Michael Jordan 1978, Isiah Thomas 1992, Kurt Warner 1994, Carmelo Anthony 1998, Lionel Messi 1998, Wes Welker 2004, Landon Donovan 2014
You might think by these legendary names listed that the dates beside them were the year that they won a championship. Whether it was in high school, at the professional level or from the US Team, each of these dates and athletes actually represent an experience that none of us want to endure: The time they were told that they wouldn’t be making their team.
Let’s just put it out there- Being cut sucks. There’s no easy way around it. No one wants to hear that they weren’t good enough, that they’re flawed, that the team is better off without them. Whether it’s a sports team, a business team or somewhere in-between, I have yet to meet a person who genuinely enjoys being told that the negatives outweigh the positives.
As luck would have it, I have been cut numerous times. In high school, I didn’t make the Varsity lacrosse team initially, I couldn’t make the Empire State team, I was under recruited and overlooked*, I was cut from the US team TWICE before I ever made it, and here I sit today, having been told yesterday that after five years of hard work, I would not be traveling with the squad for the World Cup this summer (again). Yeah, let me tell you, being cut sucks. It’s not so much that you have failed yourself, I can deal with that, but more importantly, you feel like you have failed your support system of friends and family that made these opportunities possible.
BUT, let me tell you something else: Being cut is NOT THE END OF THE WORLD. It really isn’t. Let yourself run through the emotions- It’s normal to be sad, even angry. Then realize that being cut teaches you a ton of life lessons, and more importantly, opens up other opportunities. With high school tryouts in the future, I felt I had to give out some advice that I have learned along the way (and will be reminding myself of over the coming weeks!):
- 24 Hour Rule. I’m not sure if it was Gary Gait or Regy Thorpe, but we always had a rule at Syracuse that after a WIN or a LOSS, you have 24 hours to get over it. Simple, to the point, and more importantly, forces you to look forward. It’s call the past for a reason, it’s behind you. Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today.
- Failure is a BRUISE, not a TATTOO. I know I’ve said it before, but I had to say it again. Losses, being cut, it all blows. But the pain never lasts. Don’t let a setback hold you back. Use it, learn from it, and push forward. Learning how to bounce back is a lesson some never learn, but a vital one if you ever want to get somewhere in life. If you’re going hard enough, you’re going to fail. If you’re smart enough, you’ll take those experiences and use them in the future. Sports are an amazing learning tool, keep your eyes and your heart open, so you can soak up all of the moments. You’ll be amazed what an advantage it is in the so called “real world” when you’re dealing with potential layoffs, criticism from your boss and so much more.
- When doors close, WINDOWS OPEN. Just because someone shows you the door, does not mean your path has to end. Always, always keep your eyes open for the opportunity that comes from defeat. Cut from a HS team? Use the extra time to train and become even better. Find other passions and joys that you couldn’t pursue before (after school mentoring, playing a different sport, etc). Life is FULL of opportunities, and always remember, you are never defined by your sport. You are defined by your character, morals, values, actions and lives your touch. Sports are great, but they are not everything.
- You are an EXAMPLE. Whether you are a GOOD example or not, is up to you. When I used to play in practices with HS players I always used to worry about being scored on. Silly, but as a US Team and Pro goalie, I didn’t want to look bad. What if they thought I wasn’t good? Then one day a person who I coach with told me that he had the same fears, but that he learned it was an awesome opportunity to show his players how to deal with failure. I had never thought about it like that, but it’s so true. When I let in a goal, even against a high school player, how do I react? Do I put my head down, or do I move on to the next one? The SAME THING can be said about being cut. Whether you’re 15 or 25, I can guarantee you someone is looking up to you as their example of how to behave. I could be here coming up with some other excuse in the book for why I should be on that team and how unfair it was that I was cut. But I know setbacks happen, how you react to them determines your future, not the setback. Be an example to your younger brother or sister, friend or someone that you mentor. Show them that hard work always pays off, it might just not be in the way that you expected.
- Say Thank You. You may have been cut, but you wouldn’t even be there without the people in your life. Thank your parents for all of the rides, unconditional support and endless laundry washed. Thank your friends and teammates for sticking up for you, giving their best to help you succeed, and being a shoulder to lean on when times get tough. Thank your trainers and strength coaches for helping you stay healthy and become strong. Thank your coaches, past and present, for the opportunity to compete, lessons taught and for helping you become the player you are. Realize, that even with the worst negative, there are so many things to be thankful for. Find those small victories, and make sure the people who helped make it happen know how important they are to you.
So, here’s to whatever comes next. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. I’m not saying you’re not going to be pissed off or maybe shed a tear or two. But I am saying that YOU are in control, though. It’s your FUTURE, no one else’s. The cards have been dealt, how are you going to play your hand?
Founder of 2Lacrosse
* Sidenote, yes, I did play at Syracuse. It was an experience I will never forget, HOWEVER at the time I was recruited (summer/fall of ’06) they were just beginning to trend upward. They were not ranked in the Top 20, and had never won an NCAA game when I committed. The class of 2007 ended up kicking it off for us that Spring by defeating Vandy and heading into the second round of the NCAAs for the first time ever.