Being cut from a team is one of the most difficult situations for athletes to handle. It's also one of the most difficult situations for parents to deal with because our natural instincts are to want to step in and rescue them and take away the pain that they are feeling. Believe me, I understand! I am a parent!
Our kids are meant to learn this lesson to see how they are going to respond to challenges like this in the future. However, your role is crucial at this point. If you make excuses for them, or blame the coaches, or even belittle them for not being good enough, it can have a lasting effect on how they handle these types of challenges in the future.
Your role is not to try to fix it. Instead, it is to help guide them through the pain, embarrassment, doubt, and fears they have just experienced as a result of not making the team.
So, how do you do that, you may be asking?
Use a skill called Active Listening. The goal is to get your child to talk. It is not about you or your opinions. At this point, it’s not about teaching lessons or saying what you think they should be doing or feeling. It is about listening to really hear your child.
Here are some guidelines that might help……
The following dialogue between a mother and son occurred in my office the other day. He had just found out that he didn’t make the basketball team. Mom did an amazing job at really listening to her child.
Mom: How are you feeling about not making the team?
Son: I didn’t make the team, they were so much bigger and better than me. I’m so mad that I sucked so bad. I just got too scared.
Mom: Scared, what do you mean about scared?
Son: I just looked at all the other players when I walked on the court and I felt so inexperienced and smaller than them. I threw the ball away as soon as I got it during the tryout because I didn’t want to look stupid and embarrass myself.
Mom: have you ever felt like that before?
Son: Yes, I get that way before test and when I have to speak in class and when I am in social situations and when I meet girls and it happens all the time mom! I hate it!
Mom: That sounds hard and scary.
Son: Yes I feel like I am never going to be good enough to make the team and why should I ever try again if I am just going to fail!
Mom: Failing? What does failing mean to you?
Son: It means I’m a loser and my friends all know I am a loser and they all made the team and I didn’t and I’m better than most of them! If I didn’t get so freaked out before tryouts, I would have made the team but I can’t control when it happens and when it doesn’t happen and if it does happen, I don’t know what to do and I freak out!
Mom: I can’t imagine what that pressure and not knowing if it's going to happen again feels like. That has to be soooo scary.
Son: It just makes me not want to try anything. I get so worried that it is going to happen again that it freaks me out!
Mom: Has anything you have tried help?
Son: When I take deep breaths it seems to calm me down a little bit.
Mom: So what’s the difference in how you feel after you take deep breaths?
Son: more relaxed and less anxious but it doesn’t always work!
Mom: how are you feeling right now?
Son: Anxious and mad about not making the team.
Mom: take 4 deep breaths
Son: Ok (4 breaths)
Mom: How do you feel?
Son: Better, but I’m still sad that I didn’t make the team!
Mom: Is it ok to be sad?
Son: I don’t like it!
Mom: I think it’s a pretty appropriate response to not making the team.
Son: me too
During this interaction between mother and son, I saw this young man feel heard and accepted by his mother. Even though he didn’t make the team he was so grateful that his mom understood the fears that he was dealing with and she didn’t dismiss them as not important or something he just needs to get over!
We have all been cut, not made the team, or got fired from a job. Parents, if you want your child to have more fun, learn from losses, play at a higher level, and learn the lessons that they are supposed to learn, you are going to have to learn to really listen to them without judging, discounting their feelings or telling them what they should do. They are on this journey to figure out what to do, not to be told.
The best way, bar none, for a parent to handle difficult situations with their child, like getting cut from the team, is to help them explore the emotions that come from failing. It's called walking into fear and it helps them to own their $H!% (feelings). Not making the team isn’t going to be something that they are afraid of for the rest of their life if they are being honest about their feelings and learning to understand them.
Good luck parents!
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