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Vulnerability is key in uncertain times
eli cranor
Syndicated sports columnist Eli Cranor

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. 


Eli Cranor is a former professional quarterback and coach turned award-winning author. Send questions for “Athletic Support” to or visit


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