Family or Marriage

The Cost Of High School Sports When You Don’t Make the Team

high school sports, high school team, sports

“Didn’t make it, don’t care,” was the text message I got from my son.

As a high school freshman, he was trying out for high school baseball for the first time.  Twenty one kids tried out for the “C” team, the coach indicating that about 15 of them would make the team, with a few maybe getting playing time on JV if they needed extra players. For summer recreational baseball, kids are separated into Major and Minor leagues, and my son has always been selected to play in the more skilled league.  He’s always been one of the better players there too, so the thought of him not making the team didn’t really cross my mind.

So his text message, which came after the conclusion of the last day of tryouts, surprised me.

First and foremost, I was disappointed for him.  I wasn’t disappointed in him, as I knew he was a good player, easily coachable, and would contribute to the team.  I was disappointed for him because I knew, even despite the words of his text message, he did care.  Even through the statements of, “Now I don’t’ have to be at school twelve hours a day,”  I knew that he was surprised too, and deep down wanted to make the team. No parent wants to see their child have to deal with failure.


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Then I started thinking of the financial impacts of the situation:

Activity Fee: We had paid $160 for him to play spring sports. A call to the school, had that money back in our bank account within 24 hours.  If you don’t actually play a sport, they refund the money.

New Glove:  His glove ripped at the end of last summer and was not repairable.  We purchased him a new glove for $70.  I hope that he will still want to at least throw the ball around with his dad or his friends when it gets nice out.

New Bag:  He had the same baseball bag to carry his equipment since the 4th grade.  We decided to buy him a new one for $40.  His old bag certainly still did the job, though.

Sliding Shorts:  Sliding / compression shorts plus Athletic Cup combo:  $45.  If he doesn’t play baseball, when will he ever use this again?  He needed to have those sensitive areas protected during tryouts, but maybe we could have found a less expensive temporary option.

Helmet:  In talking to other baseball players, they all had their own helmet.  He had outgrown his old helmet years ago.  Again, not allowing for the possibility that he wouldn’t make the team, I bought him a new helmet for $45.  We definitely could have waited on this purchase.

With the activity fee refunded and the glove being something I hope we will use whether he plays organized baseball again, that leaves us with $130 of stuff that he may never use again.   He used them for 4 days of tryouts, and of course we removed all the stickers and tags.

My first reaction was that we should have waited until he made the team to  buy all of the equipment.  But then again, I didn’t want to tell him that we’d buy him the stuff if he made the team, dousing his confidence before tryouts even began.

There is a chance he could use the equipment.  He could play one more year of recreational summer baseball, and there is another competitive league that the high school students play in over the summer.  He could choose to do either or both of those, and then tryout again next spring.  However, his confidence is now shaken, and his desire to ever play organized baseball again is in question.

Should school expect kids to provide their own equipment when they may not even make the team?  How would you handle this situation?

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Brock Kernin


  • I’m so sorry to hear that he didn’t make it. I’m sure he’s disappointed, even if he pretends he’s not. I would have reacted similarly if I didn’t make a team that I wanted to be on at that age (I never tried out for any teams!). As far as the equipment goes, is there a team other than his school team that he can maybe join? It would keep him in practice and help use the equipment.

  • My son didn’t make his high school baseball team either, even though his batting average was the highest in his summer league. The coach simply ran sprints and selected those who were the fastest. (Hello, no hitting or fielding work in tryouts?) Anyway, my son refocused and became a 3 year started on the varsity football team. He was also captain of the team, captain of the scholastic bowl team and valedictorian of his class.

  • If you and he decide not to keep the equipment, maybe try selling it on craigslist or ebay. Since it is nearly new, you might be able to get 2/3 -3/4 of your original price (maybe not on the cup though, not sure anyone wants that used).

    Or if you have the original receipts, you may not need the tags and stickers to return them to the store, or at least it wouldn’t hurt to ask.

  • It’s tough not making sports teams. The most important thing is how your son chooses to respond. It will set a standard for how he handles future obstacles in life. As I see it, your son has three options:

    1) give up;
    2) work hard and try out next year; or
    3) dedicate himself to something else.

    As a junior in high school, I had effectively made the varsity basketball team. But two hours before team pictures, our coach decided that he needed to cut two more players. I was one of the players cut. Of course I was disappointed. But it gave me the opportunity to re-evaluate my priorities. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t playing a sport (between the ages of 5 and 17 I played sports year-round).

    My response was to put more time into my coursework. As it turns out, not making that basketball team was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Although I worked hard in school, it was always my second priority behind sports. Once I made school my highest priority, I became a very good student.

    The funny thing is that during my senior year, the basketball coach told me I would make the team, but that I probably wouldn’t play much. Instead of spending endless hours in hopes of getting a few minutes of playing time, I decided to not join the team and instead be an even better student. A few years later, I was attending one of the nation’s premier universities.

    A similar situation happened to me in baseball (started on JV, didn’t make varsity). In that case, I chose to give tennis a try. Over the next three years, I was MVP of my high school team and all-conference for my community college. I don’t say this to brag, but to show that good things can come out of disappointing situations. It all depends on how your son chooses to respond.

  • @Daisy – There’s a city rec league he could play in during the summer…but it would be mostly kids a year younger than him. We’re looking at options, I hope this isn’t the end of him playing baseball – more than anything, I just LOVE watching him play!

  • @Kathy- yeah, I’m not sure what the criteria was for being selected. Maybe the coach was looking at potential, maybe my son bombed his tryout, or maybe he’s just not quite as good as I had perceived him to be. I may be a little biased. 🙂 Thanks for sharing the story of your son – it sounds like he landed on his feet, and made the most of his time in high school – even if it wasn’t with baseball.

  • @Jenny – You’re right, it never hurts to ask, maybe I’ll give the sports store a call tomorrow and see what they say. Otherwise, we’ll likely sit on the equipment through the summer just in case he decides to play – but by fall if he says he’s done, to the second hand store, or up on craigslist it will go!

  • @uclalien – I love your perspective, and it will be interesting to see how he responds. Maybe he will take it as a challenge and work hard towards next year’s tryouts. Maybe he’ll decide, as you did, to go a different direction and try something else that he finds he’s really good at. I hope that (and I’ll encourage him to NOT take this route) he doesn’t decide to simply do nothing. I want him to continue to be an active kid, even if it’s not with baseball. Thanks for sharing your great thoughts!

  • I’m sorry to hear that… But I think you should just give him some time to get over his disappointment. Then after he’s back on track again, consider the other options you mention in the post. If he still doesn’t want to do it, you can definitely sell the equipment online. Maybe you won’t get 100% back, but it’s better than nothing.

  • My kids are only 2 and 4, but I’m already bracing myself for the expense of whatever they want to do. My friend has a daughter in cheerleading and they are forced to buy hundreds of dollars in random practice outfits for no reason. Ugh!

  • Wow – harsh. I’m definitely not looking forward to these types of things when our kids get older.

    If he really has lost interest in playing baseball, I would consider selling the stuff on Ebay. Then, you could give him the money to spend it on some other sport, hobby, or get him started with investing!

  • That stinks. I know that here in my town, baseball is very political. So it just could be as simple as that. My son is a soccer player, and I hope he continues and is able to play for the school team when he gets to high school. I know what you mean about loving to watch him play.

  • @suburbanfinance – I approached him very gently today about potentially finding a different opportunity to play this summer in order to continue to hone his skills and try out again next year. He doesn’t seem interested in the least….which really sucks because he’s a good player and had a lot of fun over the years playing. he’s got some time yet to take advantage of the summer opportunity, maybe he’ll change his mind yet. Thanks for the comment!

  • @Holly – Wow, for practice outfits??? That’s crazy! I wouldn’t mind spending the money on the equipment at all, as long as he makes great use of it – which he has up until this point. I’m certainly not blaming him….just sort of a bad situation all around. I’m a firm believer in letting kids try different things until they find something they really like and want to stick with it. Enjoy the process of watching your kids discovering who they are!

  • @David – I’ve played a fair amount of frisbee myself…it IS a lot of fun and you can get great exercise chasing that thing around. Looking forward to summer SO MUCH!

  • @moneyahoy – getting him started with investing… that’s not a bad idea at all! Actually one of my thoughts was that he look for a job this summer – start earning some cash! 🙂

  • @Cathie – Yeah, I don’t want to come right down and say that politics or any other forces came into play, but there were some people that made the team that seriously made me scratch my head. If I don’t ever get to watch him play again it would be a sad, sad thing. Last year, during his last game of the end of the year tournament I walked onto the field and warmed him up as he was getting ready to pitch because I wondered if that would be the last time I’d ever get to do that. If that IS the last time, I’m glad I realized it at the time, and enjoyed those few precious minutes as much as possible. 🙂

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