Team transition happens every year. Soccer teams have tryouts every year moving players around. Kids move up a level in gymnastics while some stay put. Boys try out for a different baseball team leaving friends behind. And, every year, dancers decide to leave studios and go a different direction.
Change is good, but it’s also a little bit scary. Kids are used to being part of their current team and they know their place in that world. New teams and schools bring unlimited possibilities but they also bring a little bit of the fear of the unknown. The kids staying aren’t really sure what their world will look like and honestly, the kids moving on don’t either. As parents, it’s our job to try to handle any of the anxiety that our children feel during this tough time because honestly, it’s all about them. Here are my tips for navigating a team transition successfully.
Remember it’s not about you– Often in transition, the parents get so caught up in the process that they fail to remember that at the end of the day, it’s the kids world that’s being changed. If your child isn’t chosen for the team they want, keep your chatter with parents to a minimum and support your child. If you don’t like your studio or gym, allow your child to enjoy the time they have remaining with their friends with little drama. Kids feel every little emotion and they also have a tendency to repeat what you say. Model the behavior that you want your child to exhibit.
Have an open dialogue with your child– Ask your child how they feel about the changes and let them express themselves. They may not feel comfortable talking with their peers. Especially if they’re not sure who’s staying or leaving. There also may be disappointment that they weren’t selected for a team or moved up a level. Allow them to voice their feelings and encourage them to continue to work hard, keep their head up and try again. Have an open-door policy with your child. Let them know it’s not a one-time discussion.
Be honest with other parents- If you’ve made the decision to go a different direction- whether that’s trying out for a different team or moving to a new program- own it when you speak with others. Treat it like a business decision and be matter-of-fact. The decisions you’re making are best for your family and your children need to know that it’s okay to be open as well. Coach them on the conversation. There’s nothing scarier to a child than worrying about who’s staying on a team, who’s leaving and what will happen.
Let them enjoy the time they have left– Even if you’ve made the decision to leave mid-season, your child still has to finish with their current team. Use this as a time to teach them about teamwork and loyalty. Focus on the positives. With any sport, it may only take one child that’s not engaged to affect the entire team’s performance. Also, these kids have not only been teammates, they’ve been friends- many for a long time. Let them be kids and have fun.
Encourage them to stay in touch with teammates– You don’t have to play on the same baseball team as your buddy to stay friends. Take a moment to teach your child sportsmanship by encouraging them to support and cheer on friends on different teams. Social media allows all of these kids to stay connected. Remind your child of that and let them know that you’ll still support play dates and sleepovers with old friends.
Don’t burn bridges– Remember that your teen may wind up playing in basketball in high school with past teammates. Kids leave dance studios and gyms all the time to return a few years later. The world is small and it doesn’t matter if your child plays softball, lacrosse or swims, they will always cross paths with kids from their past. You want your child to have doors opened to them not closed.
If you’ve had a child go through a team transition, how did you make it easier on them?