How To Help Your Child During Tryouts
Tryouts are one of the MOST stressful times for both the athlete and the parents. So much of it feels out of our control, and the stakes uncomfortably high. But there are some things you can do to help your child during tryouts. Some things need to happen well before the tryouts, some during, and equally important is how you navigate the post-tryouts.
The role of parents BEFORE tryouts
- I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage, success is when preparation meets opportunity. Well, the prep part of that should be on a regular basis throughout the entire season. If your child is having to change a lot of what they are doing in order to “prepare” for tryouts, then there is a much bigger issue at hand. And in most cases, kids have been in ‘tryouts’ all season as so much of the evaluation process will have taken place over months of coaches watching them play. Not that a kid can’t change a mind during tryouts, but it’s not typical.
- Be careful about making blanket statements that they are going to crush tryouts, and there’s no way they won’t make the team, and you’ve got this in the bag. You most definitely want your child to feel confident going into tryouts, but emphasize that it’s hard work and a great attitude that will help them make a team. Don’t be negative, but strike a balance with unrealistic optimism.
- And right before tryouts, you want to make sure they are getting a lot of rest, eating meals that give them energy, and that they have limited amounts of stress or tiring activities. For example, it may not be the best time for sleepovers and trips to the beach.
- DO NOT under any circumstances start to harp on their play or what they could have should have would have done. “You should have been doing more training,” or “Suzie has been running and doing privates,” etc. At this point, you want them to feel confident and prepared and not have any self-doubt.
- Don’t bog them down with a lot of instructions – not only will they forget most of it, but you don’t want them overthinking anything; you want them to just play and have fun.
- Only talk to them about things that are in their control. At this point, worrying them about situations that could arise or threatening them with things like, if you don’t try and score or if you don’t hustle, you might not get a spot, will only do damage. What you should be is instilling confidence and calmness and discussing only things they can control, like attitude, energy, eye contact, work rate, effort, and being coachable.
The role of parents DURING tryouts
- Be their cheerleader, keep their spirits up, and their confidence high.
- Help them re-frame any nervousness, negative thoughts, or doubts. According to Dr. Sam Maniar, our resident sports psychologist, reframing is just another fancy psychology term for looking at something in a completely different way. If they are nervous about tryouts, for example, ask your child to describe what they are feeling. They may say their heart beats faster, their breathing speeds up, they perspire, and/or they get butterflies in their stomach. Now ask them how they feel when they are excited. You will find that the answer will be very similar. In fact, researchers have found that excitement and anxiety are the EXACT SAME emotion. The only difference is that we label one as positive and one as negative. So, help your child reframe their anxiety as excitement and make it positive.
- Positive Self-Talk We have all heard the saying: “Whether you think you can or can’t, you are probably right.” Our brain sends messages to our muscles to respond in line with our thoughts. Therefore, negative thoughts will increase the likelihood of failure, while positive thoughts will increase the likelihood of success. Help your athletes see the positive or find the silver lining. Then, help them say these positive things in their heads (or out loud). When negative thoughts creep in, help your athletes flip those thoughts into positive ones.
- If they have a bad day, remind them that what happened today/yesterday is done and not to hold on to it. Including while they are playing, be in the moment, not in your head.
- Remind them that coaches will expect them to make mistakes; it’s how they respond that they want to see.
- Share what makes a good impression on a coach that IS in their control, like effort.
The role of parents AFTER the tryout
- If it doesn’t go the way everyone was hoping, resist that initial feeling of hurt, and try not to go on the offensive, criticizing the process, the people selecting the team or those involved with the coaching. This will only minimize the process and your child’s feelings and set them up for a lifetime of making excuses and handling failure poorly. Failure is our greatest teacher. They will learn and grow from it better than any successes they have, but here’s the trick, NOT if you take that from them and put it on someone else. Use it to improve and learn. If you can teach them this, it will be one of their greatest lessons in life.
- They are bound to take it personally. It is an attack on their self-esteem, and none of us like to feel rejected. It can be made even harder by the fact that your child will probably have to watch some of their friends make a team and will feel that they are missing out from a social perspective as well. Don’t overreact; praise your child and tell them how proud you are of them for giving it a go.
- Offer emotional support – let your child talk. Let them express their feelings, and let them express anger and frustration at how it all went. Even if you disagree with what they may say, listen to it from their perspective; this will be useful to you moving forward. Certainly, do not squash your child at this stage; it is really important as parents that we do not play it all down and tell them, for example, ‘that it’s only a game’ or ‘there is always next time. Let them talk, sometimes silence, or even telling them that you feel their pain with them can act as a huge support.
- Encourage and don’t create an excuse for them – be positive and encourage your child. Try not to make excuses for your child. Instead, talk to them about the selection process, and ask them questions that allow them to reflect on what they think. Why others may have made the team. What can you do next time and now?
- Keep things in perspective, and recognize that this may be a phase your child will need to go through. It does not mean that further down the line, they will not be selected ahead of some of their peers, so keep encouraging and keep motivating them!
- In order for your child to bounce back quickly from failure, don’t criticize them too much or allow them to be too harsh on themselves. Encourage them, inspire them, and lift them up. Get them to do it for themselves as well. It’s in moments of failure when treating them with compassion becomes the most important thing.
- If your child does make the team they wanted and their friends or others don’t. Encourage them to be graceful and kind. Do not blast it all over social media and, in some cases, call or text a friend and let them know that they are bummed for them and know they will meet up again soon. But make sure they don’t avoid tough situations with friends and ignore what happened or be insensitive towards their feelings.
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