Voices of benchwarmers at Urban

Benchwarmer. It feels almost like a forbidden word. No one wants to admit that they are one. Benchwarmers practice every day, dress up on game days, and promote their games. Since the Winter season has started up at Urban, lots of people are talking about their sports teams and telling their friends about their games, so we decided to investigate the culture of benchwarmers. From personal experience, I [Kyra] once had a soccer game that took 6 hours, with long bus rides to and from the field, warmups, and game time – and I did not play for one minute. I know that that experience really affected me and I was curious if other people were going through the same things. We found that girls soccer, boys soccer, baseball, and basketball have the most benchwarmers of all Urban sports. We reached out to people on all of these teams, yet only got a few responses. Some people didn’t want to be interviewed because they didn’t want other Urban students to know they are a benchwarmer and others were worried about how their coach would react if they saw the article. We ended up getting four students and one coach to talk to us, yet three of those interviews had to be kept anonymous. Even students whose interviews were kept anonymous expressed concerns about their teammates figuring out it was them. The following profiles give a voice to the players who spend more time on the sideline than on the playing field. Though their experiences differ, one thing is clear: for a player sitting on the bench, a little transparency from the coach who put them there goes a long way.

“Either I play the whole game or I don’t play at all. Recently I have not been playing. I played far more freshman year than I did sophomore year and I feel like our new coach had some biases and had a lot of different views from previous coaches. In some ways I do blame our new coach.I think that this season I’ll be able to hopefully secure a starting position. Even if I don’t, I really like my teammates and that’s a big reason I play. Last season I wasn’t anticipating what would happen, but I’m hoping this season will have a different outcome. Tryna get big over the offseason. It’s pretty hard with my coach. He thought I was a freshman for a while, and he likes to put me as a baserunner during practice, and I don’t fully understand it.”
“I’m just coming into a new team, where there is a lot of really strong players, and they just have so much more experience, and I’m fine with that, it doesn’t bother me.I literally don’t blame him whatsoever. I just think the way he does it isn’t bad. It was just fun being on the team. When it’s fun to be on a team, I don’t mind not playing. Yeah. Occasionally there’s a decision where I feel like I’d maybe would do a better job than that player, but there’s obviously a reason the coach is doing it. Last year, I did resent my coach. I came into the year thinking I was gonna start because I had trained a lot and I felt like my skill was good enough to start. He made decisions where he didn’t start me, didn’t play me, and he didn’t really explain to me why. That really pissed me off. I also feel when the community of a team isn’t good, it sucks to be a benchwarmer. I think everyone should get at least a minute or so in a game. Not playing someone at all in a game is a little unfair, but obviously there’s a reason for it. In games I just run as hard as I can. I think hustle is a big part of getting more playing time. Because a lot of people are the same in skill or really close in skill, so it’s really just how can you do something to stand out and try your hardest.”
“Sometimes I play 75% of the game, sometimes 20%. I’m new to the team this year, so obviously there’s more playing time for returners, also I’m not the biggest and it’s a physical league. I wouldn’t say so. Sometimes it feels a little undeserved to be benched. Well, you’re still improving, you’re still practicing with the team. You just want to work up to the point where you will be playing a lot.”
Sophira Pohl, Girls Varsity Soccer:
“Both freshman and sophomore year I was on the bench for around 90% of the game. I would get to play around 10-15 mins per game, and went some games not playing in the entire game at all. The most frustrating was when it was an away game and I had to leave class extremely early just to sit on the bench.It is especially difficult when all of your friends are playing on the field every game and try to make you feel better by just ignoring the fact that you are not playing when they are playing the entire game. Now that I am a junior I suddenly have a starting position and play for the entire game every game. In my perspective, my skills have not changed at all, yet now my coach decided that I am worth being in the game.”
Becky Phillips, Girls Varsity Soccer:
“He pulled me aside and said ‘listen, here’s your situation and here’s how to fix it’ and that really helped me so I did what he told me to do and it has paid off so far. But even if I think I deserve more playing time than I get, it just makes me realize that I just have to keep working harder and keep working to get more playing time. There was one game an hour and a half away and we had to leave school in the middle of the day and I didn’t get any playing time. You want to be there for your team and show that you are a part of it, but it really sucks to miss so much school and soccer isn’t even my life so its annoying that it takes a lot of time away from school with no reward of playing time.”
“Usually less than 10 minutes. We went to Sacramento for our first game in the state tournament and I played less than 5 minutes and it made me feel really terrible because it was the end of the season and I thought I had put in a ton of effort and deserved more time in the game. No. She plays favorites and its super obvious. Yes. And usually, I was the one getting yelled at so practice was pretty terrible.”