The Waiting Game

My daughter had tryouts recently so you know what that means now: we’re playing the waiting game.

Rec sports are easy. There’s no pressure to make the team. Typically, if you have commitment and a checkbook, you’re good. But travel and school sports are another thing altogether. Those typically require tryouts.

Tryouts can be stressful for the kids because, well, kids. My daughter attended tryouts twice this year because her first wasn’t her best and she knew it. She was upset on the way home. This wasn’t a new team for her and I was reasonably sure that the coaches had seen her play enough to have already made up their minds about her place for the season. That still didn’t take away from the fact that what my daughter would remember about tryouts was crying in the car. And she loves to play so I didn’t want that to be the thing she associated with tryouts. So when she asked if she could tryout again, I said yes. She showed up the next week and it was a totally different experience. She left the court with a big smile on her face.

As parents go, the first time or so for tryouts may be unnerving but after that, it’s generally only stressful if you have unrealistic expectations. If you do your homework and research the team in advance, most of the time you have a pretty decent sense of whether your child is going to make the team (although in a club with multiple teams, exactly which team you make can be a whole other ball of wax). But even so, a new place can rattle you. A parent confessed their anxiety while we were chatting during tryouts. I quickly flashed back to another tryout when a parent said that she didn’t know what she was going to do if her kid didn’t make it because it was her “fourth time trying out.” That’s some dedication. I’m not going to question anyone else’s parenting because who’s to say what the right thing to do is for that particular child but I can say that when it comes to my own kids, I tend to think things happen for a reason. And if my child doesn’t make the team, it’s not the end of the world. There are other teams and other sports and other opportunities.

That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t suck. I know that it does. Twice now, my kids have landed on teams that they felt were beneath where they wanted to be. The way I saw it, that meant one of three things: (1) it is what it is and you accept it; (2) it’s an opportunity to get better and move up; or (3) it’s not the right place for us to be.

The first time it happened, we chose door (3). And that kid? Totally made the best of it at a new place. It was 100% the right thing to do. The second time it happened, we chose door (2). That kid wasn’t happy initially but has ultimately embraced it as an opportunity to step up and become a leader. The jury’s still out on that one but I remain fairly optimistic.

Here’s the thing. After tryouts, there’s zero that you can do as a parent to change the outcome. It’s done. It’s in someone else’s hands. The waiting can be pretty terrible but ultimately, it is just that: waiting. Remember that your kids read you pretty closely when it comes to these things. And your stress over what could happen can translate a million different ways to little minds. So deep breaths. It will be over before you know it.

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