By Eric Wilkins, Staff Writer
In sports, some players are better than others. As a result, certain players will get more playing time than others. And because of that, it is inevitable that some players will end up on the bench. This is a fact of competitive sports.
I’m not talking about little 10-year-old kids running around playing soccer here, or even a U-16 bronze squad. I’m talking about the top levels. Of course a kid in recreational soccer is going to want to play instead of sitting on the bench. And he should play. But when it comes to serious athletes, there can be no complaints about wherever the coach sticks you.
Moving away from rec sports, where the objective is to have fun, college sports are about winning. Colleges give out scholarships and recruit players so that they can win. You don’t get an extra point in the standings for making every player leave the field with a smile on. You get points when your squad produces results. It doesn’t matter who does it, just so long as it gets done. It’s a harsh reality, but it’s true.
If you make a team that you tried out for, great. Good for you. But don’t expect minutes to get handed to you on a silver platter. Making a team doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed playing time. Coaches will play whoever they think their strongest players are, and put in appropriate substitutes when the game calls for it. While it’s unfortunate if a player doesn’t see the field, there’s nothing wrong with it. Work harder to get noticed by the coach. Figure out what you can do to stand out and find your way into the lineup. It’s not true in every case, but if a player is consistently riding the bench, it can be his own fault.
However, in youth sports, I’m strongly against benching players. I don’t care if it’s a U-14 gold team or a U-18 metro squad. The goal of any youth program, competitive or not, is to develop the players. How can a kid develop if he’s not getting any playing time? There’s only so much one can experience in practice. Game situations are where one truly grows as a player.
I’ve seen some disgusting examples of coaching in my time in sports. Thirteen-year-olds glued to the bench because the coach thinks he’s playing for the World Cup, rather than a gold-painted lead medal. It’s sickening. That’s not to say there aren’t cases where players really don’t deserve to play (if they’re just a passenger on the squad, not putting in an honest effort), but in the majority of situations, it’s absolutely inexcusable to carve out a permanent spot on the sidelines for a player.
There’s no place for ignoring players in competitive youth sports. However, if you’re in college, are a perennial bench warmer, and don’t like it, do something about it. Either pick it up or shut up. That’s just how it is, and how it has to be.
Benching players not beneficial for anyone
By Josh Martin, Sports Editor
Last weekend, I watched a soccer match and couldn’t help but feel sympathetic towards a player that sat the entire game. There he was: sitting on the bench as a substitute player, waiting for his name to be called to play in the game.
But it never came.
His team battled back from behind in the second half in a valiant effort, tied it, and then eventually scored another goal to take home the win. When the game ended, he walked over towards his parents—who were there to support him—and exchanged some words, looking visibly upset. I asked him how he was doing and he replied, “Well, I haven’t played all year.”
At that point, there had already been five games. That’s five games that this player has gone to in hopes of playing, but instead rode the bench.
I don’t know the entire story and relationship between the player and the coach, but when you see that in college soccer, it’s just sad. If there is a tryout process and a team is made, then everyone should get the opportunity to play. I understand if the athletes are professionally playing in an elite league, but when you see guys at the college level being benched the whole game and not even getting a shot, it seems like you should have just saved them the trouble and not allowed them on the team.
Everyone wants to participate, everyone wants to be included, and if you make the team then you should be assured you are going to be playing. Zero games played out of five is unacceptable.
“Everyone has a role on the team,” is just an excuse for coaches to abuse their players in whatever way they want. In this situation, I guess this player’s role would be to warm up the bench. Great philosophy. There’s only so much one can do in practice to prove they’re ready to play in a game. You have to give that player some playing time in an actual game, even if it is just five minutes, or how else are they going to improve?
So why doesn’t the player just quit? Well, it’s a lot more complicated than that.
Being a part of a team is an honor. You walk around the halls with your head held high and your chest puffed out. These athletes are respected among the school community just for being a part of the team. Whether you’re a sports fan or not, these athletes represent you. With that on the line of the decision, along with pride, it makes the decision extremely difficult. No one is going to give all that up because they’re not getting enough playing time in games, no matter how difficult the situation.