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Sep. 4 2009 - 11:13 pm | 68 views | 0 recommendations | 8 comments

My kid’s not going junior high: dealing with getting cut, part II (the aftermath)

About a week ago, I wrote about my seventh-grade son getting cut from the school volleyball team, and all the emotions that flowed from it.

For any of you parents who fear life after getting cut, I can assure you: it goes on.

Holy crap, Nirvana totally ripped off “Come As You Are” from this song. And from Killing Joke’s “Eighties,” too.

I presume some of the secret to everyone getting over a cut is the same advice often given to parents when their toddlers fall over while walking. That is, unless your child is upset and crying, there’s no need for you to freak out over a fall. A calm child getting herself up off the floor will only freak out by seeing you freak out.

In my case, when I got home from work, my son was not freaking out over being cut. I asked him how he felt, and he said he was OK, that he figured after the first day he had a 50-50 chance of making the team. Actually, this might be another lesson in getting cut. Had we spent thousands and thousands on travel volleyball and camps, had my son done only volleyball for the first 12 years of his life (that is, all of his life), everybody would have been more devastated just by the crappy return on investment. While my son has played on a school team before, done intramurals and attended a few camps, it wasn’t like everything in his life was building to that moment. So he was disappointed, but not devastated.

I’m not going to say my son is 100 percent over it. His math teacher, the girls’ volleyball coach, asked my son if he wanted to be the manager of the boys’ team, keeping score and such. His immediate answer, a la Sarah Palin’s mythical response to the Bridge to Nowhere: Thanks, but no thanks.

I asked my son that night whether he wanted to give managing a try, that maybe this was a sign from the coaches of how close he came, and how it might give him a chance to get to know the coaches and team and perhaps improved his chances when he tries out in eighth grade. But he was adamant: if he’s not going to play volleyball, he’s not going to watch other people do it. Perhaps some of this is not wanting to be a second-class citizen (as managers are) on a team he tried to make. But my son also has no interest in watching sports on television or just sitting in his seat all game at a live event. This is no new behavior.

Instead, he has focused on what other things there were to do at his new junior high. He signed up for the Strategy Club, at which you play chess and other head-stretching games. He has signed up to play drums in the school band. As I mentioned last time, he’s got his eye on running distances in track and field, where no one gets cut. He’s a budding photographer, so he’s interested in school newspaper and yearbook. And then there’s his favorite activity, putting on his Rollerblades (the actual brand, not the generic use of the name) and his iPod, and skating around for an hour or so.

So I come to praise dabbling, and the peace of mind and lack of pressure that can bring.

Perhaps my son will not be incredibly great at all these things. But by being open to a lot of different experiences, he gets more of a chance to do more of what he wants or try something he’s never done.

However, he and any of us dabblers must always understand that sometimes you’re going to lose out to people who do devote their lives to something, or are merely physically and mentally steps ahead of you at the beginning.

The other day I walked by the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, where early in the morning parents were standing in line with their children for the young people’s tryouts for “A Christmas Carol.” I suspect that none of these kids was a dabbler, and that no one is going to devote two blog posts to a kid not making the cut — nobody demands that theater be as fair as sport. You know, in each, the problem is that there are only so many parts to play.

The more immediate issue for my son is his interest in going out for the basketball team. He’s pretty juiced about it, having played park district, intramural and school ball for the last three years. However, I’ve also told my son that if he wants to make the basketball team, he’s going to have to practice on our driveway hoop every day to make sure, say, he hits his layups every time. My son is not 6-foot-2, so making the team is going to be, um, a tall order. I told him there’s always park district basketball again, but if he really wants to make the basketball team, he’s going to have to dedicate himself to it. We’ll see how that goes. I’m not forcing him outside.

If there’s an upside to your child being cut, it’s that it can open opportunities to discover other activities at school or elsewhere. Given how few kids make it in sport (see my blog title), your child being given the opportunity to dabble can mean a lot more in the long run than making a team ever could.

That said, it’ll still suck that day if my son gets cut from the basketball team.


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  1. collapse expand

    Bob
    I admire your laid-back approach and ability to stand back and let your son take responsibility for himself.
    I think it’s doubly hard for kids (and parents) to deal with being cut when they’re coming from years and years of teams where not only are kids not cut, but they all get trophies etc. Seems an abrupt switch they have to make, from very inclusive to hyper competitive. No one seems to get it right. This year our summer travel baseball league decided to let all the 9 year olds play, partly because they realized they were losing kids to lacrosse and other sports that were more welcoming (i.e. not making cuts) at that age and it seemed like the right thing to do. Why should a child be told at age 9, nope it’s too late for you, you’re not goood enough to spend the summer playing a sport you love. But many parents were not happy about this as it made all the teams weaker…Is it just impossible to please parents when it comes to sports?

  2. collapse expand

    Bob -
    In the competitive world of youth athletics it seems a kid has to be a gifted athlete or a super specialist and play his or her sport year round to make the high school team. But all is not lost – I’ve just discovered the perfect place for dabblers – the high school club scene (check out my newest post.) My son’s high school has 150+ of them – some so weird and wacky they’ll make you laugh.

    And your son’s volleyball career may not be over. I took up beach volleyball for the first time – at age 43!

  3. collapse expand

    Mr. Cook,

    Sometimes there are things worse than being cut. My kids went a pretty small high school, about 1,400 kids in four grades, so it was usually a challenge to get enough players to even field a team. The varsity football team typically had 35 players, some had to play both offense and defense. Many games were lost late in the 4th quarter when the players were just too tired.

    My daughter tried out for softball as a freshman. Softball practice conflicted with wind ensemble and both our daughter and my wife and I were not sure which she should do. However, since my daughter had been playing softball for five years, mostly in center field, the coach asked us to re-arrange her schedule so she could play. They would be sure to need an experienced center fielder. Well we did and guess what, she made the team but never played. She sat out almost the entire season, playing a couple of inning towards the end. The coach put had some poor girl who had never played organized ball in her life out in the center field. This girl got hurt chasing a fly ball when she crashed into the right fielder. They then had to put our daughter in (the assistant coach had the nerve to say “Oh, why didn’t you tell me you could play”). It would have been better had she either cut or of course not been recruited to play.

    • collapse expand

      David from La-La Land, you hit one of the coach things that annoys me the most: when they beg you to send your kid to play, and then put him on the bench. When my oldest was in third grade, he had a baseball game and a soccer playoff game on the same night. The soccer coach pleaded with me that this was a big game, that he needed my son on the field, that I would be the worst soccer parent ever if I didn’t have him blow off baseball. So I brought him, and saw my son as the only benched the whole of the second half. I asked him afterward if there was some sort of problem with my son as to why he didn’t play (generally, everyone played equally), and he said, well, we had to go with out best players because it was a playoffs game (I restrained myself from asking why he played his struggling kids the whole game, which we lost). If the coach, in his heart of hearts, didn’t think enough of my kid to play him, why did he bother to beg me to bring him? Sheesh.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  4. collapse expand

    Not getting to play a sport you love is tough. Bob seems very relaxed in that his child has found many other options to do with his spare time. When young children get cut it is tough no doubt about it, but can fuel someone to work harder. I just hate when some get cut so another kid (who should not be there) gets to play so his parents are pleased. In life getting cut happens. It could be a job, college application, or house loan application. It is part of moving forward and keeping you head up. Now don’t think that cutting a 9 year old is good for his well-being, that is not what I’m saying. I’m saying as you get older it is time to learn to move on, like Bob’s son. Who wants to sit on the bench anyway, at least the coaches are saving their time and letting them pursue other activities they may accel at. Although, let the kid get a little older and of course parents can help in rejection or helping the kids along who made the cut. These children who are gifted can always benefit the kids that didn’t make it and vice versa.

    • collapse expand

      It’s a fine line, but there is a middle ground to either everybody-makes-the-team and you-should-cut-kids-so-they-learn-it’s-a-tough-world-out-there. I’ve heard some argument that junior high is a little early for this, especially because it’s always possible a kid who is 4-foot-8 in two years will catch up and outgrow his or her peers. Anyway, in either of the extremes, I don’t think it does kids well in the long run.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    About Me

    A youth sports blog written by Bob Cook. He contributes to NBCSports.com, or MSNBC.com, if you prefer. He’s delivered sports commentaries for All Things Considered. For three years he wrote the weekly “Kick Out the Sports!” column for Flak Magazine.

    Most importantly for this blog, Bob is a father of four who is in the throes of being a sports parent and youth coach in an inner-ring suburb of Chicago. He reserves the right to change names to protect the innocent and the extremely, extremely guilty.

    You can follow me at facebook.com/rkcookjr and twitter.com/notgoingpro. I'm endlessly fascinating.

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    Contributor Since: June 2009
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    You can see what I’m up to by following me at facebook.com/rkcookjr and/or twitter.com/notgoingpro. You can also become an official fan of Your Kid’s Not Going Pro on Facebook. I’m endlessly fascinating.