When Your Kid Doesn’t Make the Team: Lessons Learned About Rejection


This past year, our oldest son started middle school.  That meant more independence, harder classes, new friends, and puberty! OMG, puberty.  (Sidenote: where did my baby go?) 

I remember being in 6th grade and how vital it was to me to “fit in.”  I would, of course, only wear Guess jeans and have the same Doc Martens like my BFF’s.  There was also no way I would try out for a sport or activity that I wasn’t confident that I would be good at or, more importantly, have friends participating in too.  

Fast forward to my 11-year-old son starting 6th grade. Don’t get me wrong he loves to wear the name brand hoodies like this friends do, but he is simply his own person. He decided as the school year started that he was going to try out for tennis. He has never played tennis in his life. Ever. So, we got him a tennis racket and he went through the tryout process over a few days after school. We had mentioned to him to be prepared in case he didn’t make it, but he just felt so confident in himself.  

Well, the last day of tryouts came around. My son had been practicing at home and said he was having fun with the boys who were trying out too. He had been putting in the work. The coach called the kids over one by one, and as I waited in my car and watched, I couldn’t tell if he made it or not.  As he made his way over to my car, his eyes met mine, and I saw his little precious lower lip started to tremble. He didn’t make it.  I was heartbroken. Crushed for him. He got in the car, shed a few tears as he calmly told me he didn’t make it, but that he was ok with it. He said not many 6th graders were going to make it, and although the coach saw potential in him, he had to make some cuts.   

He was ok with it. Totally ok. I wanted to bawl my eyes out for him, as this was his first real experience with rejection. He worked hard, stepped out of his comfort zone, and didn’t get the reward at the end of this experience. But that’s all part of life, right?

Here are the biggest lessons I learned from my son:

  • Rejection is hard, but you don’t have to dwell on it. Reflect and move on.
  • Trying something new is scary, but the growth is worth it.
  • You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing.
  • Hard work always pays off, but sometimes not right away.  You have to be patient.

He is now gearing up to try out for golf in the spring.  He’s played quite a bit at home (you should see all the golfballs in the backyard) and has a practice putting mat in his room. He’s putting in the work. Could he get cut again?  Maybe. However, he feels so confident in himself that he is going to try out and risk that rejection again. Does he have friends trying out? I don’t think he even knows! Will he be heartbroken if he doesn’t make it?  Probably. But, I know, and he knows he would be ok.  

I’ve had rejection in my life and sometimes didn’t handle it quite as well as he did. I kept thinking this was going to be such a big life lesson for him, and although it certainly was, I feel like I learned more from him and how he handled himself. 

He’s taught me to try new things on my own, that rejection is ok, keep working hard, and be patient. I hope he continues to take these life lessons with him throughout his life. 

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Emily and her husband (who is also her high school sweetheart) have lived in Brownsburg since 2004. They have two boys (Dylan & Tyler) that keep them very busy! Emily is a nonprofit professional and also wellness expert. She is a Whole30 Certified Coach and the host of The Self Care Isn't Selfish Podcast. You can also find Emily teaching fitness classes and getting her own butt kicked at Orangetheory. Motivated by her own family's wellness transformation, Emily coaches and helps inspire other busy moms like herself to make their health a priority in their lives, and take the time to put themselves first #selfcareisntselfish Emily loves to write about health, fitness, being a working #boymom and of course self care. You can find her on Instagram and check out her online courses and the podcast at: www.emily-nichols.com