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Your Kid Didn’t Make the High School Sports Team, Now What?

High school sports can be very competitive, and many programs only provide a limited number of openings to fill for specific positions on the team. It all depends on how many slots they have for each new season after the previous seniors have graduated. Some years might be more challenging to make the team, while other years can present more opportunities. There’s always a chance your athlete may not make the cut which can be heartbreaking for your kid. 

Trying out for a high school sports team is very stressful and filled with a lot of pressure to perform. After their intense and exhausting efforts to make the team, your high schooler may receive the news they’ve been dreading to hear. Whether it’s because of the limited positions available or their skill level didn’t meet the requirements, your kid will surely feel disappointed and maybe even humiliated.  

There’s nothing worse than watching your kid go through hard things, and not making a high school sports team is one of them. Here are some ideas on what you can do to help encourage, guide, and support your athlete if they don’t make the team. 

First and foremost, be there to listen and validate your kid’s feelings. 

Your high schooler will surely have lots of feelings about this. They might feel angry and frustrated, embarrassed and rejected. This will take a toll on their self-esteem and identity if they were really invested in their sport.  

Allow your kid to vent and express their feelings and encourage them to process everything while you lend an empathetic ear. You might also have lots of feelings about this, but remember, this isn’t about you. Don’t interject with your opinion on their experience or suggest other options right away. Your kid just needs to sit in this awful place for a little while and lick his or her wounds. Now is the time to comfort them and be tender with their hearts as they grapple with the loss of this opportunity. Don’t push them with other responsibilities or instruct them to get over it and move on. Just think how you would feel and want to be treated if this happened to you at this age. You might even think it’s no big deal, but to them, it might be HUGE. Let them feel and heal in their own way. 

Help them find other opportunities to play their sport outside of school. 

After they work to accept the reality of not being on the high school team, you can start suggesting other sports alternatives for them to pursue. Most athletes play club sports or they might be involved in their community’s recreation programs. Either option would be a great way to keep them active and help them improve their skills in order to prepare them for trying out next season. If they aren’t participating in these programs, now would be a perfect time to look into them. If your athlete is committed to working hard to excel at their sport, you can also find other training opportunities for them too. It’s important they continue to play if they really love their sport.  

Remind them of other interests and talents they have. 

It’s so important that your high schooler isn’t solely depending on their sport for their identity and self-worth, no matter if they make the team or not. Although most high school athletes have a deep passion for their sport, it can be unhealthy for them to get overly invested to the point of sacrificing other important areas of their life.  

This would be a great time for them to pursue new interests or continue with other extra-curricular activities they might already be involved in. Remind them that they have additional strengths and skills they can use and develop in many different ways, and there are a lot of options available to them. They might look into trying something new they never had the time to enjoy. Most high schools have some sports programs that don’t require try-outs, so you may want to encourage your kid to look into those which can be fun and challenging without all the stress of making the team. It’s important you help your kid engage in other things they like to do and stay active and invested in other areas of their life too. There are so many opportunities at high school that can help your kid develop new skills and meet new people in whatever activities they choose.  

Remind your kid that everyone goes through hard things and they are NOT alone. 

Our kids will face many challenges in high school, whether it’s not making the team or not getting that important part in a play. They might fail a class or lose a friend. The list of difficult circumstances our high schoolers can experience is a mile long. They are all going to struggle with navigating this harrowing journey of growing up and finding their way through the hardships they must learn to endure. Make sure you remind your kid that everyone goes through really hard things and they are not alone.  

Talk with them about how facing adversity prepares them for their future because oftentimes, things just won’t go their way no matter how hard they try. Also, help them realize that learning how to manage their setbacks in life can build their character and give them newfound strength and courage they never had before. And sometimes, when we lose an opportunity, we can find an even better option to explore. You can share an experience you had that helped shape you and inadvertently gave you new opportunities to pursue. We ALL get re-routed on our paths sometimes, and most often, we can gain so much from taking that new turn. 

Our kids grow so much during these pivotal high school years, and they need us to meet them in the throes of heartache and pain and praise them when they find the strength to overcome adversity. They will face many big choices and stressful situations as they mature through the murky mess of their teenage years. Make sure you support your kid’s efforts and ability to persevere through whatever setback comes their way. They need us to be their cheerleader and counselor as they learn one of the most important lessons in life- resilience

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