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athletic support by eli cranor

Athletic Support: Basketball and COVID do not jive

Dear Athletic Support:
How in the world is it safe to play basketball during COVID!? I guess football was okay since it’s outside. I think I read somewhere that even though the boys tackle each other they aren’t in contact that much if you really break it down. But basketball is two hours of close contact! Kids are going to be right up in each other’s faces, breathing heavy and swapping all sorts of spit and slobber. That’s how basketball defense works, right? You have to be very close to properly guard someone. With cases on the rise across the country, I’m simply flabbergasted by the coaches and administrators and governors and whoever else has made this decision. I’ll give it a month before the whole thing gets shut down again. And I’m not just talking about sports, I’m talking about school too. The worst part is, if the people in power would just think about the risks, then we wouldn’t have to shut it all down again. But we will. Mark my words. School will get shut down before the end of the year, but hey, the kids will probably still be playing basketball!

— COVID Referee

Dear Referee: If school gets shut down again, it won’t just be because of basketball. Are sports contributing to the spread of COVID? Sure. You bet. Just like school and work and the holidays.

Everything we do has a direct impact on the spread of a virus like COVID. That’s what makes it so paralyzing. I know my general psyche has been impacted. I can’t get within six feet of someone outside my immediate family and not feel funny. It’s like an alarm goes off in my head.

If I were out on a basketball court, that alarm would be blaring like crazy. And I used to play basketball, three days a week with nine other sweaty guys, huffing and puffing through three full-court games to twelve (scoring by 1s and 2s).

If you’re wondering, I’m not playing right now. I hope I’ll get to play again; probably not in 2020, but maybe 2021.

But I’m not a high school student. Basketball—all sports, really—are different for kids because they’re in this golden window of time where people actually want to watch them play. (Nobody ever showed up to watch me play pick-up ball). And that window of time is fleeting. And parents know this, and there’s pride wrapped up in it. There are memories to be made.

So, yes, it’s true: basketball and COVID do not jive. The virus will spread all up and down the court, and probably even make a few fast breaks into the stands as well. But who are we to keep kids from playing the game they love?

We’re the adults, that’s who we are. The authority figures. The ones who should be protecting our youth. Problem is, we don’t know how to protect them. We’re up against something we’ve never seen before. Something big and scary and everybody has a different opinion on what to do about it.

So what do we do when our kids ask us about COVID and sports and spending time with their friends and teammates?

Our best.

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.”

Outside of athletics, kids’ brains are also at risk. Who knows what sort of impact virtual learning will have on their cognition and critical thinking skills. In this regard, I offer one simple tool — a good book! And luckily, I know just the book for kids struggling with the shift to virtual learning:


books make brainz taste badOkay, you caught me… I’m the author of this book. It was published last week and awarded a #1 New Release ranking on Amazon. BMBTB deals directly with the same topic covered in this column, except in a much more lighthearted, kid-friendly way (zombie teachers and brain-munching screens!)

If you end up purchasing this book for your children or grandchildren, I only have one final suggestion — ask them to read it while standing up!

Eli Cranor's new book Books Make Brainz Taste Bad has just been released. ZOMBIES HATE BOOKS! Especially the zombie teachers at Haven Middle School. That's why they're using VR headsets to fry kids' brainz. Luckily, Dash Storey knows how to save his classmates from the zombie teachers—BOOKS! They make brainz taste bad!

"Eli Cranor has an almost unbeatable advantage. He can remember how it felt to think like a twelve-year-old and he can see the very same events like the adult he is. Don't try to resist this book!"
- Jack Butler, Pulitzer-Prize nominated author

Previous Athletic Support Columns:
My son doesn’t wear a jockstrap
The ‘game’ is over, let’s shake hands
Can grandpa come to my game?
Can’t go to her games like I used to
ACL injuries on the rise in youth sports
High school hot seat?
Daughter rolls ankle: Time to walk it off?
College football cancelled but my son’s still playing
Shift to virtual learning causing lag in young athletes
What you look for, you will find
Back to school woes
Football guidelines a breeze compared to band
What to do if your season stalls
Left behind
Travel ball leads to constipation
Collegiate sports for fun or money?
No right answer
Sunburns not part of the game
Summertime soreness
Vulnerability is key in uncertain times
Sick of COVID-19
Racial tensions rise as sports gear up again
Silver lining for post pandemic sports
Wearing masks to practice
Coach disappears after season is cancelled
What happens to the team if a player gets COVID-19?
Will there be football in the fall?
With sports gone, son’s grades tanking
Lost without sports
Teddy bears and tessellations
Cornavirus? We’ve got games to play!
Girlfriend getting in the way
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 October 25, 2020

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