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Athletic support: Yawning before the big game
eli cranor
Syndicated sports columnist Eli Cranor

DEAR ATHLETIC SUPPORT: My son yawns before big games. Is that weird? It is to me. I really don’t like it at all. It’s like he doesn’t care about what we’re doing. We’ve been working on his athletic career since he was big enough to hold a ball, but now every time we’re in a championship game or playing our biggest rival, he could care less.

Maybe I’m pushing him too hard. I don’t know. I just can’t stand to see this new, nonchalant attitude. I started noticing it back at the start of this past football season. He’s finishing up his ninth-grade year. In our district, ninth grade is still junior high. So he’s the big dog, finally on the starting team, and it still didn’t seem to matter to him. This lasted all the way through basketball and has carried over into his travel baseball as well. If you could shed any light on why he might be acting this way, I would greatly appreciate it.


 DEAR YAWN: If I had to guess, I’d say your son is nervous.

Anxiety affects the heart and respiratory system. Getting nervous can feel like you’re out of breath. The reason we yawn is to get more oxygen into the bloodstream. In short, a yawn is basically just one big breath. So, it’s not that your son doesn’t care about athletics anymore — it’s the exact opposite. As your son has gotten older and gotten into a more competitive league, he’s started taking athletics more seriously.

This is good and bad. It’s good because it shows he cares, which I’m hoping eases your mind. Your son cares so much that he’s having a physical response to his nerves — which isn’t the best thing for a young athlete. This is why the new yawning episodes could also be a bad thing. You don’t want your son to be so nervous that it impacts his performance.

There’s a fine line to walk when it comes to pregame focus. As a former coach, I can remember trying to gauge how my team would perform based on how they acted in the hours leading up to kickoff. No matter how hard I tried, I never could get it right. Some games, my players would be stone faced before the game and play horribly. Other times, they’d be wild and free and play just as bad.

What’s the answer? Every kid is different. That’s the only coaching (or parenting) maxim that really matters. Try to find a balance that works for your son. You don’t want him to feel so much pressure that he freezes up on the field/ court. In the end, it’s just a game, and games are supposed to be fun.

Eli Cranor is a former professional quarterback and coach turned award-winning author. His debut novel, “Don’t Know Tough,” is available for preorder wherever books are sold. Send in questions for “Athletic Support” by using the “Contact” page at

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