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My kid's not going junior high: dealing with getting cut

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In all my four children’s lifetimes, never has the simple act of getting off the school bus been such a sign of doom.

If my seventh-grade son had survived the final cut of his school’s volleyball tryouts, he would have been at practice today instead of being on that bus. He made it through the first cut down to 20. But he didn’t get picked for the final roster of 14 seventh- and eighth-grade boys.  I found out when my wife texted me, “He just got off the bus. Damn.”

Before I get into the issue of cut or not to cut, let me say that no matter how you feel, getting cut, or seeing your kid get cut, is a punch in the gut. Getting told you’re not good enough to do something is always a rotten feeling, no matter how old you are, no matter what you’re doing.

My son had two days to impress the coaches (though they also saw him in a summer camp), and that doesn’t give you a lot of margin for error. I think he should be proud that he is officially among the 20 best boys’ volleyball players in his school, especially because my understanding is that only five seventh-graders made it to the final tryout. But right now I’m sure he’s upset, and I’m upset for him.

Now, this day, is not the time to share the oft-told, inspiring (and completely untrue) story of how Michael Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team as a sophomore (he was put on the junior varsity team, as most sophomores are). It’s also not the time to start plotting how many camps he’ll go to so he can have a better shot next year. It’s also not time to tell him about all the opportunities it opens up. (Sheesh, I get offended when my wife half-jokingly tells me about all the free time I have when the Indianapolis Colts or Indiana Pacers season ends in a crushing playoff loss, though the Pacers’ haven’t been good enough to give me that headache lately.)

Today is about grieving. If that sounds a bit much, then you’ve probably never been cut before.

However, I’m not joining the chorus of those who say nobody should ever be cut from a school team. I’m not sure we can surmise that the genesis of school shootings is kids getting cut from the basketball team. On the other hand, I’m not saying that I’m a hard-ass who believes snot-nosed kids should learn early and often how much they suck so they can move onto more appropriate pursuits, like staying the hell out of the jocks’ way. If a school wants to do cuts or no cuts, it doesn’t bother me — though it would be nice if schools had intramural programs for kids who either didn’t make the team or would rather play in a more casual setting.

Getting cut can go either way for a child, and for a parent. It can be a positive experience that teaches a child about dealing with disappointment. It can be a valuable lesson in telling a child that maybe there’s somewhere else where his or her talents will work and be appreciated. Or it can be a valuable lesson in how hard work on your own time is the key to success, and coming back from being knocked down.

Or it can be a crushing blow to a child’s self-esteem, making him or her feel a little less like a functioning member of society. That’s always the initial feeling. The trick is morphing that feeling into the positive experience I described in the previous paragraph.

The question is how to do that. How can I help him? Should he spend a year working hard on his game for next year’s tryouts? Should he forget volleyball and pursue other interests? (Even before volleyball tryouts, he said he wanted to do a tech/computer club, a strategy games club and learn drums in the school band.) How long is the mourning period for being cut? (My only sport in high school with cross country and track, where no one got cut.)

I’ve love to learn from your experience, if nothing else so getting off the bus can be a happier event.

Written by rkcookjr

August 27, 2009 at 6:07 pm

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