Being cut from a sports team can be one of the most devastating events in a youth's life.
If being told they're not good enough isn't painful already, many youths feel angry, embarrassed and confused with their feelings and how they should process the news about being deselected. Being cut can be humbling, and it can lead to pessimistic thoughts about trying out for the team again in the future -- or any sports team, for that matter.
The process of being cut
Being "cut" is the slang term used for when a student athlete is deselected from a sports team. Usually, the reason a student is cut from a team has to do with lacking sport skills, but other reasons could relate to being academically ineligible, physically injured and unable to play, or perhaps the toughest reason of all, "politics." Regardless of why a student gets cut from a team, it's safe to assume the vast majority of them were not anticipating being cut, and even fewer will be unaffected in a negative way from the news.
There are differences in the ways in which coaches deliver the news of being cut, from simply taping a list on the coach's office door to more sensitive measures that include delivering the news to youths privately. The net result, regardless of how the news is delivered, is that youths who are cut will need to face the reality that for this upcoming season, they will not be a part of the team or be around their teammates. As you can imagine, this is often really heavy stuff for them to work through and rebound from moving forward.
What you can do
Although it is true that when a youth gets cut from a sports team, it's an intimate experience that only the individual can experience and process. Still, family, friends and even coaches can help by using the following tips:
Talk frankly, but show sensitivity. When talking to youths who have been cut, it's OK to talk about the experience openly and honestly. Remind them that this is just one of the many hurdles and challenges they will face in life but also allow a shoulder to lean on when needed. You might also use the expression, "it's not how many times you get knocked down, but how many times you get up," as you discuss the value of resiliency and perseverance.
Reflect using an internal locus of control. Try to prevent youths from finger-pointing and calling out "politics" as the reason they were cut from the team. Rather than spending time blaming the coach (and others), try to instead encourage them to look inward and ask powerful questions like "What could I have done better?" "What are my areas of weakness that need improved?" "How can I come back again next time and perform better?"
Solicit feedback. Although it might not be a pleasant thought, youths who follow up with the coach to learn where they fell short often receive invaluable feedback that can be used to set future goals. Steer clear of pointing at other athletes and making comparisons and instead simply seek to learn what you can do for future self-improvement.
Set goals. As you receive feedback from the coaches, put that information into action with new goals that are specific, measurable and controllable.
Being cut from a sports team is never fun, but it can be an invaluable learning experience that can lead to future success. Try to avoid assuming "politics" were to blame and instead learn the specific areas that need improved for the next time there are tryouts. And finally, it's important to remember that many great athletes -- including Michael Jordan -- were once cut from sports teams, making it important to stay positive and optimistic for future success.
Dr. Chris Stankovich is the founder of Advanced Human Performance Systems, an athletic counseling and human performance enhancement center. Sports parents, please check out The Parents Video Playbook and sports counseling services at drstankovich.com.