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athletic support by eli cranor

Athletic Support: Little pitchers have big ears
February 28, 2021

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.”

Dear Athletic Support: I've attended a lot of youth games, from peewee to high school. While most parents and grandparents are encouraging, there are always a few who seem to take their passion a bit too far. They holler at the refs, which is bad enough. But even worse, they direct negative comments toward their own kids. One season in youth baseball we had a dad who would yell, “Catch the ball,” every time his son would make an error. It was very noticeable, and I felt bad for the kid. He was eight years old. It’s not like he meant to miss the ball. I realize how easy it is to get caught up in these games. And I'll admit, in the past I’ve let my emotions take me a little further than I should’ve on a few occasions. But what I did was listen. I listened to the folks in the stands that took it too far. That did it for me. I never wanted to sound like that dad who hounded his son over a booted ground ball. What advice do you have for parents who take their kids’ sports too seriously, to the point of belittling their own offspring?

— Still Listening

Dear Listening: Back in 2019, I wrote a column called “Coaching from the stands” that addressed this topic, but it’s definitely worth revisiting.

I once asked Rick Jones — nine-time state championship winning football coach and current assistant at the University of Missouri — this same question, and his response has stuck with me.

Coach Jones said he’d coached a handful of boys whose fathers played in the NFL. The one thing all these former professional athletes had in common — they kept quiet. They didn’t holler from the stands. They didn’t schedule meetings with the coach about playing time. They played it cool.


Maybe it’s because these were the guys who “made it.” Since they’d already achieved success at the highest level, they didn’t feel the urge to push their kids so hard. They were fine to just sit back and watch, which isn’t a bad idea for parents with lesser sporting pedigrees.

My kids are too young to be involved in organized sports. So, yes, my time is coming. But I do think there’s a fine line between supporting a young athlete and pushing him/her too far.

In the end, that line will always be determined by the parent. And something all parents should consider before trying to “coach” their child is their child! Some kids respond well to criticism. It spurs them on to greater heights. Others recoil when corrected. Watch your child closely. Read his/her cues. Even if your kid does respond well to aggressive coaching, it’s best to refrain from yelling anything during the games, especially if we’re talking about youth-league baseball. Remember the old adage, “Little pitchers have big ears”?

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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

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