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athletic support by eli cranor

Athletic Support: Coach forcing kids to practice during pandemic

Dear Athletic Support: My family and I live in a state that has had the top 5 highest COVID cases from the start. My daughter’s travel-league softball coach is adamant that we will play even if it means going against our governor’s orders and crossing state lines to do it. There have been multiple practices going on in various locations even though that’s not allowed right now, either. Coach has told us if we aren’t comfortable bringing our kid to practice, he won’t hold it against us. But he is really pushing this idea that COVID-19 is nothing more than the flu and refuses to wear a mask even though it’s also mandated in our state. I am extremely hesitant to travel to other states for tournaments. Some of them have 20-40 teams participating. But what concerns me most is this coach’s total disregard for the health and safety of our kids. Is the coach truly just trying to “let the kids play ball” or is it about him? Seems selfish to me to push this hard for families to go against the local, state, and federal guidelines over softball. But I am one of only two parents who are saying no. I love watching my kid play ball, we truly do enjoy these tournaments, but I’m not sure the benefits outweigh the risks. Because I stand alone, I have to keep myself in check and make sure I’m not the one taking it too far. Your thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated.

— That One Mom

Dear One Mom:You’re not taking it too far. Honestly, you might not be taking it far enough. The whole country is up against something we’ve never seen before. A virus that no one really understands. Not even the nation’s top doctors and scientists.

A travel-league softball coach definitely doesn’t know what’s best. The fact that he’s pushing so hard for the kids to return to play seems awful fishy to me, especially considering you’re from a highly infected state.

A coach should have the best interest of his or her players in mind. Back when I wore a whistle, I used the phrase, “in loco parentis” (Latin for “in place of the parent) to help define my role as a coach.

I did my best to treat the kids as my own. I watched their grades closely. I monitored their behavior in class and on the field. And when it came to player safety, I always deferred to governing bodies such as the state’s athletic association to help make my decisions.

Since this coach is unwilling to adhere to the mandates passed down from the federal government, I’d be willing to bet he’s unaware of “in loco parentis.” Or maybe he is aware of it — heck, maybe his kid is on the team — but he’s just too ignorant to fully comprehend the gravity of the current situation.

The truth of the matter is this: A coach can act “in place of the parent,” but he’ll never be able to parent for you. That’s your job.

So if you feel like he’s putting your kid at risk, take action. Remove your daughter from the team. It won’t be easy. You’ll probably have to burn some bridges with the coach and some of the other softball moms, but that might be for the best.

If nothing else, the way people are reacting to this global pandemic — their attitudes toward the health and safety of others — is making it easier and easier to stay socially distant.

When all of this is finally over, there will be other softball teams your child can join. Until then, rest easy and know you’re doing the right thing.

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:

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 April 26, 2020

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