Sue Scheff: Teens, kids and disappointment "I didn't make the team"

When your child comes home with disappointing news that they either didn't make the team or was recently cut from the team, are you prepared on how to handle these feelings of rejection and negative emotions? Be an educated parent - here are some very good parenting tips.

Source: Connect with Kids

“There’s about 30 kids in there, and only 10 can make it.”

– Glenn, Age 13

The start of the school year means the start of sports try-outs. Kids will run and jump and throw and catch as hard as they can and then some find out they didn’t make it. They didn’t get chosen for the team. How can you help your child cope with rejection?

Fourteen-year-old Chelsea and 13-year-old Glenn are trying out for their middle school basketball teams. “[It’s been] pretty hard, for a try-out,” Glenn says. “I’ve been working hard doing push ups, sit-ups, running a mile, doing different drills,” Chelsea adds.

It’s a competitive program, so they might make the program and they might not.

Those who don’t, experts say, will go home a little angry, and very disappointed. “A lot of negative emotions, unfortunately,” says sport psychologist Rick Van Haveren. “Sadness, disappointment, perhaps confusion about why they didn’t make the team. Maybe some feelings of low self-worth, self-esteem.”

The good news, he says, is that for most kids the sadness won’t last. They’ll play another sport, find another hobby, or will practice a little harder and try again next year. “For example, classic story, Michael Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team. And viewed that really as a challenge, and worked even harder, and eventually made the team and of course went on to be the athlete that he was,” Van Haveren says.

Still, some teens may need help seeing rejection as an invitation to work harder. There are things parents can do to avoid the small, but real chance of serious depression. “You know you can always praise a student for effort,” Van Haveren says. “And sometimes that can help to build up positive feelings about their self-esteem or self-worth, and allow them to go back and try out for that team again.”

Tips for Parents

Not making the team isn’t the end of the world, but for a child that has been cut from a sports team, it can be a very difficult time. “A lot of negative emotions” are typical, according to sports psychologist Rick Van Haveren. “Sadness, disappointment, perhaps confusion about why they didn’t make the team…maybe some feelings of low self-worth, self-esteem.” But sports history is filled with stories of athletes, like Michael Jordan and Wilma Rudolph, who failed first, before moving on to greatness.

Van Haveren says it’s helpful for parents to praise children for their effort. “Reward them for other areas where they have relative strengths,” Haveren suggests. “And sometimes that can help to build up positive feelings about their self-esteem, and allow them to go back and try out for that team again.”

There is a phrase often used by coaches during training: “No pain, no gain.” Remind children that sometimes it is impossible to succeed without failing along the way. “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose,” Van Haveren says. “Losing, or getting cut (from the team) can be a part of life. But it can be a learning experience, and in reality, can end up being a positive experience because it makes you a stronger person, able to take on and deal with the challenges of life.”

Sports are not about winning at all costs. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, sports can help children “develop physical skills, get exercise, make friends, have fun, learn to play as a member of a team, learn to play fair, and improve self-esteem.” Attitudes and behavior taught to children in sports carry over to adult life. Parents should take an active role in helping their child develop good sportsmanship. To help your child get the most out of sports, the AACAP says you need to be actively involved. This includes:

■Providing emotional support and positive feedback.
■Attending some games and talking about them afterward.
■Having realistic expectations for your child.
■Learning the sport and supporting your child’s involvement.
■Helping you child talk with you about experiences with the coach and other team members.
■Helping your child handle disappointments and losing.
■Modeling respectful spectator behavior.
Sometimes, a child’s failure to make the team, or consistent failure in sports, can lead to anxiety and even depression. Depression among teenagers is increasing at “an alarming rate,” according to the National Mental Health Association. The NMHA says as many as one in five teens suffers from clinical depression at some time during their teenage years. Depression can take several forms, including bipolar disorder (formerly known as manic depression). Depression can be difficult to diagnose in teens because adults often expect teens to be moody, and they often are. But depression is more than typical moodiness.

The following symptoms may indicate depression, particularly when they last for more than two weeks:

■Poor performance in school
■Withdrawal from friends and activities
■Sadness and hopelessness
■Lack of enthusiasm, energy or motivation
■Anger and rage
■Overreaction to criticism
■Feelings of being unable to satisfy ideals
■Poor self-esteem or guilt
■Indecision, lack of concentration or forgetfulness
■Restlessness and agitation
■Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
■Substance abuse
■Problems with authority
■Suicidal thoughts or actions
It is extremely important that depressed teens receive prompt, professional treatment. Depression is serious and, if left untreated, can worsen to the point of becoming life threatening. If depressed teens refuse treatment, it may be necessary for family members or other concerned adults to seek professional advice. Contact your local mental health association or a school counselor for suggestions on treatment.
Some of the most common and effective ways to treat depression in adolescents are:

■Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps teens change negative patterns of thinking and behaving. Several studies support the effectiveness of this treatment.
■Psychotherapy provides teens an opportunity to explore events and feelings that are painful or troubling to them. Psychotherapy also teaches them coping skills.
■Interpersonal therapy focuses on how to develop healthier relationships at home and at school.
■Medication relieves some symptoms of depression and is often prescribed along with therapy.

■American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
■National Mental Health Association

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