The COVID-19 pandemic has affected American families differently. For some, it’s learning how to help a family member suffering with the disease or perhaps mourning the loss of one. For others, it’s homeschooling the kids while working from home. For others it’s the loss of a job, stress in the marriage or simply dealing with an uncertain future.

For some student athletes, it’s uncertainty due to season cancellations, loss of potential college scholarships and “what am I going to do this fall?” Add those teen issues to the mix of family dynamics affected by the pandemic, and parents can feel overwhelmed.

If there’s a silver lining in all this, it’s that there are groups and resources becoming available for families needing help that didn’t exist a couple months ago. Even for families with student athletes.

One such resource is the Champions Rise Challenge, a month-long, free (although there is a charity component that is additional) daily Zoom video interview with famous sports figures and other experts. The purpose of the videos is to give student athletes and their parents hope, as well as advice, training and answers to their questions on how to stay focused, committed and strong during COVID. The Challenge utilizes the Facebook “groups” feature to build a community that works together to help each other meet the comparable challenges they all face.

The Challenge is the joint effort of James “J.R.” Reid, an advisor, mentor and life coach to elite athletes, and Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Mikie Mahtook. Together they have scheduled an impressive list of athletes, experts and industry leaders who have donated their time to talk directly with students from middle school to high school and their parents on topics from nutrition and training to dealing with stress and family.

The Daily Citizen spoke with Mr. Reid about the need for this opportunity specifically for athletes and their families attempting to respond to the unique issues created by the COVID-19 pandemic. “We started this to give hope back to the millions of young athletes and their families who have just been torn apart by this whole COVID craziness,” Reid said.  “And specifically getting their seasons wiped out and in some cases their dreams cut short. On the other side, parents are trying to navigate COVID for their own lives and businesses, and now they’re going to deal with that extra layer of mental and emotional stress that’s going on with their child.”

Reid says the Challenge is not another conference or summit that makes the participant feel good and then sends them off with nothing useful for the long term.

“The underlying theme of this is we can either use this time to grow closer as a family and get re-connected, or we can grow further apart,” he said. “And the key message we’re building there as athletes in the world (including parents) is ‘family is your high-performance X-factor.’”

The Challenge recently featured Houston Astros outfielder George Springer, a three time MLB All-Star, who spoke about the importance of family at times like these. “Baseball for me is not who I am, it’s what I do” he said during his Zoom interview.

Reid hopes that the Challenge will bring families together at a critical time. “Sure, we’re going to talk about the sports stuff,” he said. “But if you’re not in here to grow in your relationships and grow in your family, this is not for you. We made that very clear. The caliber of the players and the experts we are bringing on match that.”

The Challenge is happening right now. You can learn more about it here.


Photo by Braden Collum