunate to be able to lean on each other and open up as they face overwhelming grief. I would say football will keep them busy, but that’s not always a good thing. If they don’t deal with their grief well, they won’t perform well, on or off the pitch.

In July, Whittingham spoke with reporters about what the school and the program had done to help its players with mental health.

“Yes, mental health is an important part of our agenda in terms of providing resources and support. It’s something that our players, it was difficult to deal with Ty Jordan’s situation, still is. Fortunately our administration is engaged. We have a full department that is engaged dedicated to mental health and advisors that our players can talk to and visit with, ”said Whittingham.

“We’re trying to get our players to stress that it’s not a sign of weakness to seek mental health help. It’s part of life, ”he continued. “It’s the same as being physically ill. If you need help, to see someone, there is no shame or stigma in it.

“I think our coaches, our assistant coaches, have done a very good job of conveying this to our players. Our players seem to be doing a very good job taking advantage of the resources we have. “

From a mental health standpoint, this part of his job has changed dramatically over Whittingham’s 35 years of training.

“Yes, it has become more and more – a bigger part from year to year. When I was playing, it wasn’t even a subject. I mean, it didn’t exist. When I became a coach, that didn’t exist, ”said Whittingham. “In the last five, six, seven years it’s started to arise. I think it really benefited. I know this has benefited a bunch of our players.

“Again, this is something that we continually try to educate them: ‘Hey, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s not a sign of being weak or not hard or anything like that. It’s reality. Let us know when you’re in pain and when you need help and we’ll make sure we get it for you.

Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd said it’s important to put the mental well-being of players first.

“It’s huge because at the end of the day we are people. People in general see us as athletes. Sometimes they can ignore the personal side of it, ”Lloyd said. “Mental health is a huge thing. This should be a top priority and should be talked about more and encouraged more to get people speaking out when they are going through a difficult time. There should be more positivity associated with people seeking help as opposed to negativity. “

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