When You Don’t Make the Team

Do you remember in fifth grade
when I didn’t make the basketball team
and you told me not to cry
because men don’t cry?

And do you remember telling me
that’s the way it goes. Just accept it.
That’s the way what goes?
Basketball? Life? My life?
And accept what?
That I can sleep in on Saturday mornings
instead of playing basketball with my friends?
My friends who sneered at me and taunted me
like I was some worthless piece of crap.
My friends who will be immortalized
by the school and the other kids
because they made the team.

You didn’t even ask if I came close.
I was the last to be cut.
Not the first.
I almost made the team.
Why do they pick just twelve players?
Why not thirteen?
Do they have just twelve uniforms?
I’ll work and buy my own.

You don’t even have a name
if you get cut from the team.
The coach just calls out the names
of the boys making the team.
I never listened so carefully in my whole life.
I can’t believe I didn’t hear my name.
Maybe the coach just forgot to call my name.
Should I ask him if he forgot to call my name?
I don’t understand what I didn’t make the team.
Was it because of the two shots I missed?
Was it because the other boys’ dads knew the coach?
Why didn’t I make the team?

So what am I supposed to accept?
That I am a total loser,
and my life will never amount to anything?
That basketball isn’t my sport,
and I shouldn’t bother to tryout next year?
My life is over
and it’s barely started.
And you don’t even care!

What do I do instead of crying?
Just hold it in?
Get angry?
Go out and practice my shots?
Maybe I’ll just stop trying to be somebody
or make something of my life.
Maybe I’ll just run away
to some other place, and another family.
One that cares about me.
One that understands me
and helps me figure out what to do
with all this pain inside
that won’t go away,
no matter how hard I try.

You could have said you were sorry
that I didn’t make the team.
You could have said you’d help me
be a better player.
You could have said you’d talk to the coach
and find out why I didn’t make the team.
You could have said there were times in your life
when you didn’t make the team,
and you survived the pain of rejection,
and over time you grew stronger.
That’s the way it goes?
Do I have to figure all this out myself?
Why don’t men cry?

Click here to hear me read this poem.
(I have used a new reading style with this poem. Please let me know what you think. Also, in my reading I provide some context for this poem.)

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This entry was posted in Childhood Reflections, Children's Poetry, Free Verse Poetry by Don Iannone. Bookmark the permalink.

About Don Iannone

Don Iannone is a poet, writer, teacher and photographer who lives in the Greater Cleveland area. He has worked in the economic development field for over 35 years. Don is the author of three poetry books and five photography books. He is working on a short book of photographs and poems about human trafficking. This work was exhibited at six venues in Ohio. Don holds an M.A. degree in Art and Consciousness Studies from the University of Philosophical Research in Los Angeles, where he teaches writing. His educational background also includes studies in Anthropology, Photography, Organizational Behavior, and Economic Development. Don’s website: http://www.donaldiannone.com Wisdom Work Press: https://wisdomworkpress.wordpress.com

21 thoughts on “When You Don’t Make the Team

  1. i liked the reading style – let the boy show through but didn’t become an impression of a child
    i think those traumas stay with us – though i have to confess that mine were more about having to join in rather than not being allowed to
    enjoyed the words and the reading
    cheers

  2. enjoyed the poem and the reading, don.
    and i can relate to this… i was left out as the 13th player for the junior national team (slovenian that is, though we were still within yugoslavia) and the worst thing was that i was better than few of those that were selected adn even the coach admitted that. but he said he left me out because i was the youngest and had enough time to make it (which i did the following year)

  3. Thanks Dan. You even know the school. I did make the team in 6th grade and EVERY year after, including high school. It woke me up not making the fifth grade team.

    Floots. Thanks. Interesting twist, but I can relate.

    Polona. Thanks for sharing your story. These are hard moments for us. Sorry they left you out.

  4. wow, i am getting a little nostalgic. this really provides a true window to our lives, the ones that I had forgotten…

    i love the voice in this, very powerful in its painful questions

  5. I missed getting in a stupid high school fraternity by 1 vote. Never knew why the guy didn’t vote for me. Didn’t hardly know him, but it hurt. Your poem is perfect in description of these pain growing up tragedies. Enjoyed!!

  6. Thanks Kai, Pat. Rob, and Rax. Your comments are much appreciated.

    Rob, good to see you around more. Hope you are well.

    I felt good about the voicing of the poem. It could be improved upon, but it felt authentic and all.

    Most people can relate with a similar experience when they were younger.

    Just as a word of clarification, I did not write this poem to blame my Dad. It was nothing more than a perfect characterization of how I reacted to not being chosen.

  7. woowww i can totaly realte, i was one of the top players on my midget a team. I went to a WHL rookie camp and i owned in my tryouts and practies but wth i didnt make the team im like at a total loss of words and stuff i really hope i make the canucks teamm please god let me make the canucks team. everything in my life was going perfect untill that coach had to cut me whyyyy whyy plz god help me

  8. Usser: Keep believing in yourself. Self-doubt undermines our success. Visualize your goal as clearly as you can in your mind. There is a wonderful book you might want to read by James Allen. It’s called As a Man Thinketh. It’s an old book, but a worthwhile read for you. Best of luck.

  9. that’s a really good poem. it reminds me of a situation i was in, too.

  10. I will never forget getting cut from the 7th grade basketball team. I was sure I made it. The gut that beat me out scored 0 pts for the season and missed the 2 at the line in the closing minutes of the season. It makes me feel better just saying that.

  11. Man, i feel you. This is the worst feeling i have faced in my life. Second only to the time that my g/f broke up wit me to get with another guy. But it still hurts like hell.

  12. I just got cut from my highschool basketball team. i am sad and mad but i can keep my head up knowing that everything happens for a reason. In these situations you just have to find the silver linning and follow it….

  13. I know how you feel. All my friends made the basketball team and I was left looking like a loser. I love basketball it’s my passion and I was heartbroken. I had cried every night for six days. 😦 they always post pictures on social media and they always win. When I was on the team last year we didn’t win a game. It’s so upsetting and I feel like a loser. None of my friends understand because they all made the team. I think the deciding of teammates had to do with politics though, because every girl who’s on the teams family has something to do with our town.

  14. Hi Ashley,

    As you know I understand your disappointment. I am sorry. What is your overall goal in life; that is your heart’s desire? What do you want more than anything in life?

    If you enjoy reading and have not already read the book, read The Alchemist by Paul Coelho. It’s a wonderful book about pursuing our dreams and finding out what our heart wants us to do in life.

    Best wishes,

    Don

  15. Thanks don. I’m just going to come back next year and kick all their sorry butts just for the heck of it. I caught up with the high school girls basketball coach (I’m in 8th grade) and we talked about it and she invited me to play on the select team for the surrounding town! For I while I thought it was because I was bad at basketball but it was only beau use the other kids parents were important in the town, life the chief of polices daughter and the principles daughter and the coaches draughts best friends. I’m still upset but who cares bout them 🙂

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