Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

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

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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.

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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.

Written by rkcookjr

September 4, 2009 at 11:13 pm

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