My daughter got cut from her first team this week. She’s 9 years old.
We’d been waiting for weeks for the email to come out with the summer softball travel team information. We knew there was a good chance she wouldn’t make it – the team combines 9 and 10 year olds – but she loves everything about softball: the thrill of making it to third, heart pounding so hard the bleacher shouts are hard to hear, the way her hand hurts just a little after a really good hit, and most of all, the cheering with her team in the dugout.
When the email came out and her name was not on the list, Steve and I stayed up late talking about how to break the news to Juju. Would she cry? Would the rejection take away from her love of the game? Would it close out a great spring softball season on a sour note?
Her reaction took me by surprise, and was one of those moments I hope to remember years from now. There were no tears. And trust me, 3rd grade has been filled with buckets of dramatic tears. Instead, Juju shrugged and said, “Ah well. That’s too bad. But I’m glad two of my friends made it. They’re sooo good. And now I can play tennis this summer.”
Wow. Just, wow.
Her reaction helped me realize that winning, for these kids, is not about making the elite teams, not about winning the championship. It’s not about finding one sport and practicing it four or five days a week. Winning is about having fun and developing a passion for sports. Plural. Winning is about keeping these kids off the couch and away from the video games, and having them not feel like it’s a loss. If we can get these kids to high school, still excited and enthusiastic about sports in general so that they’re open to trying a new one or playing one they already know, then we’ve won, as parents, and as a community.
So this first cut, so young, so nerve wracking, was not the end of the world after all. By opening up the summer for fun, for other sports, this cut was actually a step towards winning the long game.