Coaching Ourselves and Our Students Through Senseless Violence

An open letter to coaches and other higher education professionals:


As higher education reels from yet another senseless fatal shooting, this time at the University of Virginia, we are called once again to show up. We are called to comfort frightened students, console devastated families, calm anxious parents, and manage upended schedules. We must tap into our much-drained reserves yet again, to carry others and ourselves through yet another valley of uncertainty and tension. And at the same time that this tragedy unfolded, four students died at University of Idaho 


I think it is safe to say this is not how we expected to conduct our work. But it is our present reality. As I often share with students as well as with my grown children, misery lies in the gap between expectation and reality. To find our footing and move ahead in this time, we can try to close that gap. 


How do we do that? Perhaps we can approach the challenge from both sides -- in other words, we can manage expectations, and we can take action to shape reality. One is more abstract and conceptual, and the other more concrete and active. As you encounter students, take stock of what they may be more able or willing to do in that moment. Might they adjust an expectation for themselves in a tough moment -- accept a lower level of effort, have compassion for a different result? Might they take action to advocate for themselves with a professor or change a major that doesn't motivate them? Whether they can do one, the other, some of both, or neither, they are not alone. Thanks to you.


Standing together -- that is something we can do, and something that has sustained me personally through tragedy. As I continue to process my brother's untimely death over eight years ago, I walk a path that support and community have cleared for me. I stumble, for sure, and I am not always certain of my way. But folks continue to hack the brush away and help me move forward. We can do this for one another now, to honor those who have senselessly lost their lives today and on far too many other days. We can lock arms in mutual support in this moment and move through this tragedy, and whatever the future brings, together.


In solidarity, as we show up for our students, one another, and ourselves. 


Sarah Lyman Kravits

LifeBound Master Trainer

Rutgers University Academic Coach

University of Virginia alumna, 1988



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