This is a big week for my family. We have our first try-outs ever…for my #1, our 7-year-old boy. #1 is trying out for a Soccer Youth Training League open to boys born in 2005 or 2006. We just make the cut-off with his late November 2006 birthday. He admits he is nervous, probably because I’ve made him uneasy because I am anxious for him. I’m nervous because these are real try-outs where kids get cut and don’t make the team, essentially telling a 7-yo or 8-yo they are not good enough yet. Will he hear the “yet” part? As much as I don’t agree with every child always getting a medal, I am sensitive to every young child’s need to feel successful. Our youth is when, right or wrong, we decide we are good at some things and not good at others. It is when we decide what we are willing to work harder at and what we’ll just let go by the wayside.
Most of us have heard the fabled tale of Michael Jordon being cut from his high school basketball team – how not making the varsity team motivated Jordon to prove his worth and train rigorously until he made the varsity team in his junior year of high school going on to a career of basketball greatness. This is an absolutely great inspirational story, unfortunately my 7-yo doesn’t understand who Michael Jordon is and he doesn’t care. My #1 just wants to make the team and play soccer.
My husband and I are realistic people. Our #1 might not make the team. He will be one of the youngest trying-out; he has a lot of strengths – speed, endurance, and aggressive play, but he also has some areas in need of improvement like his foot skills. We feel the only way to get comfortable with anything in life is to practice and losing takes practice. You have to practice losing to not be scared of it. You can’t be afraid to lose, if you are, you won’t play to win. We don’t want to raise our boys to wallow in self-pity after losing a game. We want any defeat to make them work harder to improve. My husband, who is far more competitive than I, hates to lose. I want that for my children, the inherent drive to be better and not let any one moment define their sense of self. Growing up, I was far more willing to stop trying than to face failure. I do not want this trait passed to my children.
Which brings us back to my nerves. I want my #1 to try-out, but I’m worried about his reaction if he does not make it. Is 7-yo too young to try-out? Will he learn from this experience or is he just too young?
Hopefully my #1 remembers what we tell him about Usain Bolt, who may be the fastest man in the world, but still doesn’t win every race. No matter how good you are, you always have to practice and practice makes better.