One of my kids didn’t make the team he or she (purposed ambiguity) was trying out for and they were completely upset about it. Heather called me at the office to tell me the news so I had some time to prepare myself as to what I might say. I am the type of parent that does not like to shoot from the hip (although some situations call for that) and so I started reading some articles as to what one might say to their kid when they did not make the team. I saw some really good articles and so what I said below might help a parent out there down the road. Please know that what I said may not have been the best thing but it was how I approached this situation. Also, I have included some things that I did and did not do so hopefully you can glean from that.
I told them that I was truly sorry. I felt their pain and the raw emotion of, essentially, being told that he or she was not good enough to make the roster. It hurt me too because I know how hard my child worked at trying to make the team. They were devastated. The rejection was quite real and there was no dancing around it. Rather than curtail the rejection I decided to rest in it for a while and let the emotions…the tears…come rolling out. I held back my tears as I watched my child cry from this disappointment. I know some parents would want to make their child laugh or possibly distract them from the pain or completely avoid it altogether but I resisted that urge and we both sat there a little broken.
I encouraged my child to resist the urge of making excuses. “Dad, the coach didn’t even take the time to look at my skills and if they would have…” I listened, affirmed and then gently said, “It’s over and there is nothing we can do about this. All we can change now is how we respond moving forward and playing the victim card will not get you on the team now and certainly won’t get you on the team in the future.” That stung a little and my child may be right about the unfairness of the situation (I could tell that the coach probably had in mind who he or she wanted) but I can’t know this for sure and the only thing I do know is where we move forward from here.
I talked a little bit about adversity. No parent or child enjoys adversity. It is not like we love the moments where our hopes and dreams (misguided or not) are crushed. If I am close to a sale and they don’t follow through rarely do I jump up and toe-tap with kindergarten-esk flamboyance. Yet, failing is important. There is no better teacher than losing and, despite what the everyone-gets-an-award culture says, it will drive us to become better if we use it to our advantage. I told my child this as they rolled their eyes at me gazing out the window as if outside had all the answers. I quoted Henry Ford and said, “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” I got another eye roll. (See Jocko’s video below. I use this for myself when defeat is in front of me)
I asked them, “What are you going to do about it?” They responded, “I don’t know.” Typical. It’s hard to be objective when defeat is not yet in the rear view mirror. Click To Tweet So, I tried another route, “Do you want to make the team next year?” They responded, “Yes!” “What are some things you can do between now and then that will improve your chances?” That rolled the ball in their thinking and they responded, “Practice more. Get better. Work hard.” I could see the wheels turning then and so what turned out to be a disaster, became the fuel that may drive them to succeed later.
I reached out to some folks for wisdom and help. I know squat about some of the sports my kids are into so I need some help from people who know a lot more than I do. I want to leverage their skills and my child’s desire to work so that they will be in the best position for tryouts next year.
I did not reach out to the coach. There may be a place for a parent to reach out and get some positive feedback as to why their child did not make it, but I am not that parent. At this point, I understand that there is much parody in sports and with only so many spots available eventually people can’t make the team. Plus, I always give coaches, teachers and others the benefit of the doubt knowing my kid is not the best at everything he or she does. I am OK with that. Some parents aren’t and will pitch a fit because their sweet Johnny deserves a spot on the team, or first chair in the orchestra or solo in the concert when clearly, they are not there yet. Again, all I can do right now is control how we move forward.
There you have it! I may have screwed up but that is what I did. What are some things you have done (or not) when your child did not make the team?
Here is the Jocko video…enjoy.