The Mom was fighting back tears as she shared the raw news that she had just received.
“He’s a Senior. His whole life has been tied up with water polo for the last 6+ years. He spent all of his summers playing ODP (Olympic Development Program) and last year he was the MVP of the team. It just doesn’t make any sense. The only feedback he got was the coach says he’s too small.”
The more she spoke, the greater my heart hurt for her. I could tell she was trying to do right by her son, she had encouragingly told him, “Hey, good news, now you can focus on college apps.” Not what he wanted to hear. “Thanks, Mom.”
In one day he had lost his favorite sport, the way he had self-identified for years AND all the friends that came along with that passion. Now that he was no longer on that team, he wouldn’t get to hang out with those boys. He felt lost.
What happens when we have to pivot? When life doesn’t choose us for something we’ve dedicated our heart and soul to? We each would like to decide when we’re done with something, whether it’s a relationship or a job or a sport. But some of the greatest lessons are in the abrupt let-down. When the door is slammed in our face and we didn’t even expect it.
This is why sports can be such great teachers. They are, of course, a wonderful way for our children to learn about teamwork and collaboration, leadership and grit, hard work and victory, but more importantly some of the greatest lessons we’ll learn in sports, as in life, are when it ends and we are forced to pivot.
How do we support our child when he is going through this pain? And, let’s be honest, sometimes our perceived “pain” is just as great as his. We’ve invested countless hours of driving, watching practices and workouts, we’ve given up family vacations in the process to show commitment to the team and paid countless dollars to help support our son’s dream.
And now this is how we’re rewarded?!
As parents, we often times conflate our pain with our child’s. While, yes, we’ve made a significant investment of resources into the sport as well, it is not our pain to deal with. In this case, it is the lessons her son can learn from this moment which can be a life-altering opportunity, if he chooses. Some will use it as an opportunity to self-soothe with negative rewards, but the more supported ones will use it as a time to find their true passion. So how do we do the latter?
How to Pivot after Getting Cut (or Your Sports Career Ends)
1) Allow time to pass: While in the moment this definitely feels life altering, because it is, it’s important to not jump in and try and fix anything immediately. Give your child the time to process what’s happened.
2) Give space: Ask him what he needs in the moment. Without inserting your own opinion, just ask him how he’s feeling. (This can easier said, than done, so don’t be hard on yourself if you flail a bit here at first). If he needs to be left alone to process, let him be. As long as he is safe, his process will be done according to his timing.
Should You Tell Your Child To Should Find A New Sport?
3) Redefine Your Purpose: Once he’s had time to process (for some kids this takes days, for others it can be ok within a few minutes), ask how you can best support him. “Would you like to brainstorm some other options for senior year? I heard the cross-country team is looking for runners and you used to love to run in middle school.”