The coaches have just wrapped up the evaluation and selection process. All players will be contacted on Wednesday. Please respect the privacy and feelings of other parents and players who may not have been selected for the team of their choice or may have not received a phone call. This evaluation and selection process was arduous. When you receive a phone call from the coaches please respect their decision. The decisions have been approved and confirmed by the evaluation committee, parent advisory board, WYTB, district coaches and team advisors.
What can you expect from coaches:
- Coaches should speak with parents
- Confirmation of placement on "A" team
- Alternative options for players not selected
- Brief over view of individual players evaluation and areas of improvement and areas of strength
- Opportunity to schedule an appointment to review the evaluation and set up a development plan with coach/player/parent
What not to expect:
- Comparisons to other players who may or may not have been selected
- Team list
- Debate or justification of evaluation, program, or selection process.
Prepare your child for not making the team
With more kids playing sports, it's harder now to get a position on the junior high and high school teams. Some of the recreational teams like the all-stars or the elite travel teams are even harder to make. Your child may be technically good at his sport, but he still might get cut. The competition for spots on these teams can be fierce. Not only do parents have to help their kids cope with the competitive stress of being on a team, they have to help them cope with the stress and pressure of making the team in the first place.
A friend of my son was crushed when he didn't make the school baseball team. He lost his appetite. He didn't want to play catch with his dad or his friends. When his parents asked me to talk with him, Robert blurted out: I feel like the biggest loser in the whole world!
Kids take not making the team hard. So do their parents. Robert's parents were stunned that he didn't make it. But he's such a good player, they told me and I agreed. I had seen Robert play. He was good. But there were other better players trying out for his position. It happens.
It also happens that a deserving child doesn't make the team for reasons that have nothing to do with her performance. Though this wasn't the case with Robert, I meet parents who tell me how the all-star team in their community or the high school football coach seems to play favorites or gives favors. The coach knows a girl's father from work and that girl gets a position on the team even though another girls is a better player. This is a growing problem (for more advice on handling an unfair coach, see Coaching Concerns, chapter 5).
If your child is trying out for the team, you need to prepare him for the possibility that he won't make it. Here are some guidelines to follow:
- Discourage. For example, you don't want to say, Well, you're probably not going to make it because there are so many other kids who are better. Don't be negative, be realistic.
- Go overboard with encouragement. You also don't want to go too far the other way and say, We're winners in our family! We go for it and get it! or Winners never quit and quitters never win . . . This is not preparing a child for the possibility of not making it. This kind of overboard cheerleading puts more pressure on kids. They think, Oh no, if I don't make it, Dad will think I'm a quitter.
- Make your child into a victim. In an attempt to make kids feel better some parents say things like, You've been robbed! That coach had something against you. Or They were out to get you. This only heaps another dimension of emotion and stress upon your child.
- Deny her feelings of loss. If you say, Who wants to be on the stupid field hockey team anyway, You're only diminishing what was important to her. You're denying her feelings and that only makes things worse. Instead, acknowledge her loss by saying, I know you're very disappointed. It's really hard to get cut like that.
- Give a positive reality check. You want to prepare kids for the possibility of not making the team without discouraging them from trying. Focus on effort and not outcome. You can say something like: I can see how hard you're working to improve your game. I know you really want a place on the team. But there are over thirty-five freshmen who are trying out for field hockey this year. Only six of you will make it. I'm not trying to discourage you. I just want you to know that the competition is very stiff. It can happen that we work really hard and still don't get something. It makes us feel bad for a while, but the important thing is to try. If we don't try our best we never know.
- Give him/her positive options. Your daughter will feel less pressure about trying out for the team if she knows it's not the end of the world if she doesn't make it. Let her know: I want you to remember that if for some reason, you don't make it this year, you can still try out next year. I'll work with you every Saturday. There's also a girls hockey team forming at the new sports arena over in the shopping center. We can check that out. If she doesn't make the team, remind her that she does have options to play other sports.
My son's first tryout came in seventh grade for the middle-school basketball team. Until then, he played regularly in either the rec league or the church league. His specialty was blocking shots, because he was tall with long arms. He was also the only kid on his team who could shoot and dribble with either hand. Even with 30 kids trying out for 10 spots, he felt his chances were good.
In the end, my son didn't make it. A lot of good kids didn't make it. Still, he questioned himself. He thought he was good at basketball, but apparently he wasn't good enough. Would he also fail in other things? Rec leagues ended in sixth grade. There were no sports for him to do. He fell into a funk that affected everything else in his life.
Facing the Hard Facts
Not every child will be affected so deeply when not making the team, but all young athletes will eventually face the reality that sports are selective. Around the age of 11, children enter the period of select or elite teams. Little League picks "all-star" teams to compete in the World Series tournament. Soccer and basketball teams choose travel squads. By middle school, nearly all sports teams require tryouts (football being an exception).
"At the younger ages, effort and ability aren't separated," says Gregg Heinzmann, director of the Youth Sports Research Council. "When they hit adolescence, however, the kids begin to discover their athletic abilities are finite, just when they are entering stages with other age-related challenges and anxieties."
"Adolescence is the period of time where young peoples' physical development and psychological development are becoming formulated," says Charles Maher, professor of psychology at Rutgers University. "Developmentally, this is the time for the more talented youth to be allowed to compete with others at the same level."
Maher, who is also the team psychologist for the Cleveland Indians and the Cleveland Cavaliers, points out that adolescents, whatever their natural talent levels may be, also tend to vary a great deal in their emotions and self-esteem. "If making the elite and travel teams signifies external rewards and recognitions, and the unabashed showcasing of young players and their coaches, this narcissistic attitude and self-centeredness will reinforce to those who do not make the teams that they are not 'good' people," he says.
The most obvious external reward is being able to be a part of a team and with that, the knowledge that, for now, the child's athletic ability is considered best among his or her peers. On the flip side, the children who don't get picked suffer a severe blow to their ego, and it is up to the parents to apply the salve.
"There is no way being cut won't hurt," says Maureen Busch of Stow, Mass., who has three children participating in sports. Although her children have made select teams, they have also been cut from teams before.
"The worst time came when my second son was cut from a team he had been on for multiple seasons," Busch says. "Everyone assumed he would make it again. That was a time he needed a lot more moral support. He felt a true sense of having lost something."
Helping Them Cope
What can parents do to help their child survive being passed over for a select team?
1. Explain that everyone gets a turn to shine.
"Sometimes it is someone else's turn, and next time it could be yours," says Debbie Mandel, the author of Turn on Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul
(Busy Bee Group, 2003).
2. Ask in advance what coaches will be looking for in a player
and the commitment you and your child need to make if she makes the team, explains Stacy DeBroff, author of Sign Me Up! The Parents' Complete Guide to Sports, Activities, Music Classes, Dance Lessons and Extracurriculars
(Free Press, 2003). Knowing what the coach expects ahead of time can alert the parents to whether or not this sport in this situation would be a good fit for the child.
3. Prepare your child for the possibility of not making the team before tryouts begin.
"The parents should convey to their sons and daughters to prepare to make the team, to work hard to do so and most importantly, feel good about themselves no matter the outcome," Maher says.
4. If your child truly enjoys the sport, do everything possible to keep them interested and involved.
"If a child doesn't make a team, he is often discouraged and drops the sport," DeBroff says. "Stories abound of middle-of-the-road athletes who went on to excel." Michael Jordan is an excellent example of a young athlete who was cut by his school team, but who didn't give up and tried out the next year. Look for alternative leagues, or sign them up for sports camps to improve their skills.
5. Allow them to feel the hurt of not making the team.
Busch says that she and her husband let her children take the lead on how they want to deal with the disappointment. "If they needed to go off to their rooms for a while to deal with it, that was fine," she says. "If they wanted to talk about it, we were there to listen and help put it in perspective."
6. Keep it in perspective.
Oftentimes children are upset because they feel they let down their parents. "It is flattering to a parent when a coach wants your child to try out for a select team," Heinzmann says. Children pick up on parents' excitement, so reinforce to your child that you aren't disappointed in him, but disappointed for him.
Keeping It in Perspective
It is difficult enough for a child who hasn't made a select team, but doubly hard when his friends do get picked. "I see the kids on the team forming a group, and not being in that group leads to exclusion," says Steve Albert, a father and youth coach from Cranford, NJ. There could be a temporary break in the friendship, or it could end up in a permanent break. Parents should do whatever they can to encourage strengthening other friendships during this time.
In the long run, it is important that parents keep reality in perspective for their young athletes. All children will eventually suffer rejection; no one is immune to it. Some children bloom early, and some will have late growth spurts and puberty to improve their athletic ability.
"There are very few athletes who make it to the professional level and also very few who obtain college scholarships," Maher says. "Parents of young athletes would do well to keep these realities in mind. Parents need to emphasize the dictum of keeping everything, including sports, in perspective."