Moving On After Not Making The Team: What’s Next For Players And Parents?

A disappointing tryout can be a starting point for making the next team


By Greg Bates, Special to AHAI

The tryout has concluded and the coach is ready to announce his team for the season. There’s going to be jubilation for the players who survived the cut and disappointment for the kids who didn’t quite make it.

Not making a team — the one your friends are on — can be difficult for a kid at any age. It can also frustrate a parent who has dedicated so much time and money to help his or her kid succeed.

The key to moving on for the player is to keep everything in perspective and receive a sound support system at home. 

“I think part of what people need to understand is like anything in life, whether it’s school or work or athletics, there’s a lot of ups and downs,” said Chad Green, who is the hockey director for the Romeoville Huskies. “Being in Chicago, one of the most famous people is Michael Jordan, who didn’t make his high school team and got cut, and it didn’t ruin him. Another example I have is Joe Sakic. He didn’t make his top midget team when he was that age. He went on and he’s a Hall of Famer in the NHL and won Stanley Cups.”

Green, who is on the AHAI player development committee, coaching committee and ADM committee, believes there has to be a separation between the thought process of the player and the parent.

Kids at the youth level get emotional and when that happens, they bottle up what they are thinking, Green noted.

“The key is to talk to someone, whether it’s a friend, it could be a parent, it could be a former coach,” Green said. “It’s always nice to talk out loud about and get someone’s different perspective or ideas on it.”

Green said he hears it a lot that kids think if they don’t make a team, it’s personal attack or it means they aren’t a good player. That isn’t true.

Green suggests that if a kid 12 years old and up doesn’t make a team, they should approach the coach and have a respectful conversation. Ask the coach which areas need the most improvement. What are the kid’s strengths? What are the weaknesses?

“I think that helps that person set up a plan as they go forth with that,” Green said. “Lessons can be learned from it. Did I do too much of something? Did I not do enough? Did I take the summer off and just laid on the couch and played Xbox or was I in the gym working hard?”

According to Jim Clare, who the Illinois coach-in-chief, when most clubs around the state run a tryout there are evaluators jotting down notes about skills such as skating, shooting, passing and hockey sense. That information is valuable for a kid to get in their hands. It’s best to contact the club and speak with the hockey director.

“They don’t see every kid, but their evaluators do,” Clare said. “So, they can give them the feedback from the evaluation on what they saw on the ice over the course of the three, four tryouts, whatever they have, and explain to them: here’s what we saw as compared to kids that made that team, your son or daughter was lacking in whatever area it may have been. So, you give them some feedback on the different skillsets they’re looking for.

“It may be the simple fact that you’re a defenseman and we picked these six. Your kid could have played on the team, but we felt we had six who were a better fit — maybe a lefty, righty situation.”

There should always be a backup plan in case a kid doesn’t make a team. That way there is still something to look forward to, Green said.

“Maybe you tried out for varsity and you didn’t make it, you’re cut and you’re all upset,” Green said. “Maybe the better place for you, that Plan B, is the JV team because now what happens is maybe you have the opportunity to be a leader, one of the better players, maybe you’ll get a little bit more ice time. Instead of being upset you didn’t make the team, maybe the best situation is that lesser team and you get more out of it and then next year you put in the effort and maybe you do make it. Not only are you more prepared, you’re actually going to have more success for the level.”

On the parents’ side, it’s all about perspective. Green notes it’s fine to be disappointed your kid didn’t make the team, but in hindsight, why is your son or daughter playing hockey? It’s not all about getting on the best team.

“Part of it is having the parent help the child understand that what you’re learning is how to work hard, how to be dedicated, how to make a commitment, how to make friends, how to work as a team, how to deal with ups and downs, whether it’s wins and losses,” Green said. “You’re using the sport to be physically fit and exercise, which is good. Most importantly, it’s got to be fun.”

When a kid doesn’t make a team, the parents need to be there to be supportive and offer guidance in a what can be a tough situation.

“I think the parent has to be not just the support system for them but also the chief explainer,” Clare said. “A lot of them will say, ‘Johnny is not that good. You should have beat him out.’ That’s what they’re feeding the kid, and that’s not the right way to go about it. You shouldn’t be comparing kids to other kids. So, you need to have a better conversation: ‘Do I think you should have made it? Maybe. But coaches didn’t. Here’s what they told us to work on.’”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.



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