Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The most unkindest cuts of all

(Yes, Bee, this is also a sports post... sort of... and, before I start, thank you, landgirl, for asking whether Youngest Son made the team....)

Despite his ailments, Youngest Son expressed confidence throughout the week that he'd survive the winnowing and claim a place on the sophomore baseball team.

Last Thursday was a half-day at Youngest Son's school. Parent-teacher conferences were scheduled for the afternoon. Friday was an off day -- the teachers would need some recovery time after dealing with parents, as you might expect.

But the sophomore coach doesn't teach at Youngest Son's school. He teaches somewhere else -- and his school was in session last Thursday and Friday both. So tryouts continued... at 3:00pm or so... on both days.

The sophomores were the last to cut. Youngest Son reported Wednesday evening that he'd never seen such sad faces in his life as the freshmen began cutting down from 80 wannabes into a manageable team. "I didn't notice that last year," he said. "Maybe I didn't want to."

The freshman coach would speak to each kid in turn and deliver the bad news.

It has to be an awful, miserable thing to do. Most of the kids trying out had been the big stars at some point on their house league teams -- they were probably among the best players on their junior high teams. But the talent funnels into high school... a full team can be, and usually is, picked from among the alumni of selective travel teams.

Maybe the differences among players was readily apparent in the tryouts... but who wants to be the one to tell a kid he didn't make it?

The varsity coach also speaks to each kid who tries out for his team. There are a lot fewer kids making the attempt, at that level, but the cuts are harder.

The sophomores were the last to cut. Not only did the hopefuls have to show up on their day off at 3:00pm, they were expected to show up at 6:00am on Saturday for a final look-see. Six o'clock? I asked, incredulous. (It was later pushed back to 7:00am -- still pretty early on a Saturday for 15 and 16 year old kids... and their parents.)

And the worst part? "They've already picked the team," Youngest Son told me on the way home one night in the middle of the week.

"What do you mean?"

Youngest Son said that he'd noticed that the varsity coach -- who does teach at Youngest Son's school -- came to practice that day and filled the sophomore coaches in on who he'd seen -- and who he'd not seen -- in the weight room and in the batting cages over the winter. The freshman coach joined the huddle to answer any questions about which kid did what last season.

"So why are they making everybody come back on their day off? Why are they making kids come in on Saturday morning? Is that when they're going to talk to them?"

"They're not talking to anyone in person. They're going to call. Saturday afternoon." They weren't calling everyone. The coaches were only going to call the kids who didn't make it.

I hate, loathe and despise telephones. And I can't imagine how cutting a kid over the phone would be 'better' than cutting him in person. I suppose it's because you can always hang up if the conversation turns really ugly. But I can't imagine picking up the phone and dialing the number to give that kind of news.

That, however, is just my own (you should pardon the expression) hang-up.

Youngest Son, who'd exuded optimism all week about his prospects, was increasingly tense after coming home Saturday morning. He positioned himself in a chair near the den phone, ostensibly watching the World Baseball Classic on TV.

He jumped every time the phone rang. Older Daughter called at one point, but she quickly hung up when I explained our vigil. And there were the usual, annoying smattering of 'toll free' sales calls.

Youngest Son was texting to a few of his friends. All responded at first. Then one stopped.

Youngest Son told me he knew what that meant.

There was a kid from our neighborhood -- a kid whom I'd coached for years -- who was a long shot to make the team. A really long shot. He'd put in a lot of time over the winter, though, trying to get better -- but there were a number of kids who are simply more gifted... even without effort. I was hoping, somehow, he might make it. But Youngest Son only shook his head. He didn't even try to text him.

We waited. Our phone didn't ring. So Youngest Son made the team.

Still, I think it might have been better done in person.


Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

oh my gosh curmy! i had no idea it was like this! my grandsons go to such a small school they are asked to sign up for the team and pretty much all of them do. how horrible this must be! i am so sorry but glad he made it. whew!

smiles, bee

Jeni said...

As I was reading this, I was thinking to myself that this sounds so much like what people go through in the job application arena. Apply, interview if you are lucky enough to get that far and then, sit and wait -and wait -and wait some more -for a phone that rarely rings then. In that respect, I suppose it is kind of good training then for the kids on dealing with the waiting processes we all frequently have to endure over the years of our working life. Still doesn't make it easier to cope with that kind of suspense whether it is waiting to hear if you got a job or waiting to hear if you made the team. Glad to hear though that his efforts paid off for him though.

Shel said...

I'm glad he made it, but I'm telling you, the school system needs a kick in the butt! Good training for life or not (which it is, the previous commenter is correct on the job interview process), I think that was just cruel and unusual.

Dave said...

Kinda the converse of waiting for the Governor's clemency call as the chair is made ready and your head is being shaved.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Everything could have been done a lot better. It must be a great strain on those taking part.

landgirl said...

Just, whew. He worked so hard. But my heart goes out to all the ones (and their parents) who did not make it.