It is almost impossible for teenagers to put the things that happen to them in school in proper perspective. On the athletic field, in the school parking lot, in the classroom, it’s all the same; it’s always big, really big; as big as the BP oil spill or flooding in Pakistan.
So, when a high school coach casually dismisses a young athlete who tried out for a team and didn’t make it, it’s big. In fact, it can be devastating if it is not handled properly. Young athletes train for years to make a team and if they succeed in their freshman year they must continue to work hard to maintain their position. However, often even hard work is not enough for a marginal player to beat out a younger, more talented athlete.
Nevertheless, not making a team is part of growing up. Making the team one year and being cut the next is tough, but this, too, is a part of maturing. These disappointments can be growing experiences for student athletes when they are handled properly by the adults in their lives.
In some circumstances, there may be players who have competed well and made the team for three years in a row, only to find that they did not make the cut their senior year. Coaches certainly have the right to pick the athletes that they believe have the best athletic ability and the best chemistry with teammates. Seniors sometimes are not the best players, but to cut a senior after years of team loyalty is usually wrong. A great coach would advise a senior, “You have the opportunity to make the team, not as a starter, but as a backup; and more importantly as a mentor to your younger teammates.”
Many coaches hide behind their office door after posting the new team roster on the wall for all to see. Certainly, those names are listed by identification number, so there is no direct embarrassment to the young athletes that were cut. But, still, this is an immature and hurtful way for a coach to handle the situation. The proper way to do it is for the coach to call in each player who tried out for the team and discuss the reasons why the youngster did not make the team. They are entitled to know the reason for the cut, and get some constructive criticism, too. The student athlete deserves to have a discussion with the coach about the way forward. After all, these young athletes are in high school to learn and this is the part of a coach’s job that has the greatest long-term value.
There are those who would say, “But what about winning?” And winning is precisely what I am talking about. This concept is all about winning, for I will always put my money on a team with heart, a good work ethic and strong team spirit over a team with a ruthless, disrespectful win-at-all-cost mentality.