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What to Do If Your Child Doesn't Make the Cheerleading Squad

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It hurts! When your child's heart is broken, yours is too. Let's be real, sometimes as parents we take things harder than our kids. However, we need to remember that our children watch how we react to things and sometimes learn more from our reactions than we would like. 

As a coach I've seen many different parent reactions. Some are extremely positive and supportive and others (who also think they're being supportive, by the way) react a bit differently. One year a parent was so upset that her daughter didn't make a post-season competition team that she secretly tried to recruit my assistant coach to start a second team behind my back. Let's just say you can learn a lot about a person based on how they react to a decision that does not fall in their favor, especially when it involves their child. I mean, mama bear shirts were made for a reason, am I right?! :D Lord knows we've all had our moments, but it's so important to keep ourselves in check during pivotal moments in the lives of our children. 

Fortunately, kids are naturally more resilient than us. It's highly likely that even through the initial hurt, they will handle it a lot better than us parents. I encourage parents to use this as a learning opportunity to help their child keep that personal flexibility and adaptability that will empower them as adults.

A little preparation goes a long way.

Whether it's your first tryout or tenth, tryouts create anxiety. If your child is new to cheer, encourage them to reach out to former cheerleaders for tips to bring to light some of the unknowns or check out this Cheerleading Tryout Survival Checklist. Also, before their tryouts, go over each scenario (making the team or getting cut) with them to help them prepare. Go ahead and communicate next steps for each scenario. Also, be very aware of the message that you are sending. Find a balance between optimism and pessimism. If you're overly confident, your child might feel added pressure to make the team. Then again, being too pessimistic will discourage your child and make them feel unworthy. Probably most importantly for prepping your child, encourage them to be realistic about their chances (don't forget a balance here too.)

Well, they got cut. Now what?

You can see it all over their face... grief, disappointment, perhaps even embarrassment and you can't take it away. So what can you do?

React properly. (aka Refrain from any sudden outbursts or overreactions.)

I know, this one can be difficult if someone hurts your child, but right now your child needs a steady foundation to rely on. They're waiting to see how you will react and most of the time, they will follow your lead. It could be helpful to already have in mind what you might say in this moment. Something like, "I'm so sorry, I know how much this meant to you" followed (not necessarily immediately) by "I know you might not want to talk about it now and that's okay, but I'd love to hear all about the experience when you're up for it." Each child is different, but as a general rule, I suggest not saying much at all in this step. You've placed the ball in their court, now let's head to the next tip.


Let's face it, you will have a million questions on your mind, but now is not the time. Do not ask if Katie, Bonnie, or Suda made the team. If they made the team it will only make your child feel worse. Listen to understand and empathize, do not listen to respond.

Validate their feelings.

This one goes right along with listening. Your child is hurting and they need to know that you care. By listening with intent and responding appropriately it will help them cope and strengthen your relationship. 

Don't make it about you.

Please, do not make this about you. Your child wants time to process what just happened to them, not relive your seventh grade basketball tryout. ;)


A little comfort goes a long way. Much of what I've suggested so far will wrap your child's disappointment with a little comfort, but think of a few meaningful things that fit your child's personality. Go for a run or bike ride together, get an ice cream cone, take a drive to the lake, or leave them a little note. Taking some time for the little things can make all the difference.

Put things into perspective.

Encourage your child to think beyond this moment in time. It might be hard for them at first, but motivate them to find the silver-lining. There is usually something positive to find even in the worst of circumstances. For instance, maybe cheer practice was going to conflict with another interest, now that won't be a problem. Or maybe they will have a chance to try something new for the first time. I've seen athletes find passions that are much better fit for them after not making the cheer team. It opens up a whole new world for them and allows their true talents to really shine!

Talk goals.

Although not intentional, your child has been given the chance to push the reset button. They have a chance to step back and reevaluate. Is cheerleading something they would like to continue? If so, what can they do during this time to work on their skills and improve? Is there a local recreational team they can join to gain more experience? Or, is your child interested in pursuing a new hobby or sport? If so, perhaps this will allow time to explore other opportunities. Either way, setting new goals will give your child something to aspire to and build motivation inside of them.

Whether your child has cheered for many years and got cut for the first time or just had their first experience, this is a learning moment for them (and for you.) Take the time to be their support system and teach them how to react in a disappointing situation. Lessons like this (and the way you make them feel) will stay with them for a lifetime. 

Remember... keep shinin' and keep smilin', Sisters!

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