I’m going to tear a page right out of the playbook of my life to use as today’s GEM debate and I’ll bet it’s one parents have pretty strong opinions about. My baby girl, Casey (I should stop calling her my “baby girl” seein’ as I’m now looking up at her) made the volleyball team at her high school. As a former high school athlete and someone who thinks team sports are good for kids, this made me very proud.
This whole concept of having to “make the team” was new to Casey; in the 8th grade, everyone who went out, got to suit up. But high school is a whole different animal. During tryouts, I asked Casey about her chances and she told me she thought they were very good. I didn’t ask many more questions and now, I’m glad I didn’t. I would have been much more nervous if I knew then what I do now; 25 girls tried out for just 14 spots on the roster. Casey was right; her chances were good and she got on. Not so for a couple of her good friends.
Later that night at sports orientation, I ran into a couple other moms and the topic of conversation turned to the cuts on the volleyball team. One mother said she thought they should have allowed everyone on the team; after all, it was only fair that way. The other mother was non-committal. You want to know what I said? You already know, don’t you?
NO! No, putting everyone on the team is NOT fair. It’s not fair to ask the kids who are really good and belong there, to carry the weight of those who are not and do not. And it’s not fair to lie to those who aren’t good enough to earn a spot but are there anyway.
Our job as parents is not to protect our kids from disappointment; it’s to give them the tools with which to deal with it. What are they going to do when they apply for that first, big job? What happens if they get to the reception area and there are 30 people there? What if there’s someone better than them and they don’t get the job? That’s life. That’s how it works (most of the time) in the real world and that should not be a less on they are learning for the first time, at age 26.
No, the right way for us as parents to handle this is to teach our kids that they have to do their best ALL THE TIME but that even then, sometimes THEIR best is not THE best. Then we comfort, hug, dry tears and move on. We don’t call the school to berate the coach or beg for another shot. We don’t demand to see how the other athletes stacked up. We don’t offer to buy 11 more jerseys so everyone can be on the team. We teach our kids that this is life.
For Casey, making the team is just the first part of it, now she has to get good enough to EARN playing time. I’ll work hard with her to help bring out her best but if there are girls better than her and the coach chooses to play them, you know what kind of conversation we’re going to have.
Okay so let’s talk about this. What’s your take on “Everybody Gets A Trophy” that seems to permeate group sports nowadays? Do you think that’s a good idea or a bad idea? If you think it’s okay, until what age? And what do you tell your kids when they are good but not good enough to make the team? Lemme hear ya!