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athletic support by eli cranor

Athletic Support: Vulnerability is key in uncertain times

Dear Athletic Support: My daughter had her first softball tournament of the summer last weekend. It felt so good to be back out on the field, but things were definitely different. I don’t know if it was the masks all the girls were wearing or what, but my daughter just didn’t seem as sharp as usual. It was like she was distracted. Or maybe she was just rusty from the long break. Do you have any suggestions on how I can get my daughter back on track? I’ve tried taking her out to the field and getting some extra swings in, but that doesn’t seem to help. I guess what worries me most is that some of the other girls haven’t skipped a beat. It’s like they’re just as good as they were before the shutdown.

— Wishing For A Cure

Dear Wishing: All kids process trauma differently. Some internalize it. Some lash out. Others don’t seem to be phased at all. But the truth is, they’re all impacted one way or the other.

If your daughter’s softball game is showing signs of regression, it could mean a couple things. First, she might really be struggling with the fears and uncertainties surrounding COVID-19.

If this is the case, then you’re right, there’s no amount of extra batting practice that’s going to snap her out of this funk. Your daughter just needs time. Time to process all the changes that have occurred in her young life over the last few months.

She might also need to talk to you. You’d be surprised how far a ten-minute conversation can go, especially when kids are trying to deal with something like COVID-19.

Even if you don’t have all the answers, or you’re not sure what you believe when it comes to the pandemic, talking to your daughter is still a good idea. It’s okay to be vulnerable in front of you kids. In fact, sometimes it’s just what they need to hear.

After you’ve had your talk, I have a feeling your daughter’s game will change for the better. She’ll be able to get back to being a kid again without having to worry about the unknown.

If, however, you find that she’s still struggling, I’m afraid there’s no amount of talking that’s going to snap her out of this funk. The prognosis is simple — your daughter just doesn’t like softball as much as she used to.

Over the last few months, I’ve heard from more than one concerned parent where this has been the case. Their child takes an extended break from sports due to COVID-19, and then, when it’s time for sports to get going again, the child has lost interest.

There’s absolutely nothing you can say in this situation. When a kid is ready to quit—they’re ready. Period. Back when I was coaching, I knew when a player was coming into my office to quit. I could see it in his eyes every time. I tried everything I could to get those players to stay on the team, but it never worked.

You can — and should — try talking to your daughter about why she’s lost interest in softball. But in the end, if she’s ready to quit the team, she’s ready to quit. And honestly, that’s okay. There’s a lot of worse stuff that could happen.

Luckily, I’m not sick in the literal sense, and I’m guessing you’re not either. Which is good for both of us. There are, however, thousands upon thousands of really sick people in America. The cases in some places (like my home state of Arkansas) are higher than ever. Regardless of all this, sports are still starting up again.

As the death toll rises, youth-league baseballers and softballers are stepping back on the diamond. High school athletes are making their way back into the gyms and weight rooms for summer workouts.

And listen, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong — or right — about this; I’m just saying it’s weird. It’s unprecedented. So we’re going to be talking about it for a long, long time. Even when sports come back full swing, they won’t be the same.

Half-full stadiums. Pitchers wearing masks. College football season put on hold! And you know what the announcers, broadcasters and radio personalities will be talking about?

Of course you do.

Call for questions: If you enjoy “Athletic Support”, please consider taking the time to send in a question. My contact information is listed at the bottom of every column. Lately, I’ve been receiving fewer and fewer questions, and I can probably guess why.

There are much bigger things going on in our world than a weekly sports-advice column. But I’ve always ascribed to the belief that sports are a mirror of any society, a window into the hearts and souls of the people.

Take for example the last few “Athletic Support” topics: We’ve discussed wearing masks to practice, when/if it’s okay for kids to return to sports, and even racial tensions amongst teammates.

These are heavy subjects, but I take pride in not shying away from the tough stuff. I don’t expect every reader to agree with me one hundred percent of the time. You might never agree with me, and if that’s the case — tell me about it!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, any advice column is only as good as the questions it receives. I’ve been lucky to get a lot of great questions over the last year. Enough, in fact, that this column marks the 52nd installment — the first birthday — of “Athletic Support.”

I sure hope there are many more good years to come, but it won’t be possible without you and your unique, thoughtful, and (sometimes) spiteful questions.

Keep ‘em coming!

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:

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 June 27, 2020

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