Have you ever seen your child heading toward something really terrible in their lives... something that would break their heart and possibly their spirit, but all you could do was stand by helplessly and watch it happen?
It happened to me when my son was cut from his high school baseball team, as a sophomore.
As I wrote that sentence it is still hard to believe. Even though I knew it was coming.
Not because he hadn’t performed. He had.
At the time he was cut he was the team’s second best hitter; in batting average, RBI’s, slugging. In fact, he had out hit half the position players put together.
And he is the best infielder in the school. At least that’s what one of the assistant coaches (a former D1 shortstop) told me many times, and what I have seen with my own eyes.
The reason it happened is straight up jaw-dropping astonishing. But that’s a story for another day.
This story is about what to do when your kid’s dreams are suddenly dashed. When the most difficult, painful questions must be asked. When the toughest options must be considered.
My son is not just someone that plays a sport. It’s his identity. Everything he is and hopes to be is tied up in baseball.
The person I love the most in the world was taught a cruel lesson, as his parent it felt too soon, that he was too young.
It’s a valuable lesson about people, about coaches and highly venerated institutions. A lesson about ignorance, prejudice, fear and bias. But most of all he is learning new levels of perseverance, about self-reliance and belief.
The day it happened he came home and hit the heavy bag with a bat for what felt like forever, but was more like 40 minutes.
Every time he paused (to scream), I thought he had enough, but then it would start again. Listening to the pounding, I desperately tried to think of something I could do to ease his pain.
A hug? Sure, but he’s 16. It would be more for me.
I could beat the crap out of the coach...? Not the best idea I’ve ever had.
Then it hit me. Support. He needs my support. He needs to know I stand behind him no matter what. Period. So that’s what I have done.
Everything he’s done since he stopped hitting the heavy bag has been moving forward in a positive way. He has dealt with it like a man. And then some.
I knew he was being set up to fail months ago, when the coach told him one of the things he needed to work on was to ‘get taller.’
The night it happened I told him he would one day see it as the best thing that ever happened to him, which I believed, I just didn’t think that day would come so quickly.
I’ll spare you the details, but I can tell you since he was cut his training has gone into overdrive, something that would have been impossible if he was on the team.
Cole is one of those kids that is completely driven to succeed, with a work ethic to match. I wish I had half of his grit.
Over the years I have asked him hundreds of times if he wanted to stop all the training, the practices, the lack of a social life, to which he only glares at me in return.
It is my way of trying to make sure he is doing it for himself, and not for me.
I don’t ask him that anymore.
If you want to know if your kid is really dedicated to his sport, take it away from him. Watch what happens. If they walk away you have your answer, and that’s okay too.
Getting cut doesn’t have to be the end of your child’s athletic career. Just ask Michael Jordan or Alex Rodriguez, two of the more famous athletes to also be cut as sophomore’s in high school.
There are places for them to play and even to be recruited. If they want to keep going in almost any sport, they can.
This event was not going to slow down my son. In fact, Cole’s future in baseball is more promising now than ever.
I later found out that someone from Major League Baseball had called the school about my son. Twice. Neither call was ever returned.
Turns out he’s been nominated for the two, highest level MLB showcases for high school baseball players this summer. Both are invite only. A big honor.
Now that he isn’t on the team, he has the time to properly train for these events, so he can put his best foot forward. Something he would not be able to do if he was spending 3 hours a day at practice, waiting his turn to get a few reps among all the others.
So it really did turn out to be the best thing that could have happened. Though he will miss playing in games and being with his teammates.
Cole is considering transferring for his junior and senior years. As many as 5 coaches from other schools have let us know they would love to have him. Seems like a no brainer to me, but he loves the school (not to mention the stud factor it gets with girls).
As parents, all we ever want for our kids is to be in an environment where they feel supported, so they can thrive. The most important environment for them to feel that support, is at home.
Over the years I’ve learned much from my son, and this was no exception. I’m not sure why I’m surprised. Like when I told him I had had cancer, but it was gone and he had nothing to worry about.
He said, “That’s great, dad, but next time, tell me when it happens.”
Sure thing, kid.