Tracy Lee Curtis

Not making the team is a good lesson in patience

In this season of trying out for high school sports – then not making the team and thinking it’s the end of the world – our children need to learn how to manage their rejection and disappointment.

I know what I’m talking about, because nothing was more critical than being a high school cheerleader. I tried out with my four best friends, and we were certain the universe was set up to give five of those coveted 12 spots to us.

But we all got cut. And we did what any traumatized teens would do. We went to Wendy’s and ate french fries. And thanked our lucky stars we all got cut together, because how awful would it be if one of us had made it? We accepted the outcome and made the best of it.

Oh – but then one of the cheerleaders broke her leg, and they took the girl who came in 13th and added her to the squad. Which was me … but still.

It was pain all over again when I tried out for the musical “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” for the role of Lucy. I was perfect – short, brunette, snarky and bossy. I am Lucy. And I owned saddle shoes. But not only was I not cast as Lucy, I was cast as Woodstock. A non-speaking role, in which I had to wear a yellow fluffy bird suit.

So I did what any traumatized teen would do. I packed my suitcase and headed to Myrtle Beach for spring break, relieved not to be studying lines and worrying about the show opening in four weeks.

Oh – but then the director called. Lucy had a conflict, some family vacation. And he put me into the role of leading lady. I took the script and soundtrack to the beach, learned all my lines and music, and we sold out the show … but still.

Then I was devastated when I auditioned for “Twelve Angry Women,” eager to be cast as the belligerent Juror No. 3, in this compelling play about a jury deliberation. But I wasn’t cast at all, and they made me stage manager. And so I did what any traumatized teen would do. I went home and waited for them to call me.

That norovirus was epidemic. And I was brilliant as Juror No. 3. Even when the heel of my pump landed squarely on a nail poking out from under the stage, nailing me to the floor for the entire first act, I persevered.

There’s a lesson in this, kids – if at first you don’t succeed, try to wait until someone gets sick or injured.

Rejection builds character. Getting it anyway, builds confidence. Parents need to manage expectations and tell their kids they just may not make the team … at first.

Do your best. Give it your all. Wallow in your disappointment.

And wait for the phone call.

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