Team sports may be a young person’s first experience with the heartache of rejection, and it may be difficult. Many children are embarrassed by being rejected, and they may feel excluded from a peer group to which they want to belong. It may affect their self-esteem and social standing at school.
Rejection is painful at any age, but if you can help your child cope with it successfully when he is young, chances are better that he will not be knocked flat by a rejection when it comes to more important issues such as a job or a love interest. There are many things that you as a parent can teach and model for your child, in order to guide him to a healthy understanding of rejection.
1. Don’t overreact yourself. Don’t lash out at either the child or at the coach. Your initial behavior sets the tone for how your child will view future events like this.
2. Offer unconditional love and support. Let your child know that this does not affect in any way how much you love and respect him as a person. You can offer hugs, a shoulder to cry on, or an attentive ear for listening. Allow your child to express all his feelings, his hurt, his sadness and anger. But stay neutral – don’t agree with him if he calls the coach or other players nasty names.
3. Validate his feelings. Empathize. Dont diminish or excuse. If he says that he is angry, then let him be angry. If he wants to cry, do not insist that he “suck it up and be a man” or that “boys don’t cry” or any of those cliches. Let him cry. Expressing feelings is healthy and natural. Bottling them up is bound to cause problems later down the road.
4. Don’t vilify the coach or allow your child to set himself up as a victim “The coach is a jerk, he just doesn’t like me.” That is not a healthy method of dealing with rejection. Instead, explain that the selection process is complicated and difficult, that the coach has to make some hard decisions in choosing between players, and that perhaps your child’s skills just didn’t fit in with the team at this time.
5. If your child wants to continue to try to play the sport for which he was rejected, develop a plan for the future. Ask the coach if there are any specific skills that your child should work on in order to be better qualified for the team for the next season. Find other clubs and leagues where your child can play and learn.
6. If your child is finished with this particular sport, suggest another that he might like to try. Perhaps an individual sport, or something less competitive like rock climbing or biking.
Team sports are not the only way for a child to get plenty of exercise and to build character. There is a whole wide world waiting out there for your child to discover. Unfortunately, it will not always be rosy and perfect, but with your guidance your child will be able to handle anything that comes his way.