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What To Do When Your Kid Doesn’t Make the Team (Or the Cast or Staff)

A theater director, mom, and sports instructors suggest ways to keep kids motivated after rejection.


“To help reframe their (a child’s) disappointment in a more positive manner, here’s what I remind young people:

  1. This is only one person’s opinion based on a snapshot of ability. It doesn’t define you unless you allow it to.  
  2. If a coach doesn’t see your value, is that a place you really wanted to be? You don’t want to be where your value isn’t appreciated.  
  3. Everything happens for a reason, and while it can be hard to see it in the moment, you simply weren’t meant to be on that team.
  4. You have two choices: fold, or push forward. Will you let this rejection cause you to quit or lose your confidence? Or will you shake it off, push forward, and decide to prove others wrong?” 

—Jessica Barnes Kulp, owner/lead softball pitching instructor, Pitcher Perfect, LLC, and mom of four, Denver


“Define ‘success’ at a tryout as elements within a child’s control (having a great attitude, strong effort, and good communication), and prize their willingness to try for something above all.

There’s great value to be found in disappointment—including data. The feedback a child receives as to why they weren’t selected can highlight areas for improvement.

Model resilience by sharing and showing your own failures and responses, and clearly communicate that failure is normal, universal, and necessary for growth.

Be intentional with praise and feedback for your child or their teammates because kids evaluate themselves on what parents highlight most (performance, wins/losses, effort, or progress). If a child only hears about their volleyball talent or musical prowess, it’s easy for their entire identity to become tied up in that singular activity, making disappointment particularly debilitating.” 

Katie Pagel, director of mental performance, Colorado Rapids Youth Soccer Club and


“Remind your child that in order to get to the gold of performing, you have to take a risk and audition first. Even if you don’t get the role, the experience of auditioning provides growth as an artist and allows you to practice being vulnerable on stage.

Suggest that kids allow themselves to lean into the disappointment and take 24 hours to be really disappointed. The key is to not stay in that feeling. After 24 hours, they could make a list of three things to accomplish—find another audition, get feedback, or don’t focus on it for a few days to clear their head and be ready for next time.

Reassure them with this: Know that directors choose actors based on a hundred different factors so don’t assume you aren’t talented if you don’t get a role. You may get 10 noes before you get to a yes.”  

—Bernie Cardell, artistic director, Vintage Theatre

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