How Coaches and Athletes Can Deal with "Cuts" | STACK Coaches and Trainers

Become a Better Athlete. Sign Up for our FREE Newsletter.

How Coaches and Athletes Can Deal with "Cuts"

November 28, 2012 | Brian Lebo

Cut Basketball Player

Regardless of the sport, to build a championship-winning team takes top athletes. Unfortunately, this usually means that not everyone who tries out is up to the standard. Although in most cases it's necessary, making cuts is the least appealing aspect of team-building for coaches. And it's even harder for players; not only do they miss out on a chance to play, they have to deal with feelings of rejection and inadequacy. (Athletes see also: Tryouts Are a "Head Game" and Tips on How to Make Your Basketball Team.)

If you find yourself going through this heartbreak, here are some thoughts for dealing with the cut process—for both coaches and players.


I'm not suggesting you engage in a detailed, developmental discussion with every player you cut. However, if a kid takes the initiative to approach you for your evaluative opinion, take a few minutes to provide him or her with some honest, quality feedback. Here are some tips:

Make your feedback actionable 

There's nothing worse than being told you're being cut because you're too small. That's like telling a kid you're cutting him or her because he or she has blue eyes. As coaches, we can do better than that. Let's be honest; if the kid could flat-out play, his or her stature would probably be less of a factor. Be willing to provide the athlete with developmental feedback that includes one or two action items, like improved ball handling or shooting mechanics. Give the kid something that is within his or her control.

Point out the player's current strengths as well as where he or she needs to improve 

This gives the player some goals to work on in preparation for tryouts the following season. Wish the athlete well in the coming season, and indicate that you would like to see him or her try again. But don't make any promises, like saying, "if you work hard you will make the team next year."

Speak to the player in person

A phone call is second best. The athlete deserves your personal attention.

Don't post a cut list

The athlete you're cutting deserves to hear it from you, not via an impersonal public message board.

Be prepared to deal with the parents

This is often the most difficult challenge. Most parents lack objectivity when it comes to their kids, because they see them with their hearts. If approached by parents, be willing to engage them in a discussion about their son or daughter. Just keep it objective and non-comparative. Avoid being argumentative (even if they are), and provide the same type of feedback you gave to their child.

Avoid comparing the player you cut with other players on the team

Limit your developmental feedback to the player's own self-improvement.


There is absolutely nothing fun about not making the team. But if you face this unfortunate circumstance, consider the following suggestions.

Talk to the coach

Get an accurate understanding of your strengths and weaknesses by asking what the coach thinks you do well and where you can improve. Learn what he or she is looking for in athletes.

Consider how serious are you about this sport

Are you dedicated enough to put in the work and develop yourself in order to be more competitive for a spot on next year's team?

Consider taking your talents elsewhere

Perhaps there is another sport or activity you would enjoy and even excel at. Use the open season to explore other opportunities.

Don't blame the coach and don't take it personally

The coach's goal is simple: he or she is trying to select players who represent the best fit for the program.

If it's a school team, consider playing at the community or recreational level

This will help you to continue developing your talents for next year's tryouts.

Consult a professional

If you're really serious about improvement, engage a professional who can provide you with sport-specific skills training, strength and conditioning and/or nutrition advice.

Brian Lebo
- Brian Lebo is the owner and director of Athletic Performance Training Center, a strength and conditioning facility in North Royalton, Ohio. He specializes in helping...
Brian Lebo
- Brian Lebo is the owner and director of Athletic Performance Training Center, a strength and conditioning facility in North Royalton, Ohio. He specializes in helping...
Must See
How to Perform the Euro Step With Iman Shumpert
Views: 81,154
Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night
Views: 3,528,318
Colin Kaepernick Explains His Ridiculous Socks
Views: 21,945,678

Featured Videos

Quest for the Ring: Duke University Views: 217,694
Eastbay: It Begins Now Views: 70,986
Path to the Pros 2015: Training Days Views: 118,412
Load More


STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers


Latest issues of STACK Magazine


Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice


Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes


Find the latest news relevant to athletes

More Cool Stuff You'll Like

Don't Take Your Headphones to the Gym

Make Goals, Not Deals

How Mental Performance Affects Your Workouts

The Holistic Approach to Impactful Sports Coaching

So You Didn't Make the Team? 5 Ways to Move On

Can a Faster Brain Increase Sports Performance?

Stress Exposure Training for Basketball

Home Field Advantage Is Real, Says Science

How to Improve Mental Focus on the Baseball Diamond

Use Sports Psychology Against Your Opponents

5 Steps to Changing a Bad Habit

Tips to Be a Better Leader

Does Home Field Actually Confer an Advantage?

Overcome the 5 Most Common Mental Mistakes in Sports

4 Obstacles to Better Goal Setting

5 Steps to Becoming a Better Coach

How Clayton Kershaw Gets in the Zone

Why Athletes Must Focus on Developing Their Own Identity

Build Mental Toughness in the Weight Room

5 Tips to Becoming a Successful Athlete

Regain Your Confidence by Getting BIG

Positive Affirmations for Athletes

The Art of Strength and Conditioning Coaching

What's Your Backup Plan When 'Plan A' Fails?

Growth Mindset: How to Think Like a Champion

How Mental Flexibility Boosts Your Game

Mental Warm-Up: How to Build Confidence Before a Game

How Mentally Tough Are You?

Get Tough on Your Goals to Get Fit

Why You Should Be Training Instead of Exercising

How to 'Keep Your Cool' on the Football Field

6 Ideas to Build a More Cohesive Team

Study: Athletes Think Faster, More Accurately Than Non-Athletes

5 Tips for Playing Mentally Tough Tennis

3 Ways to Develop Your Football Warrior Mentality

4 Reasons Your Team Is Losing

The One Word You Should Never Say to Yourself

How Nik Wallenda Prepared to Walk Across the Grand Canyon

A Coach Describes What It

4 Tips for Building Confidence

Visualize Yourself Winning, and You're Halfway There

Overcome Your Fear of Failure