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athletic support by eli cranor

Athletic Support: What happens to the team if a player gets COVID-19?

Dear Athletic Support: After reading last week’s column about the questions surrounding next football season, my mind started to wander. You hit on teams having trouble squeezing practices in and who might be allowed (or not allowed) to attend the games, but you left out what I consider to be the most important question — what happens if a player comes down with COVID-19? This could go for any sport, not just football. What would happen to that team? Would every player be quarantined for 14 days? I know you won’t be the one making this call, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.

— Prone to Wonder

Dear Wonder: I honestly can’t imagine what would happen, or how a season could go on, if a player were to come down with COVID-19 next fall. This problem probes much deeper than sports, though.

It’s an issue we’ll all have to consider as the country begins to reopen, and we start coming out of the house again. What will happen if a student contracts the disease next fall? Will the whole school district shut down? Only time will tell.

In terms of sports, though, I can say this: athletics has taken a backseat during these unprecedented times, and rightfully so. Yes, I write a sports column. Yes, athletics have comprised the greater part of my life, but…

There is a time and place for everything.

And sadly, this is not the time for recreational activities, especially ones that involve large gatherings of people. Hopefully, we’ll all be in a different boat come September. Hopefully, things will start to feel “normal” again, but there’s just no way to know.

As a former coach, I can tell you there is nothing more important than the safety of our country’s student athletes. The COVID-19 pandemic poses a threat unlike we’ve ever seen before. So if sports ramp up again in the fall of 2020, there is a good chance they’ll come to a grinding halt midway through the season.

Now, I do not think this will be the case everywhere. As of this writing, there has only been 37 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Pope County, Arkansas. The numbers are similar for many other rural areas across the country. I’d be willing to bet places like my hometown will be able to move forward with high school athletic next fall.

This won’t be the case everywhere, though, and even the rural areas will have to be on high alert. All it will take is a scenario like you mentioned — one confirmed case on a team or in a school — and the whole thing could go kaput.

Which leads me to my final point: take time to really love up the kids who’ve been hardest hit by all this. Spring sports like baseball, softball, track and field — those kids already lost an entire season. The 2020 graduating class didn’t get to walk at graduation. They didn’t even get a prom.

So, please, when you see these young people around town, stop and let them know you’re thinking about them. Let them know you’re just as worried as they are about what the future holds. But most importantly, let them know we’re all in this thing together.

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:

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 April 26, 2020

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