Watching your child-athlete struggle to earn playing time, or worse yet, just make the team, can be one of the toughest things to experience for a sports parent. While nobody enjoys going through the frustration of not making the cut, there are healthy and effective lessons that can be learned that will help your child’s chances for future sport success. If your son or daughter has been recently deselected from his or her team, consider the following tips to help you through the transition.
1. Refrain from immediately calling “politics” after the decision. In the sports world the term “politics” is sometimes used to emotionally describe human, subjective coaching decisions. The reality is that coaches will make judgement calls that aren’t always fair, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the coach purposely stuck it to a kid he didn’t like. Life, like sports, is also full of “politics” if you use that term every time a human being subjectively appraises another human being, so the healthier route to go is to simply accept that human judgements are not always perfect. The bigger challenge is to learn from the experience and use the knowledge to improve for the future.
2. Allow for recovery. Kids, like adults, often need time to work through the emotions of failure and rejection. Rather than immediately jumping in after the bad news has been given to your child, allow for some time for him or her to work through the emotions (of course, you can certainly offer support at this time). It is not, however, recommended that you immediately begin coaching your child on what he or she could have (or should have) done differently — there will be time for that when emotions settle in the days that follow.
3. Talk to your child about resiliency. Learning how to cope with stress, frustration, adversity, and failure is a very important life skill, so be sure to sit down with your child to process this event in a healthy way. What this means is helping your child understand that sometimes things in life don’t always work out the first time, but the real champions are the ones who use failure as a teaching tool and work to get better for the future.
4. Solicit feedback from the coach. The idea here is not to go to the coach to call out other kids who earned a spot over your child, but to instead simply learn what your child can do to improve his or her chances for the future. Ask the coach politely for a few minutes of his or her time and jot a few notes on the sport skills your child needs to develop. Thank the coach, and then….
5. Develop future goals and monitor progress. Goals should be specific, measurable, and controllable — and keeping a journal of daily victories can really help, too. You should also help your child set short-, mid-, and long-term goals whenever possible.
BONUS TIP: Building kids back up after getting cut from a team can be a daunting task, so be sure to use a lot of positive reinforcement and encouragement whenever possible. Reward your child for effort, even if the results still aren’t there (your reinforcement will help your child with perseverance).