When Your Child Doesn’t Get Picked for the Team

when your child doesnt get picked for the team

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.

when your child doesn't get picked for the team

The Problem with School Sport

UK schools have a HUGE issue when it comes to sport.

Did you know that half of teen girls have given up sport completely by the age of 16? That around 70% of kids don’t do anything more than compulsory school sport after the age of 13?

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.

school sport UK

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:

Give Feedback

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.

Offer Alternatives 

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. 

playing hockey

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.


10 thoughts on “When Your Child Doesn’t Get Picked for the Team”

  1. I have to admit, I’d be a bit annoyed if my child was good enough to play for the county and yet the school didn’t pick her for their team. Unless they have a national player in her spot, it would’t sit comfortably with me. I’m not surprised she’s disappointed. I hope it doesn’t put her off her out of school hockey. We’re trying the same approach to sports as you. They’re trying everything going and we’re hoping one will be a good fit. Presumably if you throw enough dirt at a wall some of it will stick.

    1. It’s tricky because Flea goes to a school with a very, very strong reputation for sport so it’s quite likely she isn’t the best player (the school often plays keepers from different years, so she would have to be better than pretty much all the keepers in the school, including older kids, to get a spot).

      But yes to ALL the sports. We’ve done all sorts and so far, hockey and tennis are the only ones that really have stuck, so I’m happy to pay for her to take part in those outside of school. I just thank my lucky stars that she wasn’t keen on horse riding, I’m not sure my bank balance would have survived!

  2. Flea’s school must be mega amazing at sport to have county players not get in the team. Although as keeper I suppose you only need 1 or 2 and there’s less chance to have a go at other positions. Our school always struggled to get someone who wanted to play keeper!

    I so agree with this. I was sporty so was in lots of teams, and I was also lucky that all my schools were able to run enough teams for all those who came to clubs to play in at least a couple of matches. We even got to play in random sports like lacrosse that wasn’t on our normal school curriculum. It’s so disappointing when schools put blocks up against kids trying sports and wanting to improve. Some just need the chance to try things and might end up playing the sport for life outside of school if encouraged and not put off by not getting in teams.

    N plays tennis and he’s ok. He’s unlikely to be great things in the sport, but he loves it and the group they play with a lovely and enjoy it too. At primary age that’s so important. And then swimming for the safety aspect. Because I’m at work/he’s at after school club there’s just no opportunity to do more sports even if he wanted to , outside of school.

    He’s only in a small school so they don’t have teams, but do try and play in partnership school tournaments – they do random things like aussie rules football which he loves, dodgeball, handball, hockey, and all the normal stuff. Sometimes all the year group get to attend tournaments, other times like the football, they try and get those who didn’t go one year to go the next. N isn’t keen on football, but really wants to play in the tournament this year because he didn’t get to go last year. But I explained that it might be the kids that actually play in the after school club etc who might get picked first. He doesn’t mind that, but I think it’ll be hard if they open up the tennis this year to the ones who didn’t get to go last year, when there’s quite a few of them who play a lot.

    I definitely wouldn’t want to make the PE teachers’ decision – do you want the school to win (they did last year) or let everyone have a go even those who’ve never picked up a racket. I’m the type who wants to win, but at a young age, you want to give kids the opportunity to try

    1. Honestly the school is ridiculously successful with sport, and there really are some amazingly talented girls on that team. Lots of them are really lovely kids too. So the last thing I want to suggest is that they deserve anything less than the best coaching and support that they can get.

      It sounds like we have similar approaches – letting kids try lots of different things, and being supportive outside of the school/team structure. I’m not sure Flea will ever be an England player, but she’s decent and having fun, and I think it benefits her to be active and part of a team. I think you’re so right, though, that some kids just need the chance and you might find they end up playing that sport for the next few decades if they’re just given that opportunity at the right time.

  3. I agree with this! I loved netball when I joined my high school, and whilst I didn’t make any of the teams… they offered a ‘development’ team for everyone else; great! Then in Year 8 when I tried out for netball again, I didn’t make any of the teams, and found out they got rid of the development squad. So, I haven’t played a proper game of netball since. I’m not very sporty, and I would never expect to make the A team, but I would have loved the opportunity to practice.


    1. Oh Lexie, that’s such a shame about the development team. This is exactly the sort of thing that schools need to be doing more of! i hope you find another sport you enjoy, though, it’s so important to keep trying new things!

  4. Amen to all of this! It’s great that Flea has got her hockey – and I’m in awe that a county player still isn’t ‘good enough’ to play for the school.
    I’ve got the full range of kids – one highly talented at sport, one not at all and one in between! My in between is annoyed that she’s not getting noticed at netball, despite attending the club every week, but at least she does ballet out of school (and is very good at it). She has also followed her brother to the local athletics club and does parkrun every week. All three of them have grown up seeing their parents do sport. so for them not doing sport isn’t an option, but it is scary how many families just accept the ‘not sporty’ myth and don’t do anything.

  5. This post makes me thankful that my twins school is rubbish at sport! Lol. My twins tried a few different out of school clubs and came home lacking enthusiasm until they tried gymnastics and junior park run. They loved both of those. Which is funny because their big sister loves cross country and gymnastics too. This is going to get expensive! And as you know, my twins are now trialling hockey too. I’m excited to see how they get on.

    The only sport my oldest does at secondary is cross country and she got to represent the school last year. She found the gym there a bit basic, so she left the gym club.

    I understand the stats you quote though. Apart from walking and a short stint at university street dance, I quit all sports at the age of 16. I did some running and some hiking (for charity) in my late 20’s but I do absolutely zero exercise now. I think I need to find a sport for me!

  6. I concur with this! I adored netball when I joined my secondary school, and while I didn’t make any of the groups… they offered a ‘advancement’ group for every other person; amazing! At that point in Year 8 when I went for netball once more, I didn’t make any of the groups, and discovered they disposed of the advancement crew. Along these lines, I haven’t played an appropriate round of netball since. I’m not extremely energetic, and I could never hope to make the A group, however I would have cherished the chance to rehearse.

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