If I had a million dollars, I'd build you a school.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

My School Would Have A 'No Cut' Policy For Sports

Despite being a varsity swimmer in high school and a club volleyball player in college, despite the fact that I continue to play just about any sport that people are willing to let me play with them, I have never really seen myself as an athlete. There are many reasons for this, but I think it mostly traces back to my sports experiences in middle school and early high school. Like most experiences at that age, they were pretty miserable. Let's work through the list.

  • In 7th grade I tried out for the middle school soccer team and was cut. In the winter, I tried out for the middle school basketball team and was cut. In the spring, I tried out for the middle school baseball team and actually made the team. I continued playing baseball until my senior year when I was cut for the second time from the varsity team (seniors weren't allowed on JV).
  • In 8th grade I didn't bother trying out for soccer or basketball, spending most of my afternoons playing Dungeons & Dragons and computer games with my similarly un-athletic friends.
  • In 9th grade I was cut from the freshmen soccer team, but was allowed to play on the middle school team. I fared pretty well playing against 7th and 8th graders. I actually made the freshmen basketball team, but was cut from the JV team the following year, ending my basketball career.
  • In 11th grade I finally found swimming, made the varsity team, and swam both of my remaining two years of high school.
  • My freshman year of college, I tried out for the volleyball club and got cut. I played every intramural volleyball game I could find for the next year and was able to make the team my sophomore year.
If we count it up, from 7th grade to my freshman year in college, I was cut from seven teams, a perfect average of one per year. It's not hard to understand how with that feedback at a critical age, I have never considered myself much of an athlete, even when I was playing on an inter-collegiate sports team.

I don't put this list out there to complain (if I hadn't been cut from soccer, I never would have played intramural volleyball in high school, and therefore wouldn't have played in college; and if I hadn't been cut from basketball I would never have found swimming), or even to show off my stubborn, blind persistence. My point is really that most kids aren't likely to be quite as bull-headed about it as I was. I wonder how many people who could have had a lifetime of enjoying sports just gave up after being cut from a team early on.

Since I graduated, my former school has adopted a 'no cut' policy for its middle school sports teams, and many of the places I have worked have had similar policies. When I coach, I try to give every player an equal opportunity to develop, and to experiences all the joys and pains that go along with being on a sports team. You never know which of those gawky 7th graders might grow up seeing himself as an actual athlete someday.

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