Last month, a Responsible Sports Parent
wrote to our panel of experts to ask: "
My 8-year-old son tried out for his soccer club's travel team. He did not make the cut. He is still very welcome to play in house rec. However, he has reached an age where he realizes his recent rejection means that on some level he is not as good of a soccer player as he thought he was. He asks "Why was I not good enough for the team?" How do you reply without impacting him negatively?"
- Melanie, a concerned parent.
We asked two of our experts to weigh in. Susan Boyd – US Youth Soccer parent blogger, had this to say:
Dealing with rejection is never easy. But in this case I think there's some really good news. Until kids reach puberty, a few months difference in age can mean a huge difference in developmental abilities that push one kid beyond another. At the youngest ages these differences can be all the more glaring. Compare a one year old to an 18 month old in things like small muscle skills and speech. There's a huge disparity! Plus kids develop at different rates. One 8 year old might be 3' 6" and another exactly the same age might be 4' 4" - a substantial difference which can make the smaller child more timid and the larger child more aggressive when out on the field. That's why no parent should think that where their child fits in at the younger ages will be where their child fits in at the older ages.
My response to my child would be: "It's not that you're not good enough. You are a really good soccer player. Right now some players have developed strengths you don't have yet because you are still growing. But if you love soccer, and I think you do, then you should continue to play, give yourself the time to grow, and learn the skills that will make you even better."
My answer goes for parents as well. Be patient, give your kids the best opportunities they can get in soccer so when they do "grow up" they will be prepared for the doors that will open to them. I went through this with my own son who was born December 27th and in the lower 50 percent in height and weight, so seemed to always lose out to a kid born in February. But with perseverance he ended up being a Gatorade player of the year in his senior year and made the ESPN Rise 2nd team. It's not so bleak to be cut when you're 8. Your child has lots of years of soccer ahead of him and lots of chances to improve to the point where he can start making those traveling teams.
And Tina Syer, Chief Impact Officer from Positive Coaching Alliance answered:
Did the coaches who made the selection for this soccer team give your son any explanation when he was informed he did not make the team? I realize your son is asking you for an explanation, but the people in the best position to give him this information are the coaches.
Being only 8 years old, your son has plenty of time to improve his game, and by asking these coaches for specific feedback, he is showing that he is the kind of person/player who wants to work to improve his game (and signaling to these coaches that they’ll see him at tryouts again next year).
This sort of resilient attitude can help him in all facets of his life now and forever. The fact that he is asking you, "Why was I not good enough to make the team?" is a lot better than sulking and announcing that he is done playing soccer.
Support your son to get the feedback from the coaches that he deserves and then, when he puts in the time and effort to improve in these areas, let him know that you see his hard work and progress. What appears to him as a major setback this season may actually cause him to reach even higher levels of play in the future, even though that can be hard to see now.
Do you have a youth soccer question you’d like to pose to our panel of experts? Visit us online and ask your question today! We regularly post answers on ResponsibleSports.com and each month we’ll feature one question here at US Youth Soccer.