Didn’t make the team? 6 tips to help kids cope.


“My kid should’ve got in… the selectors had no idea what they were doing.”

Both are common phrases we hear this time of the year as countless numbers of kids get the bad news that they missed out on a spot in their preferred sports team for 2017.

It can be a devastating time for young boys and girls. They have put themselves out there to be judged and in the eyes of some adults, they have been deemed less worthy than other kids. If the situation is not handled correctly it can ruin a kid’s love of sport, potentially for life.

As parents we need to control the situation. We need to make sure that perspective and most importantly, the child’s enjoyment of playing sport is maintained.

 Here are 5 things to help you and your child deal with the situation:

  1. Evaluate your trial performance. Honestly look at how you trialed and ask yourself, did you show all you could do? If not, then learn the lessons and take them into the next set of trials. If it was your skills that let you down then turn your attention to correcting these issues. The longer you moan, the less time you have to get better. Always ask the selectors what you can work on before the next trials, they will appreciate your attitude and be on the lookout for you next year.
  2. Avoid comparing your child to other kids who made the team. This is a tough one as it is easy to do especially if you know or played with the other kids. If you get down and dirty the kids will too. Instead of being resentful of others success, ask your child to send a message of congratulations to them. Take the higher ground and understand that being brave makes it very difficult to be distraught. You may not gain a spot in the team but you will gain respect.
  3. Talk to the child about choices. Openly discuss the choices the child has, either to fight back or walk away. Your attitude will set the tone here because if you look defeated they will soon follow. Don’t open the door to the child giving up as they may walk through it and then you have a whole new issue on your hands. Quitting is not a choice successful people make. Tell the child that you will help them improve, but they have to make the choice to want to do that. Don’t ‘tell’ them what they have to do because they may hate that sport right now and the thought of extra training may be the last thing they want to do. Tell them you are there to help, and when they are ready they can come to you and together you will work out a plan.
  4. Understand that there is more than one path to success. Whilst most sports have their elite pathways and representative teams, there are thousands of stories of successful players who took the more scenic route to greatness. Talent will shine no matter where it is displayed so have faith in the sport. The cream will rise to the top eventually so make the most of ‘where you are right now’. Understand that whatever path you take it will be filled with more setbacks than successes so use this first setback as a learning opportunity for future disappointments. There are thousands of examples of sports stars who missed out on junior teams – the great Michael Jordan was left off his high school team yet went on to be the best player ever.
  5. Avoid the blame game. This does no one any good. The quicker you move on and set a good example the quicker the child will too. The more you talk about the ‘idiot’ selectors and how ‘bad’ the process was the more the child will not take responsibility for their performance or their improvement. If you get angry the child may think that your anger is directed at them and this is when they will run from their sport. Tell them you love them, win, lose, draw, succeed or fail.
  6. This one is difficult for kids to grasp, but you have to make them see that they are more than just a soccer player or basketballer. A setback in sport does not make them   a bad person. A good person is someone who is polite, honest, respectful, loving, a good friend etc etc. All this has nothing to do with whether they can kick a ball or not, and being a good person is more important than anything.

As parents we want what is best for our kids. We want to see them succeed and instinctively we want to protect them. My own 3 kids have missed out on numerous teams and I have fallen into the traps above. I’ve seen how long the pain can drag on if not dealt with.

Sometimes the best thing we can do is to teach them to be resilient by taking ownership for their performance and learning that the good things in life don’t come easily.

At the end of the day you can choose to see it is a rejection, or an opportunity.

I know the choice champions make.

About the author:

Nathan Burke started his career as a schoolteacher before the demands of elite level football with St Kilda F.C. took over. Following a successful corporate career he founded Nathan Burke Consulting – a Melbourne based firm that offers High Performance training and coaching solutions to corporates, schools and sports teams.

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