It’s never easy when your child doesn’t get picked for the team.
Whether it’s football, hockey or swimming, it is natural for kids (and parents) to be disappointed.
But this is not a post about how to complain when your child doesn’t get picked for the team. Firstly, it doesn’t work.
Secondly (and a bit more importantly) it’s not helpful. It doesn’t help teachers, and it definitely doesn’t help kids.
A Little Back Story
Flea and school sport have a bit of a rocky past relationship. Way back when Flea was nine years old, she was not allowed to go to after school sports club, because her (ridiculously successful at sport) school made its sports clubs invite-only.
When she went to secondary school, Flea made the team. Hurrah! She was picked for the tennis team, the hockey team and the rounders team. She joined the cross country club.
Then she moved, back to a highly competitive and successful school. Flea is happy and doing well. But as we fully expected, she didn’t get picked for the team in Year 8. Or Year 9. Or Year 10 (so far).
Part of me (obviously) is fighting the urge to ride into school on a chariot of fire and burn it to the ground in a fit of pique. How DARE you reject my firstborn?
But the logical part of me tells Flea that, well, life’s tough. Sometimes you can work hard and be enthusiastic and committed and you STILL won’t be good enough. That’s true of a sports team, a university place, a job – even that boy you’d like to date.
There are always other teams. Other sports. If you really care, then stick at it, and work hard, and get better. Nobody ever got picked by quitting.
And that’s okay, mostly.
Where I think parents DO need to worry is if your child isn’t picked for the team, and that’s part of a wider culture that encourages your child to think they’re not “sporty” or that sport is something they’re not good at.
The Problem with School Sport
UK schools have a HUGE issue when it comes to sport.
Huge numbers of kids are dropping out of sport during secondary school. The sad truth is most of them never go back. Apparently just 13% of British adults say they exercise regularly. One in ten of us hasn’t walked continuously for 5 minutes in the past four weeks.
I think schools have a vital role to play, here. Our schools and clubs should be intervening BEFORE kids drop out of sport, to motivate and inspire them.
Children need to understand that winning is important, but it’s not the only reason we are active. We play sport for fun, to make friends, to improve our physical and mental wellbeing.
Sport is also a way of gaining essential life skills like communication and teamwork. Not to mention that it helps kids to learn about failure, and how to recover from it. That sort of resilience is one of the most important and powerful lessons that young people can learn.
So your child didn’t get picked for the team? That’s fine. But it must not be the end of the story. It’s essential that we continue to support and engage young people in sport, both on and off the team.
What’s Going Wrong?
There are a bunch of reasons why schools can struggle with this stuff.
There are simple things like resources. Schools might not have enough pitches or teachers to coach all kids in sport. There’s pressure on timetables, and pressure to have winning teams that look good in the school prospectus. Being a PE teacher is a tough gig.
Then there’s kids. Teenagers can be reluctant to do sport if their peers aren’t taking part. They might struggle with self-confidence and body image issues. Or they might just feel too busy – kids today are often ridiculously busy with homework, revision and other activities.
How Parents Can Help
If your child doesn’t get picked for the team, don’t discount that sport entirely. Chances are there will be local or regional clubs crying out for players. Flea plays for our local and county hockey teams, for example. And during the holidays she usually attends at least one hockey masterclass or camp.
Try lots of sports. Flea’s attended the local swimming club, done karate lessons, and tried lifeguarding. For a couple of years, she went to a local climbing club. Sometimes it takes kids some time to find a sport that they enjoy playing, and feel confident at.
Maybe consider doing sport WITH your child – Flea’s weekly spinning class might actually kill me one day, but it’s a lot of fun.
How Coaches Can Help
Coaches, firstly, thanks for what you do. I know it’s often a tough job, and you’re doing your best.
My child didn’t get picked for the team? I understand and respect that it’s your decision to make, and hers to accept with good grace.
But there are a few things you could do to ensure that this rejection doesn’t dent my child’s enthusiasm for sport. Like:
Tell my child why they didn’t get picked for the team. Please acknowledge where she did well, and give her support to work on the things she can improve.
Maybe my daughter will never be the star basketball player because she’s too short. Maybe her reflexes are too slow for tennis. I don’t know. But you’re the expert. Try and guide my child towards activities where she has a chance to develop, and enjoy herself.
Celebrate Success (whatever it looks like)
For some kids, winning a national championship or scoring 15 goals is success. For other kids, it’s making a full lap of the sports field without falling over or having an asthma attack. Please remember that achievement is relative, and celebrate my child when she’s achieved something great for her.
It’s About Happy, Healthy Kids
At the end of the day, the job of parents AND educators is to raise happy, healthy children who can reach their full potential.
For many of us, that means rethinking our attitude to sport.
When we allow schools and clubs to focus all their energies on the most talented children, it leaves most kids with fewer opportunities to benefit from sport. It creates a culture that prioritises “achievement” over healthy, happy kids with a love of sport. And this at a time when our kids are going through a period of enormous change, and all the stress that brings.
So if your child didn’t get picked for the team, make sure it’s not the end of the story. Make another team. Find another sport. Let your kids try new things and fail, and try again. Because if they don’t get the chance now, it truly might be too late.