Devastation is the first word that comes to mind when you think of this happening. Your child is devastated. They had worked so hard and wanted it so hard, to be part of the team. Then, they don’t make the cut.
Sometimes they are provided with feedback and things to work on, between now and the next opportunity to try out, other times, nothing.
Where your child’s mind goes
I want to talk with you about your child first, what has gone on in their mind throughout this whole try out journey. Understanding that can help them to manage this upset and turn it into a positive.
Unconsciously it is likely your child will have been wanting so much to make the team, because making the team means something. It means they made it. They know how to play. They have the skills to play. Making the team equals success.
They’ve tried and tried so hard, at practice, at home, doing all they can to impress the coach, to be seen, so they will make it onto the team.
For them they don’t even want to think about not making the team because that means failure. And thinking about failure only makes them sad, so they just won’t go there.
They may have felt quietly confident that they would make the team too. In their mind they were likely to have compared themselves to Jack and Eli and Mark and seen themselves as better than them. It’s a natural thing to compare. Everyone does it in order to know what they need to do to survive.
The next emotional ride
With all of this emotional build up, based on what your child is thinking, there is only down, when they hear they didn’t make the team. They will likely see themselves as failing. The Coach has told them, in their minds, that they aren’t as good at Kyle, Tom or Martin.
You can see how there is a connection between thoughts and emotions here, right? They think they’ve failed and feel sad. They are told they need to improve this skill, or that skill and they feel hurt because of all the hard work and effort they put in.
The thing with younger children is, no one has taught them about emotions; what they are, how they come about, and therefore how to manage them. So, when they feel emotional, they don’t often know what to do or say. They may not understand how to put words to what they are actually feeling.
Not being able to put words to what they are feeling makes it harder for them to ask for help to work through everything.
Older children may feel more comfortable expressing what they are feeling, even though they too may not know why they feel the way they do.
For example, when your child is angry, you notice it because they yell or expresses their rage outwards, often at you, or perhaps their siblings. What is actually happening is they feel so hurt inside that it is too much to cope with. The safest thing for them is to turn away from that feeling and express it a different way – outwardly at someone else.
As you can see, things are not always as they seem. You see the angry child and punish them for striking out in what ever form that took. They are so deeply hurt inside that your punishment only makes things worse inside for them.
The conversation to have with them.
The absolute best way to support your child when they get this sort of news is to help them to express their emotions.
One great way of doing this is to stop and think of a time when you were in a similar situation to them. You wanted something really bad, you’d worked hard to achieve it, then it didn’t happen. What life experience do you have like that? Dig deep. It may have been in your own childhood.
Now use that example to explain how you felt. Share the story of that time, what you did, how you felt, what happened. And then ask them the question, is this how you feel too?
What sharing your own experiences does is to allow your child to either connect with the story and the feeling, or to hear your story and say “no, that’s not how I’m feeling” and then explain what their journey is like.
In my experience this mutual sharing is the best way to support your child, anyone who is having difficulties working through an emotional situation.
Don’t be afraid to share your feeling.
As parents we were often not taught how to manage or understand our own emotions, so it is often not easy to dive into them ourselves. Shared experience is one of the best ways to connect with another though. Not only can you help them work through their emotion, it may also help you in some way with pent up emotion you may be carrying around.
Be open and vulnerable with your child and your bond will only strengthen. They will love you for supporting them to gain clarity and to dissolve what they are feeling.
Getting back to normal
If the Coach did provide feedback to them on skills they can work on, once they have worked through their emotions you will notice they are more inspired to go and work on those skills. When your child hasn’t worked through their emotions you may find they don’t want to practice or do what the coach suggested. It is a normal part of grief. Denying the feelings. And long term it is not healthy.
Having trouble with the mental side of the game of hockey? Karen Cherrett, Emotions Educator and Mental Skills Coach helps players to understand how their thoughts impact their game; Parents how to support their child's mental wellness; and Coaches to understand mental skills management for their players.