Not Making The Cut

It Can Hurt Something Awful


Several years ago, I wrote a story for a local newspaper about kids not making the cut – that is, not making school sports teams.   I am revisiting the issue here.

Over the past couple weeks, as the winter sports season commenced, young people here in Easton, and across America, have been cut from teams; they have been told that they are not good enough. 

For the young person getting cut, it hurts – it hurts a lot.   We all need to be mindful of this.

The first time that I as an athlete was intimately involved with the cut process was in the mid 1970s, when I tried out for the Easton Junior High School 7th grade basketball team.   I made the team, but others didn’t.  

Our coach was Brad Morse, a young phys ed teacher.   As tryouts came to an end, and we were in the locker room, Mr. Morse might emerge from his office and beckon with a wave of his hand to one of the kids who had tried out, which told the young man that Mr. Morse needed to speak with him. Or a kid might relay the message to a peer, saying,  “Mr. Morse wants to see you.”    

In either case, the kid who had been summoned to Mr. Morse’s office knew he wasn’t going to receive happy news.  He was going to be cut.    

Mr. Morse was a good coach; he knew basketball and he had a strong rapport with the players.  He also had an understanding about what not making the team meant for a kid.   Just as importantly, he cared enough to discuss with that kid, one on one, why he didn’t make the team, and what he could do to increase his chances of making future hoops teams. 

This compassionate method of trimming a roster reduces hurt, but it doesn't eliminate it.  No matter of handling the cut process can do that. 

With young people, so much is wrapped up in belonging – to be part of the right group, the right crowd, the right social circle. 

Being a member of a sports team is important, especially for those who want to be a member of a team.   For the kid for whom being a member of a team is important, being cut brings on all sorts of hurt. 

I advise and I urge coaches and parents to pay close attention to the impact of being cut.  

Some boys and girls try out for teams, and they really aren’t in to it, and making the team is not all that important. For this type, not making the team might not be all that big a deal.

Others really want to make a team, but they also have exceptionally strong and durable constitutions, and if they are cut, they rebound well and are on to the next challenge and activity. 

But, let’s face it, for most, the experience of being told that you are not on the team – in whatever way you are told – is a very unhappy and demoralizing event. 

If a child is not supported in the right way following not making the cut then this could discourage, and maybe even prevent, him or her for even trying out again; indeed, it may cause one to avoid trying and competing in many areas. 

It can be a healthy remedy for the hurt that children – and for any person of any age, for that matter – feel after not being chosen, to relate the stories of some of history’s highest achievers who have met with early and persistent defeat and discouragement in the very area in which they would shine the brightest.  

In a column , I mentioned how as young man, Steven Spielberg would be rejected three times by the University of Southern California School Theater, Film and Television.  He managed to make films anyway. 

A staple of high school English classes is Call Of The Wild.   The author of this classic, Jack London, received some 600 rejection notices before he sold his first story.

How about that guy who was fired from a newspaper job because, as his editor told him, he lacked creativity.   Well, this young newspaperman – his name was Walt Disney – managed down the road to find a least a bit of creativity in his being.    

The history of achievement follows in step with the history of failure and persistence. 

But success at the end of falling short and failure is not necessary for the trials and hurt that precede victory to be of value.   They can be victories unto themselves.   It is all a matter of perspective and having healthy priorities.   

We need to tell young people that there is great dignity and honor in trying and striving mightily, and indeed many great achievers have met with defeat over and over, and they use the experience of toiling and working, whether it results in a win in the score column or not, to become stronger and more noble and a better person. 

The more you look at the example of Daniel Eugene “Rudy” Ruettiger, whose story was told in the motion picture, Rudy, you see a person who not only was extraordinarily motivated and willing to put in the immense work to achieve big and Quixotic dreams – to gain acceptance to the University of Notre Dame, and at 5-6, 165 lbs. to play football for the Irish – but also one who seemed to relish and get more pumped up with every setback and knock down he received – and he received a lot of them.

While Rudy achieved his goals – admittance to ND, after being rejected three times, and dressing for and actually playing in a varsity ND football game – there was victory after victory along the way to those goals.   Rudy won day after day in that he couldn’t be defeated and he wouldn’t quit.   He relished in being indomitable.

And this lesson is vitally important, for if someone pursues a sport with passion and ultimate effort, then sport – whether we make the pros or never make a team at any level – can furnish us with the strength, perspective, and ability to succeed in many sectors and pursuits.   

It is important to tell boys and girls that there are a zillion activities out there, and there are surely many for which they are particularly suited, yet they may just not have disccovered them yet. 

Adults should let kids know that in the wide-ranging barometer of what is truly important and sacred life, making a sports team can be way down near the bottom.  

For sure, you don’t have to be a grownup to help out the person who has received the bad news.  Friends and brothers and sisters can alleviate much of the down feeling.

How about those who made the team?  Yes, they can serve a healing role.

There is a lot of unhappiness for young people when they are cut. 

Fortunately, not making a sports team is pain that can be easily remedied.

But only if caring, supportive, and informed people quickly step in and provide the restorative medicine, love, and help.

Michael Hardman December 17, 2011 at 04:39 AM
Ross, I remember years ago editing a story where your dad said cutting kids was the toughest thing he had to do at OA, because you were ending a dream. I've never forgot that.
Ross A. Muscato December 17, 2011 at 07:29 AM
Mike -- thanks for the comment, and kind words. Yeah, cutting a kid is just no fun at all. My dad understood that. My brother understood that. And I understand that. You know, Mike, in reading your comment, and responding, I got to thinking that you have worked with all the Muscato boys on sports stories, and we all respect and admire your work. Keep it going. ross


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