Getting Cut From A Sports Team

Ten Reasons to Re-Examine Cuts Below High School Varsity

Getting cut from a sport team can be a  very tough thing for a child or teen to handle.  There are at least ten reasons why schools should re-examine cuts below high school varsity,

I remember in 9th grade, I tried out for varsity field hockey. Although it was the first time in my life that I had participated in try-outs, I was already aware that it was very intimidating process, as I had an older sister on the team. 

On the first day, we were told there would be "cuts." After the try-outs, I was selected for the junior varsity team. My friend, Hillary, who was a talented athlete, was not so lucky. Suffering from heat exhaustion, she performed poorly. On the second day of the three-day tryout she got sick to her stomach. I remember going with her to the locker room. She was hurt, humiliated and embarrassed by the tryout process. Sadly, Hillary didn't come back for third day of tryouts and was cut, forever out of the loop, never to return to a team to try out again. Sad basketball player in locker room after being cut

Since that day I have always been against cuts.

Re-examining cuts 

The practice of cutting athletes from middle or high school teams, while it has existed for at least fifty years, is arguably the most controversial practice in youth sports. While the arguments proponents advance in favor of cutting are well-known, the practice is outmoded and needs to be re-examined in light of twenty-first century realities.

Proponents of cutting often argue that cutting is necessary to prepare children for an adult world where there are winners and losers. The belief is that children are better off for having been cut because getting cut "toughens them up" and exposes them to the disappointments all of us experience in adulthood. They also argue, with some justification, that, since parents should be teaching their children not to base their sense of self on their identity as an athlete, a child with a healthy self-image will not unduly suffer from being cut, and will simply find another sport or extracurricular activity in which they might excel. 

While it is true that it is important for kids to learn the value of overcoming obstacles with hard work, the fact is, however, that being cut from a middle school or high school sports team is often one of the most upsetting and traumatic events in a teenager's life. One high school sophomore described it like being punched in the stomach. For many, being cut represents a direct assault on their self-esteem. They feel the pain and embarrassment of being rejected, excluded from an activity in which they wanted to participate, and denied the important social connection sports allows athletes to make with their peers.

Nearly nine out of ten mothers surveyed in the recent Motherhood Study and many child psychologists agree that the goal in childhood is to prepare children for adulthood by giving them a chance to develop coping skills, and the self-confidence needed to succeed in the adult world, in a safe and nurturing environment. Cutting children from athletic programs fosters an environment which hurts, rather than fosters, self-esteem. 

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Sport in the education

Sport in the education system is an important part of learning and development. I know there is some systems where competitive sport is not encouraged, this does not work as humans are competitive and like to participate with the view of prize at the end.

Middle School Sports

I agree completely with middle schools having a no-cut policy. I understand that kids develop at different rates – whether we’re looking at sports, music, or academics. Everyone has his/her own developmental path – and we should always teach kids to not compare themselves against others. Of course that’s pretty difficult to do, but I think it’s something we should emphasize nonetheless.
But is it OK to have teams split by ability level? Everyone still gets to play, but they play with teammates of similar ability. Our district just recently switched to having middle school teams all split evenly. In years past, the sports program worked like this: kids in grades 4-6 played on teams that were split evenly and all kids received equal playing time. Then, in 7th and 8th grade, students were not cut from teams, but they were placed on either an A, B, or C team. Also, playing time was not equal. We are also now being charged $100 to participate; last year it was free.
In a sport like volleyball, isn't one person's ability to participate (to a certain extent) dependent on the skill level of others? Isn't it ever OK to group kids of like ability together?
What's more, our district has other programming that seems to contradict this new sports philosophy. Our district touts its “talented and gifted” program for kids in grades 3-5. I know of many kids who did not test in to this program and who then felt like they weren’t as smart as those other kids (which is so not the case). We also have another academically challenging opportunity for kids in grades 6-8 – again, though, kids have to test in to these classes. Also at the middle school level, students must audition for chamber choir and jazz band. All kids can be in the regular band and choir, but not everyone gets into the other options. In chamber choir and jazz band, kids work with more difficult music and have separate opportunities to perform.
If we’re worried about athletes feeling bad and possibly quitting, then why aren’t we worried about our musicians and students doing the same thing?

How to split teams.

The key to a successful sports program, at the school, club, travel, etc. level is (should be) to keep all the kids engaged and coming back the next year. If all of the 'strongest" kids play together (exclusive to the weaker players) they will not get to know any of their future and potential team mates. The key word here needs to be: PROCESS. This is all a learning process. If your school's goal is to have a winning varsity--then they need to keep as many kids in the program going up the grades. One out of 4 stars in the middle school will remain stars in HS. The most successful teams are the ones that continue to nurture every ability. Hope this answers it.



Brooke de Lench

Publisher / Editor In Chief


Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports

Sports only?

I understand trying to keep everyone engaged. And, again, I support a no-cut policy at middle schools. But how can a philosophy about how to treat middle school kids only apply to sports? I guess that's one of the main things I wanted to hear your opinion on. Do you think the other programming I mentioned (academics, music) goes against the philosophy of keeping everyone engaged? How is it possible for a district to support elite groups in academics and music and yet not think it's OK in sports?

Title IX

I think you are asking about all activities--"is it ok to group kids by strengths and weaknesses?" Many think not-- many school districts have challenged this under Title IX and won-- ( "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance..." ). However, as a parent, we need to ask what is best for our child. Would it be best for our weaker drummer to be grouped with the kids who have talent,,see this argument and question can go on forever and it has. There are no easy answers unless we know specifics to each case.



Brooke de Lench

Publisher / Editor In Chief


Home Team Advantage: The Critical Role of Mothers in Youth Sports

Grouping students

I'll give three examples, two from music and one from academics. And I would love input on them.

First, my oldest daughter (8th grade) loves to sing. She's just started her 8th year singing with a community children's choir, and she's had voice lessons for over a year. At her middle school, she has been in choir class. This is a class that anyone can sign up for. This year, though, she has the opportunity to audition for a select Chamber Choir through the school. This choir will meet on alternating days during the last hour of the day (it's called resource period -- similar to a study hall). Not all kids who try out will make this choir. The kids who don't make it will still be able to be in an "extra" choir, but it will meet on days opposite of the Chamber Choir. It is my understanding that the Chamber Choir will study more challenging music. Now, I have no idea if my daughter will make the select choir. I do know she will be disappointed/frustrated/embarrassed if she doesn't. 

Is it OK to have such a choir? What I like about it is that it is a chance for those who are more serious to push themselves. Many people in the "regular" choir are just taking choir to fill an elective spot. But the two extra choirs will be separated by ability. This is similar to a sports team having an "A" and a "B" team.
But anyone who knows about music will tell you that middle school is a time when voices are changing -- and people's voice mature at different times. My daughter's voice matured early, but everyone else will eventually catch up. So just because she might be "ahead" now doesn't mean she will be in high school. If she's serious about music, she has to work hard -- just like everyone else.

Second, my 6th-grade daughter signed up for band this year. Everyone can take band as an elective. But our school also has a jazz band (which meets during resource period). Kids audition for jazz band, but there are not that many spots available. I know that my daughter will not audition for jazz band, because she knows that those spots will be filled by the older students -- ones who have, for the most part, been taking private lessons and have just been in band longer. If jazz band was just an option for everyone, she would probably sign up.

As a parent, I recognize that the kids who audition for jazz band have more ability than my daughter. They've been in band longer and have had private lessons. I do not want to set her up for failure. I recognize that when the participants' skills are so varying, it makes it difficult for anyone to improve. The experienced drummer already knows the basics while my daughter is still learning. My daughter, I'm sure, would feel intimidated by the better drummers -- and the more experienced drummers wouldn't be able to move on to more challenging music because they would be waiting on the new people, which would probably make them frustrated with those kids who are just learning. The key, though, is that she's just starting. I'm not angry that she doesn't want to try out for jazz band. I look at jazz band as a potential goal for her. If she has fun in band this year and wants to continue, then jazz band could be something she chooses to work for. I would expect to see her practicing -- and maybe asking for lessons.

Third, our school offers two options for parents in terms of more academically challenging curriculum. The first is a program for kids in grades 4-5. Kids are tested in third grade to see if the qualify for the program. These kids, then, automatically get placed in what we call AT classes in middle school. The students also enter high school being one year ahead of their peers in math. Kids are allowed to try one more time to get placed into the AT middle school classes. This is done ONLY by taking a test. A teacher cannot simply recommend a student be placed in the other classes. I can tell you that I know of students who feel like the AT kids are "smarter" than everyone else. The kids who don't make it feel bad about themselves. Our school, though, touts this program as being a great option for parents who "want more" for their kids academically.

These are the situations I struggle with. I don't want kids to feel bad about not making something -- whether it's a select choir, band, or sports team. But I also want kids to be able to be exposed to more challenging opportunities. That's why I like having a no-cut policy, but I also don't think it's wrong to sometimes split kids by ability.

How do districts strike a balance? Is it enough to offer regular choir and band for everyone and then select options for those who have higher ability? And if we say yes to that, how can we say it's wrong to separate sports teams by ability? Have a general program that is all inclusive and supportive of all kids, but also provide an opportunity for higher-level kids to play together.

It just seems like schools need to have a consistent philosophy for how they treat kids.
Thanks for your time.

This could be confusing for

This could be confusing for many but I think schools should provide equal opportunity to the students whether it is in sport, extra-curricular or academics. There's nothing wrong if children will be grouped according to their ability but schools should be careful enough not to make other students feel that they are not special.

As a Parent & Coach

As a parent & coach I empathize with the anxiety and emotional discomfort that can arise from cuts, but to be blunt, that is what recreational leagues are for in sports.

As a kid I remember being cut from my middle school basketball team, I remember being cut from my freshmen basketball team and I remember the realization I was not a baseball player though I loved the sport when I was cut in middle school.

It is tough. But I think it is unrealistic to do it any other way. From a socialization stand point schools could seek to offer intramural programs or to work in closer concert with town recreational leagues to foster both participation and growth for late bloomers. Beyond that no cuts is simply setting unrealistic expectations for kids.

It is a delicate balance in that you don't as indicated in the original post want to see kids get isolated or feeling that they do not fit in, but on the flip side you create and develop a sense of entitlement when kids are forced to deal with things such as being rejected from a particular college or being told no to a job they desperately want.


This is the reason that America keeps falling behind other countries. We cant have advanced classes, someone might have their feelings hurt. What every happened to celebrating and pushing those who can do more. Instead people are trying to hold back those who are better. Today we have people who can not function at jobs, unless they are pampered and constantly told how special they are regardless of how good they are. They have been told throughout school and youth sports that performance does not matter, when in the real world it is all that matters.
One of the things that I love about sports is that it is one of the only places that kids get a chance to see real life. Everything is striped away. There are no excuses, ether you succeed or failed and for all to see. And when you fail you have the choice to ether work more, try harder, do better or you have the choice to quit, to say that it does not matter. The choice that an individual makes in that situation is who they really are. It show if they are a winner or a loser. The kind of person who will walk out on their wife and kids or one that will meet their responsibilities; the kind of person who will work their way out of life's problems or the kind that will sit and mope and expect someone else to bail them out. A winner or lose, not just in a game, but in life!

Performance does matter in

Performance does matter in the real world, but it's not the only thing that matters. I remember telling one of my brilliant engineering colleagues that he might be the smartest guy in the room, but if he couldn't explain his ideas to the rest of us, we would all fail. We can't accomplish anything alone. In the real world, we all have strengths and weaknesses and we have to be able to support each other to get ahead. The reason that America is falling behind is that we emphasize individual acheivement rather than doing what it takes to move ahead as a team, as a country.

I definitely agree that sports is a microcosm of the real world. But if your chance to play is denied, then all the wonderful lessons about working hard to improve and proving to yourself that you're not a quitter can't be learned! I do think kids are entitled to opportunities like sports that allow them to practice at life before they become adults.

Entitled how?  Should we

Entitled how?  Should we not grade kids on their test scores because someone might prove to be smarter than the next? 

No one is denying anyones chance to play.  Your chance to play or opportunity to play is based your attempt to make a team based on the best of your ability.   If you don't have that ability why are we then fostering the false notion of its existence.

Again, like I said earlier, these things stink, because they are real, but it is equally unhealthy to have an attitude of 100% inclusion.  There are people better at things than others.  I don't dare walk into a Nuclear Facility and start saying, "Hey I am kind of interested in this and would like to play." 

I am all for inclusion.  I have two very very different kids.  One who is fairly self confident, smart and a good athlete, and another who is racked with developmental delays due to a medical issue.  So, with that in mind I understand deeply the idea of a kid being left out or secluded.  But that is on me and my wife to make sure there are opportunities for our son where he can properly socialize and have places to succeed that fit his life.  Not sell his life short and settle for being outcast but that properly fit him emotionally and physically.

We can't have a properly functioning society by living in isolation of one and other but to say that we can accomplish "anything" alone is disingenious.  Many people accomplish many wonderful things on their own.  More often than not they share those achievements because they don't get any value in hoarding their effort.  And lets not talk about Wall Street Bankers here, because those people are not achieving much of anything, they are just gambing on others achievements.

America is not falling behind, that is just the "speak" to create divides in our cultural existence.  America is not falling behind, the rest of the world is just catching up, which is okay. 

Parents need to start setting priorities with their kids and talking to them openly.   I just went through a process of having to select and cut players from a youth league travel sports program.  It was not easy to have to do that, but there were really healthy parents and frankly kids whose perspective on the process was amazing, moreso on the side of being "Cut" and then others who are just not honest with themselves and their kids on their ability.  Mind you all of these kids have the opportunity to continue participation with teams in recreational league in multiple sports.  From the very best to those who might just love to play.  

Ultimately does this stem from the kids, or does this stem from adults lacking the means to be honest with the kids before a try out?  To me it is the latter.   

You should turn on the new

You should turn on the news and listen to how people who achieved are being demonized if you do beleive me.

You say you agree that sports are a microcosm of real life, but then say everyone should get to play without having earned that right.  Part of real life is having to earn you chance.  We have a generation that has been told that they are entiled to what ever they want without having to earn it.  Is is no wonder that when they get to the working world, they struggle.  They expect to be highly paid and respected without having to earn those perks.  Bill Gates gave a speech and he told a group of high school graduates that their school (and for our purposes, sports team) may have done away with winning and losing but life had not.  That they would have to earn what they got.

returning team member cut

I'm not writing about being simply cut from a team, but being cut when you were already on the team. My daughter was a member of her HS varsity hockey team, and this team was a family, a tribe. They wore the same varsity clothes, traveled together, lived together. She was a hard working and much loved member of this team. In her sophomore year a new coach came on board, recruited seven new players, three of them post-graduates (they had already graduated from HS but were doing another year for sports), and cut one returning player, my daughter. This was utterly devastating, but the school's response was "she'll get over it." Well, she didn't. She has been clinically depressed and receiving treatment since this happened, and things aren't getting much better. I just wanted to know if anyone has experienced or even heard of a returning member of a team being cut. Unfortunately, in this sport, there isn't a strong JV team to work with so you can improve, so, for all intents and purposes, her beloved sport was taken away from her, and her social life in disarray. I would like to go to the school with some data or statistics on cutting returning players, but can't find anything on this subject. I feel it should be done only if a student has been a disciplinary problem or had a bad attitude, but not when they are a contributing member of a team. Thoughts?

no cut policy

A no cut policy breeds mediocrity, complacency, frustration and an unrealistic sense of achievement.. Sports by definition are an arena to compete. kids who come to that arena serious to compete are distracted by the ones there to enjoy the fun of it.. having serious athletes sit on the bench, so others can have their playtime, discourages the hard work earned by seriuos players. Games are lost because of this, but ridiculous trophies are still handed out.Do you think in college and professional sports this happens? Have a no cut policy up to muddle school, varsity level sports in high school should cut, period.. High school is the breeding ground for college scouts. Are parents delusional to think colleges will start having no cut policies to prevent anyones little feelings to get hurt? Will companies hire every applicant for a job because no one has prepared this generation for being told NO?? When i was growing up, hard work paid off, period! You wanted something, you practiced and you went all out and made the team. You sat on the bench if you missed a practice and we ran lines if we didn't perform to our ability.. It did build character. Never having disappointment does not build character, it breeds entitled brats! Being cut, if you really have a dream of becoming somebody, creates a drive that can't be taught. Michael Jordon was cut, did he quit?

cutting 6th grader track

My son tried out for track, and was very excited about running with all his friends. He's in 6th grade, and ran a 7 min 29 sec. mile for the try outs. He did not make the team! I almost couldn't believe it. I called the coach, who said she decides who makes the team, and determines the cuts based on times. The time for the 1 mile was 6:15, so he wasn't even close.(her words). I asked how many kids tried out, and she said she had a rather low number this year and was a bit surprised by that. My son said almost every kid that tried out made the team, except a hand full of kids.
I called the principle, who subsequently said he would allow my son to run if he agreed to work hard to improve his time.
The most disappointing part is my son now feels that he is the worst kid on the team(which is probably true, since they cut the slow kids), and he doesn't feel like he earned his spot.
I feel so bad, as a mother, but even more than that, I want to do something to change this horrible way for these little kids to be treated.

I saw your comment of a

I saw your comment of a couple of days ago. Obviously this is not a real active forum, and by now you may be well along in whatever response you have elect to undertake.

A couple of thoughts: Typically track is not a sport where cuts are made even at the high school level. But, that apparently is not the case with your son's middle school. I would start by finding out specifically why cuts are made. You may find that there is not sufficient staffing to support a large team (budget concerns or lack of volunteers) or it could be a grade thing. You mention that your son is in 6th grade. Schools sometimes do a different set of sports for 6th graders than for 7 and 8th graders. But, they may make an exception for some 6th graders if, for example, they would be a better athletic fit at the older ages (bigger, faster, etc. . . ). A 6:15 mile time for a sixth grader would be very good.

Daughter got kicked off basketball team

My daughter has been playing basketball since the 5th grade and now she is in the 11th. Our school got this new coach this year, And there has been trouble ever since,He was playing her from the start not all the time but she would get to play.She went to every practice every game,Then slowly he would put other people in and not her.then he would only put her in for 35sec to a 1min in the 4th and they were up by 20 or 30 is not just my child but her good friend which is in 12, then one day he tried to put her in for 35 sec in the 4th and she told him no . The next day she was called in the office and told she is no longer on the team but would give her a good grade, He never asked her why she didt want to paly or if she was sick Nothing. then the next game my daughter went to watch and one of the other girls had my daughter jersey on see it is the middle of the season the other girl had her own number she was a starter.I think the coach should of told her no you can have the number next year.Can a couch do this kick a player off because she didnt want to go in.But never ask her why if everything was ok.Just dont know what to do. My daughter is not the best player but she is better than some of the girls and the coach always played them just dont understand

First of all I commend you

First of all I commend you for not going to the school and creating a scene with the coach, AD, principal and superintendent. I have no idea what's going on, but it appears your daughter simply didn't want to play anymore, and that's fine. The coach has the ability to take her off the team for refusing to go in. I just think there has to be some other parts of the story hear that we don't know. Was she working hard in practice? Was she disrespecting the coach in practice?