If you’ve got to cut players from your team, there’s a right way to do it

If you’ve got to cut players from your team, there’s a right way to do it

Being cut from a team sucks. I know from experience.

My Dad got the call late at night and broke the news to me the next morning at breakfast. I was 13 at the time but can still remember that gut-wrenching feeling. And it was almost, if not equally, as hard on my Dad to be the messenger.

Despite the awfulness that is cutting, or non-selection, could there be a best practice, or dare I say, positive way to go about it?

According to Dr. Lauren Sulz, assistant professor and promoter of school-based physical activity, there are four factors that can improve the experience of being cut for everyone involved:

  1. Immediacy. Eliminating wait-time between tryout and decision is courteous and preferred.
  2. Clear expectations. Being upfront about decision-making procedures ahead of time helps to eliminate any guessing games during the tryout period.
  3. Privacy. Informing athletes in a quiet and mindful setting is likely the most important factor during non-selection.
  4. Encouragement. Providing suggestions for continued participation in the sport can motivate an athlete to maintain their development.

Despite these strategies, making cuts is never an easy thing to do. Dr. Sulz and her team of researchers gathered information from young athletes who had previously been cut from a sports team and “proposed ways to help fine-tune player-coach discussions.” Kids recommended stating the tryout outcome at the beginning of the conversation, as opposed to the end, and providing specific reasons for the decision being made. Practical advice, both verbal and written, is also important for athletes to remember what was said during the meeting. Lastly, youth can be quick to perceive an unchangeable personal attribute, such as height or weight, to be the reason for non-selection. It’s crucial for coaches to provide actionable feedback that players can work towards.

While it seems like the practice of cutting is here to stay in sport, Sulz’ study investigates the youth experience and seeks to make it more respectful, fair, and supportive. Her suggestions can turn a perceivably negative experience, in which kids drop-out of sport, into a positive and encouraging practice.

Thirteen years later I can look back at my own experience of being cut and use that wisdom to make a better moment for another athlete some day. I can respectfully say that there will be no telephone messages or Cheerios involved.

3 responses to “If you’ve got to cut players from your team, there’s a right way to do it

  1. I wish my daughter’s soccer coach followed the above. He was never clear as to what his intentions were and he let the information concerning the cuts trickle out through lewis, instead of being up front about his expectations. He wanted to create a ‘super team’s with players who also played on elite teams and when he had tryouts, he recruited other players from those teams and promised positions while the current players were also trying out. He didn’t immediately tell the current players/parents who made the team and who didn’t but instead he told the new players who made the team first. Players and parents talk and rumors spread. At no point did he even attempt to notify the current players until the last two weeks of the season with 2 players learning the truth 2 days after the last game. His reasoning was that he wanted dedicated soccer players (those who didn’t play other sports) and cut the players who didn’t fit that profile. However, the dedicated soccer players missed games due to conflicts with other teams, so the irony is that he’ll likely have the same problems with scheduling going forward. I never thought I would see a coach do something as evil to young girls as what happened here.

  2. What are your thoughts if a student makes it on the team but after a week the coach says there are going to tryout some more people and those who originally made it on the team may now be cut? These original students were not told that it could happen.

    1. Hi Jeanette. considering we don’t know all the details of the situation, I can say that as a general principle this seems wrong, especially in a school sport context. It’s difficult for a student-athlete to be cut from a team, but if done with respect, transparency and clarity, the great majority of student-athletes usually rebound from being cut and continue in sport. On the other hand, if student-athletes perceive the process as being unfair, unclear or manipulated in some ways, they might loose confidence in the sport structure in their school. From our perspective, the most important principle for all school sport coordinators, coaches and other stakeholders is to do everything in their power to keep all student-athletes engaged in sport, and a selection process that follows the principles listed above is a must.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *