Watching the St. Louis Cardinals move ever closer to the World Series is exciting and agonizing for fans. But imagine what it feels like for these professional athletes. Most have played since they were kids. I often wonder how many dreamed as children that they’d make it this far, into the major leagues, into the playoffs and onto the coveted trophy! I think at one point in every child’s life, they believe they can do anything and be anybody. At least I hope so.
When I was about 8, I used to envision myself at the Olympics as a figure skater or a gymnast. I spent one year on a gymnastics team in Fort Leonard Wood but unable to master successive backhand springs, I moved on. I even played volleyball in high school but standing only 5’4″ and frightened by those balls being spiked over the net and possibly into my face, I let one season be it for me. So I ran track for six years and took up the pom poms as a cheerleader for seven. I’ve shown my sons my track medals and told them the humbling story of running the four mile relay one year in the state meet at Lincoln University in Jefferson City. I don’t remember the third lap. I couldn’t feel my legs. I handed off the baton in complete shame.
Despite that, I can honestly say that in my life as an athlete, I never experienced rejection. I didn’t always finish first but I always made the team.
So I knew I had to prepare my 11-year-old son when he tried out recently for his schools 7th grade basketball team. First of all, he’s a sixth grader. I gave him props for that audacity. 75 tried out for both the 7th and 8th grade teams. My son has skills but were they good enough?
The tryouts lasted four days. There would be cuts on the third day. Day one, he felt confident and he was on fire. Day two, still confident but reality was setting in. He told his father, “If they choose 15, I’ve got a good chance. But if they chose 12, I don’t think I’ll make it.” Day three, I called home and he answered. My heart dropped. I knew if he was home that early he had been cut. I asked anyway.
“What are you doing home so early?” He said, “I didn’t make it.” I asked him if he was okay. He said he was but that he’d try again next year and tryout for a select team next week. I told him how proud we are of him for trying so hard. Silence. We said our goodbyes. When I did get home, he was on the couch and I walked over to him and he reached out his arms and we hugged for a few minutes.
He was sad. His first real rejection.
So imagine my surprise when he called me at work days later and said, “Guess what? My friend and I(another 6th grader who didn’t make it) are going to be the team managers for the 6th grade boys basketball team!” He says he asked coach and he said yes. I’m sure the professional athletes would be proud of you Marcus. That’s one way to handle rejection. Step back, attack it from another angle and keep it moving.