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So Your Kid Got Cut

By Tony Scott, 10/11/18, 8:00AM CDT

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7 Helpful Hints For Families of Players Who "Didn't Make it"

Editor's Note: I published this article October, 2014 and it received a great deal of attention. We rarely repeat content, but it still seems very on point for our readers who will have a child that doesn't make the team each year. 

I've been involved with Youth Sports, mostly Football, Hockey and Baseball for over 40 years. My first experience dates back to playing Mite Hockey as a Kindergartner. The first team I played on, the WESAC Yellow, lost every game by at least 10 goals. We played every game outside and we froze our butts off. I didn't care, I was the youngest of five and this was my turn to play instead of watch. My older brothers would come and watch every game and cheer as if it were the Stanley Cup. It was on that rink that I got hooked on sports. I played every sport I could sign up for and attended any and every kind of sporting event that was organized. 

After my playing days were over, I decided to "help out" the local sports associations as an assistant Coach. It was there that I first saw the uglier side of youth sports. I coached a Mite hockey team that had been split into two "even" teams. What I didn't know was my team was the team with the perceived "cool dad" and all of the "cool kids" (note: the "cool dad" was the guy who asked me to help him out). Before we hit the ice for the first time, a mom from the other team approached me to help tie her son's skates. Having had my skates tied over 100 times by neighborhood legend Darrell Grewe, I figured it was my turn to give back. What I didn't realize was this woman was setting me up to sit still while I tied her son's skates. For five minutes she oozed out an ugly side of humanity into my ear about how unfair it was that her son was cut to the "lower team", her son works hard, and they are considering taking action against the association. I just remember thinking how crazy this woman was to be so passionate about her seven year old son and his hockey. I thought to myself, "I will never be like that woman."

Fast forward twenty years, almost to the day. My son did not make the team that he wanted to make for this Winter. Not the first time in his life and hopefully not the last. You see if he chooses to quit playing sports, it will be his last. If he chooses to keep playing, at some point he will get cut again or retire. 

Being involved in sports as a coach, volunteer, and now a writer really helped me focus on what was most important...the child. Not the "politics" of the association. And especially not the coach who "cut" him. What needs to be understood by all parents of bubble players is simple. If your son or daughter is a bubble player they have three choices to avoid it: get much better, quit or deal with it. A harsh reality, but it is a microcosm of life. If he or she wants to get into Harvard, they'd better have good grades. If they want to get into Juilliard, they better practice their instrument. Hockey is no different. The top ten kids are easy to spot, around the rink they are called "locks". The next ten are the bubble kids, five make it and five don't. The math is pretty simple, if you want to avoid getting cut, the player needs to get much better to become a lock.

7 Hints that will help Parents Deal With it

So your favorite player didn't make the team. For most, it's too late to quit and it's too late to get better. So at some point the parents are going to have to learn to deal with where he/she has been placed.  Here are seven hints to making the season more pleasant.

1. Don't Call the Association - the local youth hockey association is run by volunteers, most of which just want to make sure the greater good is taken care of throughout the season. They likely have little control over who makes the team and who doesn't. Calling them to complain about where your player was placed is likely an exercise in futility.

2. Don't Call the Coach - coaching youth hockey is a lot of fun, the hardest part is making the final cut. Most non-parent coaches get paid a small sum these days, but the amount they are paid is not enough for you to call them and give them an earful about his judgement.

3. Don't Quit the Board - I can count on two hands people that I know that were on the Board of their local sports association that have immediately quit after their son or daughter was cut from a team. Seems pretty clear that when that happens, the last thing you should do is quit. Stay on the Board and stay apart of the solution. The high road is a rocky one, but trust me, it has a much better view.

4. Be an Adult - probably the most important hint of the seven. I have witnessed several examples of parents of kids who were cut that pout the entire season. They give dirty looks to parents and coaches on the upper team, avoid all contact with their friends/neighbors. First of all, no one likes a whiner. Lighten up and enjoy the season. Second and most important...your son our daughter can see how you react and will likely learn from it. If you have a good attitude about a bad situation, they will learn from it. 

5. Don't Make Excuses - it is amazing how many sets of excuses you will hear parents make for their kids when they don't succeed. I have reams of them stored in the YHH files. In fact, I have a small stack I've made for my own kids and myself. My experience is no one really wants to hear about them, no matter how legitimate they are and can be. 

6. Make the Most of it - some of my greatest experiences in life came when I had no idea what to expect. Joining a team with new faces and new parents can be a lot to handle for players and parents. History says you will make new friends, your player will have a great time and the initial shock of tryouts will be a distant memory.

7. Be a Leader - if your child makes a lower team than expected, it will likely give him/her a chance to take on a leadership role both in the locker room and on the ice. This experience will likely have long term benefits for him/her...the parents job should be to help their player embrace it.

Epilogue: my son finished his final season the Captain of his team and totaled over 60 points in 38 games. He made some sweet lemonade out of the lemons he was handed, my wife and I were very proud of him.

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