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Making The Cut Less Painful

Being cut from a team can be devastating for a young athlete especially at the high school level where it often marks the end of a playing career. Less obviously, it can also take a toll on coaches. Although a necessary task, no one relishes telling kids they won’t be able to play on a team. Plus, emotional parents sometimes threaten retribution, if they feel their child has been wronged.

As a result, some coaches use impersonal methods to let players know who made the cut. In a blog on his subject on his websiteAsk Coach Wolff,” sport psychology expert Rick Wolff relates the story of one coach who told players he would email those on the team to let them know while those who weren’t selected would receive no notice. Imagine the anxiety this produces in a child who desperately wants to know if they made the team or not.

Even more common methods, such as posting the roster at a specified time, leave more questions than answers. One caller to Wolff’s radio show told how he went home after seeing his name wasn’t on the roster. His father asked why he had been cut and he had no idea.

It’s understandable that coaches may want to avoid the difficult conversations that come with telling a kid they aren’t good enough to make the team. But Wolff says they need to do so anyway—both for the kids’ sake and for theirs.

He suggests coaches should take the time to sit with the athletes who didn’t make the team. Tell them why they weren’t selected and whether they have a realistic chance to make the squad in the future. Let them know honestly where they fell short and what they need to do to improve. This can be hard for a coach to say and for an athlete to hear, but it’s better than leaving them in limbo wondering how close they came to making the team and if they should try again.

Kids that are cut from teams typically react in one of two ways. They use the decision as motivation or they use it as a reason to stop playing. That decision is better made when athletes know exactly where they stand. That way the athlete who is unlikely to improve can find another sport or activity to pursue and the athlete who got squeezed out by numbers on the last day is more likely to try again next year.

Plus the athletes who decide to try again know what to work on. They’re not left guessing whether they need to improve their physical skills or their approach to the game. They won’t waste time lifting weights when they need to be working on technique. This will not help just them, it will help the coach, who might a find a better player on their roster the following season.

Click here to read the full blog on “Ask Coach Wolff.” 

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