Tomorrow, I have to do something truly distasteful. It is something I do every year around this time. Something that literally turns my stomach. Tomorrow, I have to cut kids from the high school basketball team.
As a basketball coach here in Michigan, I have coached at all levels (freshmen, JV, varsity) and at small parochial schools and now at a large public Class A high school. November is a great time of year for us coaches – you see, we’re all undefeated right now. The promise of things to come will quickly be replaced by the stress of wins and losses. Although the struggle of trying to repeat the wins or reverse the losses is endless and anxiety ridden, it’s what we sign up for.
November also comes with the responsibility of uttering the sentence, ”I’m sorry, we did not have room for you on this year’s roster.” Good kids, hard working kids, kids who have played the game since they were in kindergarten, will now have their organized basketball career ended by those simple words.
I have the impression that most folks think tryouts are only hard for the players. That coaches are simply making lists and rosters and plans and that none of this really hits home to them. It does.
The truth is that there are usually about 7 or 8 sure thing players on each team – guys who are so good they stand out from everyone else. They made the team the minute they walked onto the court. Then there is a group of 10 – 15 players who really are pretty close in abilities. Out of those I have to pick 5 and send the rest home in tears.
There will be a lot of parents tomorrow, all over this area (we have three high schools in our town!), who will disagree with the choices I make. Some will choose to tell me about it. Most will simply stew and only mention it bitterly to their friends and neighbors. “That coach just didn’t like my son…” they will tell people. They will be wrong.
Coaches like good ball players. They like players who can help them win. If your son got cut, then he wasn’t one of the top 12 guys in the school who fit that description. Period.
They say that team sports offer kids a great opportunity to learn about life. I believe that is true. But it isn’t just making the team that offers that lesson. Sometimes, not making the team can be just as powerful to a young man or woman. I only wish that parents could see that too.
In any case… I can’t wait until the day after tomorrow.