They worked hard, got a good night’s sleep and gave it their best effort – but it wasn’t enough. Your child has been cut. Seeing that look of disappointment and sadness on your kid’s face is no fun, but getting cut doesn’t have to be a sad ending. In the long run, it can play an instrumental role in a young athlete’s development. It might even be a springboard to future success.
But the initial sting isn’t easy for anybody, including the coaches.
“I think cutting a player from a team at any level is the most difficult thing a coach has to do,” said Jeff Giesen, a Level 5 coach with USA Hockey and the former women’s hockey head coach at St. Cloud State University. Giesen has seen it from many perspectives, including as an assistant coach with the 2009 United States Women’s U18 World Championship Team that earned a gold medal in Germany.
Giesen offers the following advice on how a coach and parent can help a player deal with not making the team:
The right thing to say: Every situation is different, but whether it’s cutting a player loose to a lower level or removing a player from the lineup, the same method should be used. “Keep it short and to the point,” said Giesen. “Give them constructive and positive feedback as well as the reasons why you have made the decision.”
The wrong thing to say: If the coach makes clear ahead of time what the players will be graded on during the tryouts, then there will be specific and clear feedback as to the reasoning behind the cut. A coach can present an assessment sheet (if available) and share it with the player. “The wrong thing to do is lie or make something up as to why you have cut someone, just to make them feel better,” said Giesen. “This will only catch up to a coach (or parent) later.”
It’s not personal.
“Always make sure that the player knows that the cut isn’t personal,” said Giesen. “The decision was made in the best interest of the team and program at that particular time.”
Parental support is crucial.
Giesen believes that the parents of a player who has been cut have an important responsibility in helping their child get through the disappointment. “Parents should be supportive and understanding,” said Giesen. “Making a certain team does not define your son or daughter, or you as a parent. How you react to it will. Don’t bash the coach or the player. But look at what you can do to move forward.”
Turn the negative into a positive.
“In some cases, being cut from a team may help a player’s self-evaluation,” said Giesen. This is important, because after the initial sting of being cut subsides, the process can be a great teaching tool, and a source of motivation. There are some true positives a player can take away from the negativity of being cut: