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Athletic support: What's that smell? It's not as bad as you think

Dear Athletic Support: My son’s shoes stink to high heaven! Mainly, it’s his basketball shoes. For a while he was leaving them in his locker at school, but now he brings them home because he likes to play pick-up games with his friends after school. I know this may sound silly, but is there anything I can do to keep his shoes from stinking up my house? — Nose Laughing Matter

Dear Nose: Every time I think back on the locker rooms of my past, I remember the smell. A sour, moldy stench. Some strange chemical reaction taking place in the armpits of musty jerseys and the soles of worn-in shoes.

During my time as a coach, I took a proactive approach to combating my players’ various odors. We did laundry after every practice and workout. We provided body wash and shampoo for the showers, but none of this ever really seemed to help.

I can remember my wife coming into the locker room some nights when I was working late, pinching her nose with this look on her face like, What died in here?! I even think she went so far as to purchase some Glad Plugins and Febreze.

In the end, though, there was no getting rid of the stench. That musty cloud of teenage-boy sweat seeped into my pores, my clothes, and my hair. Strangely enough, it somehow soaked its way into my heart, as well. These days, whenever I venture back to a sporting event and catch a waft of the glorious stench of competition, the years burn away, and I’m back in the locker room again.

Maybe one day, long after your son’s basketball shoes have been tossed aside, you’ll look back on that peculiar odor and remember the good times, instead of the stinky ones.

Dear Athletic Support: My sixteen-year-old daughter has expressed interest in quitting basketball after this season. I can tell it’s what she really wants to do, but selfishly I’m worried about what will come next for our family. Her father and I have devoted so much time to her basketball career: weekend tournaments, late night games, not to mention all the long car rides to and from travel team practices. What on earth are we going to do without basketball? — Hold On Loosely… But Don’t Let Go?

Dear Loosely: This is a perfect question for the new year, a time many people spend looking back, while at the same time, looking ahead.

I completely understand your worry about losing a valued part of your family dynamic. For many parents, sports are a way to bond with their kids. However, if your daughter is intent on quitting basketball, you should stick with your gut and honor her decision.

As you move forward, stay focused on your daughter’s new interests and see if there’s something the two of you could enjoy together. Maybe you’ll find a compelling television series you’ll want to binge watch, or maybe you’ll both take up tennis. Whatever pastime she chooses to fill the void left by basketball, try and make it something you can do together.

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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