Athlete Mental Health Articles

What to Do if You Were Cut From the Team

Eli Straw
What to Do if You Were Cut From the Team

So, you were cut from the team...now what?

I know how heartbreaking and frustrating it is when you don't make the team. Especially if it's something you put a lot of effort into. It's easy to feel down on yourself, and consider giving up the sport for good.

Whether you do decide the sport isn't right for you or not, you must work to manage this setback in a productive way.

I know this is extremely hard to do! But with the tips I'm going to go over, it can be done.

Tip #1: Step Away

You may need to give yourself some time to process your frustration. You trained hard to make the team, and to find out you've been cut can be a hard hit to your psyche.

The ultimate goal is to get you to turn the setback around and respond to it in a productive way...but sometimes that takes time.

Trying to rush right into it can feel forced. You may need a moment to separate yourself, cool down, and forget about what happened.

This is similar to what I tell athletes who've had a bad game. The main goal after a bad game is to take something from the game they can use to learn and improve moving forward. But that can be extremely difficult immediately after the game.

So I suggest forgetting about the game by going out with family or friends, or doing something unrelated to their sport.

For yourself, it might not be simply an evening you need. You might need to step away for a week or more before you're ready to reexamine what happened.

Or you may be ready right away to dive right back into training and learn something from not making the team.

The point is, if you feel like it's too heartbreaking right now, it's okay to give yourself some time to step away and process your frustration.

Tip #2: Be Objective

When you're cut from the team, one of the easiest things to do is get down on yourself and feel like it's hopeless and you're never going to succeed in your sport.

Likewise, it's easy to be angry at the coach who cut you and blame them for their stupidity and how unfair it is that you didn't make the team.

The truth is, neither approach will do much good. In fact, both will limit the true growth you could make in response to being cut from the team.

Instead, aim to take an objective view.

Imagine your friend was cut from the team but you made it. How would you rationalize them not making the team? And more importantly, what would you tell them is the main thing they need to work on in order to make the team next season?

The truth is...you didn't make the team for a reason. Now, you can take that one of two ways: either feel angry and frustrated (maybe even feel like it's unfair), or you can realize there's something you can learn and use to improve.

By taking an objective approach, it will make it easier to examine why you didn't make the team and think about what you could take from the experience to use to improve as an athlete.

Tip #3: Don't Think You're Not Good Enough

While your skills may not be good enough right now to make the team (in the coach's eyes, at least), that doesn't mean you as a person aren't good enough to succeed.

A detrimental mindset for athletes is to tie their self-worth into their performance. This leads to feeling like less of a person if you play badly...or, in your case, if you don't make the team.

Just because you were cut, doesn't mean you can't make the team next year, or succeed in something else you choose to do.

But it does mean you lower your chances of achieving success if you allow the fact you were cut to tear down your self-worth. This is why the previous tip, taking an objective approach, is so important.

When you look at something objectively, you separate yourself from it. You are no longer tieing yourself and your identity up in that which you are observing.

Since you didn't make the team, don't feel like you aren't a good enough person or that you're incapable of success.

If you do, you run the threat of developing a negative self-image. And no matter what you do, it is extremely difficult (if not impossible) to outperform your self-image.

Tip #4: Set A New Goal

Setbacks are going to happen. Every athlete, and every person (who challenges themselves) will experience failure on some level. It is a necessary obstacle on the path towards achievement.

You cannot allow one setback to stop you from pursuing goals. If anything, be grateful you get to learn how to bounce back from failure and adversity now. You will grow to be stronger because of it.

Once you've stepped away for a bit (if you need to) and taken an objective view - gathered information you can learn - it's time to set your next goal.

I know this can seem like the scariest thing in the world to do. Why set yourself another goal that only invites another chance to fail?

Because there is no success or satisfaction in hiding and playing it safe. You've already been cut from the team, so you know what it feels like. If you were able to handle it once, then you know you can handle it again.

Now it's time to get moving towards another target.

This will also help to forget about the fact you were cut, since you're getting yourself refocused on another goal. You are leaving the setback in the past and turning your attention onto what you want to achieve in the future.

Now, this goal can be to train in hopes of making the team next year. Or maybe it means trying out for a different team. Or perhaps it even means picking up another sport.

To be honest, the goal itself matters less than the principle of setting another goal and once more challenging yourself, in spite of the fact you were cut from the team.

That is truly how you take a setback and turn it into a positive. By learning something from it and then continuing to move forward.

Final Thoughts

Getting cut from the team is heartbreaking. You trained hard, not to suffer this frustration, but to make the team and get to play.

Unfortunately, that's not how things went for you. But that doesn't mean you're a failure and it definitely does not mean you can't achieve success in the future. In fact, it may turn out to be the best thing for you...if you handle it in a productive way.

To help, make sure you step away if you need to, take an objective view of the situation, don't take it as a hit to your self-worth, and once you've done all that, set yourself a new goal and begin working towards it.

Don't let getting cut from the team hold you back. Learn from it, grow, and become a better and stronger player because of it!

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Eli Straw

Eli is a sport psychology consultant and mental game coach who works 1-1 with athletes to help them improve their mental skills and overcome any mental barriers keeping them from performing their best. He has an M.S. in psychology and his mission is to help athletes and performers reach their goals through the use of sport psychology & mental training.

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