"Mom, I Did Not Make The Team...."
Young Athletes And Lessons Learned
During the past few weeks and really over the course of the summer, my son experienced a first in his young life. He was cut from an athletic team. He did not "make the team." It was an eye opening experience for him in many ways. It was a lesson to be learned. Like most lessons, there was good and bad to be had from the experience.
The first lesson he learned was that his days of having mom or dad write a check so that he could participate in certain sports are drawing to a close. The financial status of parents is no longer the determining factor in a child's ability to play a sport once they reach a certain age. Financial status may help if you support the booster club or if you are a sponsor but it does not guarantee a spot on the team. Even public school coaches are paid based on performance. So begins the process of coaches selecting the players they think are most likely to deliver come game time.
Secondly, my son like many others is now realizing that sports have now become more of a job. It is no longer just a matter of showing up at a designated time and place and yukking it up with friends while playing a game. Playing any competitive sport has become a much more serious endeavor. He just spent six weeks of his summer conditioning so that he could try out for the seventh and eighth grade football team. Granted it was football he was trying out for and the conditioning was not a bad thing. With football in the South, conditioning can literally be a lifesaver. Each year there are football players at all levels that succumb to issues related to the heat. This conditioning stint was a revelation to him though. "You mean I have to go out there for four hours four days a week just to be able to try out?" Yes, that is what they mean. Or so we thought! See below!
Lesson number three - coaches will bend the rules and say things they don't always mean. When it came to this seventh and eighth grade football team, the prospective players were told they needed to be at conditioning as much as possible during the summer if they wanted to have a chance to make the team. Not so. At least one athlete that did not show up for even one conditioning session made the team. Coaches are looking for gifted athletes but it would seem they would also want some level of commitment from players and parents as well. But, maybe if you are a good enough athlete, it is a chance a coach is willing to take. Maybe it was a transportation issue or a work schedule issue or something. However, there were many parents that carpooled, adjusted work schedules and went through other shenanigans to get their kids to conditioning. Time will tell as to what the level of commitment is for such a player. Lesson for my son, being committed is not always what a coach is looking for even though they may say otherwise.
The fourth lesson and in my opinion the biggest lesson is that not making the team is not the end of the world. Honestly, we talked about it before he even started with the conditioning. It is a well known fact that for this particular program mostly eighth graders are taken. There were well over a hundred kids that tried out for less than fifty spots. If he had made the team, there would have certainly been advantages such as practicing right after school as opposed to practicing at 6:00 or 7:00 at night. Games would have been during the week leaving weekends free. The disadvantage would be that as a seventh grader had he made it, he probably would have spent many games watching from the sidelines. The advantage of not making it is that he will play Pop Warner again this year and maybe even the next year and he will get to play. Pop Warner mandates so many plays per player. The organization he is involved with makes sure that happens. He'll get to play offense and defense. Playing on both sides of the ball would not have happened on the school team.
So what's the point of this hub? Well, the point is that not everybody is going to make the team. There will be plenty of kids that ask themselves why they put themselves through grueling summer workouts and work hard at a sport only to be told they are not needed. The true value in the process lies in what a young person takes from it. Maybe they realize they need to work harder. Maybe they realize other people are more committed. Maybe they learn the hard lesson that everyone has to learn, life is not always "fair." The bottom line is what you do when you don't make the team. In my son's case, he was realistic from the beginning but he worked hard. He tried. Even though he did not make the team, he's in great shape now and breezed through the Pop Warner conditioning. Next year, when it is time to try out again, he will have this summer's experience to reflect on and can hopefully use his experience to possibly achieve a different outcome. For now, he will strap on his helmet with his Pop Warner teammates and enjoy playing football!