As we enter into the cooler months of the school year, that means that active try outs for basketball and ice hockey teams are looming. Both sports tend to be very competitive in terms of eager and hopeful kids who want to make the squad, especially in the middle school, travel team, or high school levels.
But here’s the problem. With both of these popular sports, making a team is extremely competitive simply because so few kids can play in a game at a time. In basketball, of course, only five can play. With ice hockey, there’s the goalie and five skaters. True, at least with ice hockey, skaters constantly go out and take the ice in short shifts during a game for a minute or two, but even then, very few hockey teams carry more than 15-16 players. And with power plays or penalty kills, it’s usually only the top or more talented players who grab the lion’s share of playing time. Everybody else on the bench sits and watches.
And with basketball, the coach usually plays his or her top five boys or girls in much the same manner. The other kids sit on the bench and wait, hopefully to get a few minutes of playing time.
Mind you – these are the kids who made the team. Every kid on the squad has talent, and had to perform well during the tryouts to be good enough to make the team. So while they’re focusing on what they can do in practice to gain the coach’s eye to get more playing time, at least they’re a member of the team.
But what about the kids who don’t even make it that far? What happens to them?
In other words, what happens to those who get cut?
KILLING DREAMS AT TOO YOUNG AN AGE
For some, especially at the younger ages, say 9 or 10, trying out for the team and not making it is disappointing, but perhaps not crushing. They like the sport, but they fortunately have other interests in life that they move on to.
But for many others, especially for those kids who love basketball or ice hockey, not making the team at an early age is not only devastating in its impact, but it often puts them in a difficult dilemma, e.g. do they keep on playing that sport? Do they just give up? What do you say, as a parent, that is the right mix of encouragement as well as reality?
And of course, how can it be fair for a kid at 10 years ago to be seen as not being on the fast-track, like one’s friends? So many kids go through adolescence and then go through a major growth spurt that it’s unconscionable (and unbelievable) when they’re 18 to think they were cut as a youngster. Even worse, sadly, too many kids, when cut at an early age, just decide to walk away from the sport and vow never to come back to it.
To me, this is all a horrible shame. And it’s something that never happened to aspiring athletes a generation ago, long before there were travel teams and modified teams. In those days, kids (and their parents) really didn’t have to deal with the excruciating agony of try outs until, perhaps, the kid reached 9th grade. By then, by age 14, most kids are pretty well versed in their self-assessment, and they can see for themselves how their athletic talents compare with their peers. But at age 9 or 10, kids just don’t have that cognitive ability.
It’s often observed that as time marches on, we make more and more progress in our society. But when it comes to youngsters in sports and seeing their dreams get crushed when they get cut at a young age, I really feel we’re going backwards.