Surviving the cut: How to support a child during tryouts

It’s been years since Krista Anderson faced the pressure of ringette tryouts, yet she still remembers the letdown.

“I always got cut from the AA team,” Anderson said with a laugh. “And I remember that feeling still as an adult. Not the best feeling.”

The Edmonton mom is supporting her daughters Aubrey and Annika as they try out for the U9 and U11 teams of the Edmonton Girls Hockey Association. With professional evaluators on hand to determine where the girls place, the stakes are high.

“It definitely is more pressure on them but in the end, I think it’s worth them playing with girls at their ability,” Anderson said.

While parents can feel helpless as their children navigate tryouts, the University of Alberta’s vice dean for Kinesiology, Sports and Recreation says there are tangible ways to offer support.

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Set the stage

Nick Holt says it’s important for parents to ensure their child knows that they are loved and valued regardless of the outcome of the tryout.

“You’re not going to judge them on whether they make the team or not. You’re going to help them through that process.”

He says it’s also helpful to set the stage for the tryout. What are the child’s expectations? How many athletes are trying out? How many players will be accepted?

“Just being realistic about what the chances are and helping the kids understand it isn’t the be-all end-all, although it might feel like that for the children.”

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Console, then review

After a tryout, if a child hasn’t made the team or placed where they wanted, Holt says it’s important for the family to cope together because the cut can bring a sense of loss for both the child and parent. The goal is to console, review the outcome and then reach the point where the child is renewing their motivation for the sport.

“I have – as a personal story – a kid that I didn’t take on a team that I was coaching,” Holt said.

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“I remember the parents just told her, ‘You’ve got to work harder.’ The kid eventually coped, worked harder and made the team. So these things happen.”

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Reframe and regroup

Holt says there is gold to mine in the tryout even if it ends with a cut. He recommends parents positively reframe the tryout as something to learn from and celebrate by recognizing any milestones the child accomplished in the process. After that, parents can help the child set their sights on a new level, league or sport for the rest of the season.

“Trying to stay in the sport in another place would be ideal because otherwise you will see situations where kids stop. But if that doesn’t work out, get them involved in some other kind of activity and having the mental, physical and social benefits of physical activity and being with other kids is really important.”

Ahead of hockey selections, Anderson is trying to drill home the value of sport for her girls. No matter where they place, it’s about “fun” and simply having the opportunity to play.

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