Helping Kids Manage Expectations

Our family has been involved in some sort of recreational sports program as long as I can remember. The kids love being a part of a team and I love all of the wonderful life lessons they learn from participating in sports. As in most rec teams, everyone makes the team and everyone gets a chance to play.

As my 12 year old is now in middle school, school sports are now on his radar. The past couple of weeks, he’s been going through the tryout process for the track team – a sport that is new to him. He is so very excited about being a part of the team, but as it goes in school-based sports, there is a chance of being cut. He and I have discussed this possibility at length and I’m hopeful that we have managed his expectations in the event that he doesn’t make the roster.

Be Hopeful, but Realistic

I have tried very hard to give him the space to be excited and hopeful that he is selected for the team, but have also been careful to explain that this is different from other sports he has played. Not everyone is chosen and as someone new to the sport AND as an incoming 6th grader, the odds are in favor of the older kids with more experience. There is always a chance and he should give the tryout everything that he has, but there is also a good chance that this won’t be his year.

Your Best IS Good Enough

One of the things that came into our discussion is that the coaches know that for some kids, this is their first experience with a sport. While they are looking for kids who have strength and experience in the sport, they also have their eye out for those who might not have the skills but are giving it their all. Going on the field for tryouts and putting in obvious effort will get you noticed, even if you aren’t perfect. And if you still don’t make the team, the coaches will remember that next year and will notice any progress and growth, tipping the scales more in your favor.

Being Disappointed is Okay

This is one of the most important points that I have tried to stress. It’s okay to be disappointed if the result isn’t what you hoped it would be. It’s okay to wallow and be sad for a bit. While I hope that he comes home on Monday with exciting news, I already have a backup plan ready to help drown his sorrows and disappointment if he didn’t make the cut, which includes a “cut-off” time where we shake it off and move on. 

Try, Try Again

We have already talked at length about a plan to prepare for next year’s tryouts if he doesn’t make it this time around. He seems to have found another sport that he enjoys and wants to pursue in track, so isn’t giving up. We’ve discussed how in other sports, just wanting to be better isn’t enough and he’s had to work hard to be successful. He’s ready to put in the work needed to earn his spot on the team, whether it is this season or not until the next time.

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