I’m glad he didn’t make the team.
My son tried out for a competitive 9u baseball team this summer. He had just completed the 8u season with the same team, but this time, he didn’t make the team. I went to every game and (almost) every practice, so trust me, I know his strengths and his weaknesses. Knowing his strengths and his weaknesses, as well as knowing there were over twice as many hopefuls as number of spots on the team, I also knew the odds were not in his favor. Needless to say, I was not surprised by the phone call that came on Monday morning from the coach, breaking the bad news – “He didn’t make the team.” Don’t get me wrong, my heart broke a little that day. I loved that team. Those boys, those coaches, those moms (and dads, but mostly the moms), had become dear to me over the course of the season. And when I told my boy the news, my heart broke wide open. He was crushed. He loved that team. Those boys and those coaches had become dear to him over the course of the season. And truth be told, my heart aches for him just a bit (well, maybe more than a bit), every time I hear him share this disappointment with others, but I’m glad he didn’t make the team. Why? Because if I am being honest (which I try to be, even when it’s hard), he wasn’t good enough.
In the aftermath of the disappointing news, I wiped his tears and hugged him hard. I told him that I was sorry he didn’t make it and that I knew how disappointed he was, but I didn’t tell him that he should have made the team or that it was unfair. Because if I am being honest, (which I try to be, even when it’s hard), it was fair. He wasn’t good enough. I know him, as a player, I know him. I play catch with him, I pitch to him, I coach him. I watch all of his games and (almost) all of this practices, and I watched the tryout. I know his strengths and I know his weaknesses.
In this culture of participation trophies and “everyone’s a winner” (all of which I believe in and support in youth sports), I’m glad he didn’t make the team. This won’t be the last time he isn’t chosen for a team, a job, an award. It is just the first time. At age 9, some might argue that it is too soon, or too young to “be cut” from a sports team, but I disagree. My son has fallen in love with baseball and not making the team has proven to be an opportunity. An opportunity to set goals that are attainable, but require hard work, dedication and a realistic assessment of progress. When he first got the news that day, he initially told me that he no longer wanted to play baseball, but like I said, he has fallen in love with baseball. So instead of quitting or giving up, he has continued to practice, working on every aspect of his game – hitting, fielding, throwing. And all that hard work – it’s making him better – a better baseball player. But the growth is beyond baseball – it’s in focus and confidence.
His goal is to make the 10u team next year. He might make it, he might not, but, make it or not, he will know that he worked hard, he didn’t quit, he didn’t give up. He knows that he has become a better baseball player because of that hard work. It’s an experience and a lesson I hope he will carry with him through life. Goals are worth working for and dreams are worth chasing. So, as much as I loved that team – those boys, those coaches, those moms (and dads, but mostly the moms) – I’m glad he didn’t make the team.