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My Son Didn’t Make the Team: You Still Win When You Lose

My hands were trembling as I typed my password into the computer keyboard. It was a Wednesday afternoon and the rosters for the sixth-grade travel basketball team had just been posted online. It shouldn’t have made me so anxious, but I knew how much my 12-year-old son wanted to make the team.

I stared at the screen for a few minutes, reading and re-reading the list of 13 names. Finally, I had to admit to myself that my son hadn’t made the cut. My heart sank.

The list was posted at the end of the school day when my son and his friends could check it on their phones. I knew he’d have to deal with his disappointment in front of his peers while also congratulating those who made the team.

In sports, there are moments where you land the three-pointer and win the game. But there are just as many times that you strike out when the based are loaded. Because of the highs, and despite the lows, I’m glad my son chooses to play sports.

Yes, I wish that he would find success in everything he sets out to do, but that’s not realistic—in sports or in life.

I wished that afternoon would be about triumph. It’s easy to give your child a congratulatory speech when they have a wide grin of satisfaction and are so darn happy they don’t even need a speech. Like every parent, I love hugs, high-fives, and moments when I can say, “You did it!”

Instead, I had to give my son a consolation speech, which is a lot less fun, but probably more important. It’s not really a speech. More a continuation of a process. An ongoing discussion about sportsmanship, grace and not giving up.

Although it was painful for me as a parent to see my son disappointed, I needed to keep my own feelings in check. Sure, I wanted to call the coach to say he made a big mistake, but I would not. Nor would I let my son know that I thought the whole thing was unfair.

That wouldn’t have helped either.

Instead, my role was to be the grown-up: To put my own feelings aside and let my son have a safe place to vent his own emotions.

And when he was done, I needed to encourage him to continue to work on his skills and improve his game. That day was a loss, but the only way to get another win was for him to lace up his sneakers and get on the court again.

My son is 15-years-old now. And, after being cut from the travel team three years in a row, he got to see his name on the roster for the high school team. Last week, my husband and I watched him play in his first game. The smile on his face when he made his first shot in is something I will never forget. After so many disappointments, it was a well-deserved win for him. And it wouldn’t have happened if he had given up trying.

Randi Mazzella

Randi Mazzella is a freelance writer specializing in parenting, midlife issues, and family life. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications including The Washington Post, The Fine Line and The Girlfriend. She is a frequent contributor to Your Teen for Parents. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook.