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athletic support by eli cranor

Athletic Support: Girlfriend getting in the way

Dear Athletic Support: My son will be the starting quarterback for his high school football team next fall. He’s only a sophomore, and I couldn’t be any prouder. But there’s just one problem—his new girlfriend. She’s a sweet young lady, but she is literally all my son thinks about. As soon as he gets home from school, he’s texting her, Instagramming her, or whatever the heck it is kids do these days. He’s not even sixteen yet. He has the rest of his adult life to worry about women, but only one shot at being a high school quarterback. I just want what’s best for him, but I know if I try to talk to him about this, it will only make things worse. Help, please.
— Doting Daddy

Dear Doting: This question hits close to home. I was just like your son during my playing days, even all the way up through college. There’s one game in particular that’s especially painful for me recall.

I had just broken up with my girlfriend (or maybe she’d broken up with me) and there I was, out on the field, barking the snap count and trying to read coverages. Between every play, I would glance up in the stands and try to spot my ex. Somewhere around the end of the first quarter, I found her, sitting next to some dude I didn’t know.

As you can probably guess, the rest of the game wasn’t pretty. My brain was fried, my heart broken, and my passes, well, let’s just say they were “off the mark.” Looking back, I know I let my team down. I wasn’t focused like I needed to be, and we lost because of it.

A few years later, I signed a contract to play quarterback for a team in France after winning the equivalent of the Super Bowl in Sweden. I was single and as focused as I’d ever been, but then I met another girl.

One date led to another, and about a month before I was set to fly to Cannes (home of the Cannes Film Festival and the French Riviera), I backed out of my contract and decided to become a high school football coach. Nine months later, I was married to Mallory, my wife of seven years.

I tell both of these stories to point out the subjectivity of both football and young love. There’s no way to tell whether your son’s new girlfriend will be his future wife or the reason his high school team loses in the second round of the playoffs.

I do think you should talk to him about it, though. Sit him down and speak from the heart. Tell him about the times when you were blinded by passion and what it cost you. But also tell him how you met his mother. Make sure he understands the power of true love.

If you don’t have any crazy stories, no fourth-and-long tales or French connections, maybe you could share this column with him. Lord knows I’ll share it with my son one day, and you can bet I’ll pass it along to my daughter too.

Eli Cranor is a former professional quarterback and coach turned award-winning author. Please use the “Contact” page at to send in questions for “Athletic Support.”

Previous Athletic Support Columns:

A parent’s role when sports are over
Talk to your grandkids, carefully
At what age should sports stop being fun?
What ever happened to going door to door?
Lack of respect for track
Should my son take supplements?
I need your help
Help! My daughter wants to play football
Transferring to a smaller school: the good, the bad, and the ugly
What’s that smell? It’s not as bad as you think
A break from school but not from sports
Should a coach pray with his team?
Coach tells player not to shoot
Do nice guys (and girls) really finish last?
Coach cancels post-season awards banquet
No cellphones in the locker room!
Fake scholarship signing?
Withholding football as punishment
Sick and tired of losing
Late bloomer, a blessing or a curse?
Scholarship hopes dead, now what?
Is my son a butterfly chaser?
Don’t force sports on your kids
Hunting or Football?
Beat the Heat
Idle Hands
Coach’s son gets special attention

Published March 15, 2020

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