Benching: good for team, bad for student athletes

bench
Cartoon by Selineh Arakelyan

By Crystal Earl

On the weekdays after high school practice they train by themselves, running through footwork drills or refining long shots. They go to club practice three times a week. It’s not uncommon that they find themselves running on the Saturday mornings where they don’t have games or tournaments and on Sundays, they rest, stretch, and take an ice bath.

This is what their life is like for the five months high school soccer is in season. Four and a half other months are dedicated strictly to club season, with the remaining two and half months reserved for summer off-season. Over the summer they can’t help but think about which high school team they will make next school year, if any.

Finally, the school year rolls around. They try out for high school soccer. The student apprehensively skims through the twenty five player list on the hallway wall during lunch. They’ve made the cut. Feelings of excitement soon change. After sitting out the whole first game of the season, then the second, and the third, those feelings were solidified. They were a varsity athlete by title, but in reality they turned out to be a varsity benchwarmer.

From a coaching point of view, having a full bench of players can be helpful when  starters get injured or tired. After all, benched players only sub in to keep scores up when teammates are unable to play. Otherwise, these athletes don’t have much else to do apart from warming the bench while the starters get play time.

However, while benched players may benefit the team overall, they themselves are affected adversely. They work for days on end but get little to no play in the game. Furthermore, benched players pay for a season without play time. For many families, especially the ones who have trouble affording athletic team membership, this appears like an unnecessary cost. What parent would want to attend a game and not even get to see their own child play?

These families may feel like they are being used by both the coach and the school to support their financial needs. This is similar for college students. Every year, tons of high school seniors accept scholarships to play in high division sports at their new universities. College costs are more than double or triple the costs of high school athletics and because of the large drafts, benches are completely packed.

Many athletes who accept scholarships do not receive equal opportunity to play and display their skills to professionals. While this is unfair to players, it is also unfair to their families who spend large amounts of money to support them in their athletic and academic success.

Having a bench full of players has a very negative effect on student-athletes both in high school and college. While teams and coaches benefit, individual players often feel untalented and used.

These negative effects outweigh the positive and become detrimental as a whole.

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