By Jeffrey J. Kimball Erdely ’14
Tryouts for a school team are some of the most tense and stressful days of the year for athletes.
Imagine making the team after all the stress and then never playing a single game.
Meet the benchwarmers.
Most teams have second and third string players who compete at the same level as everyone else, but may never see playing minutes during the season.
“The best will play,” said freshman basketball coach Mr. Doug Cox.
With more 50 freshmen trying out every year, Mr. Cox has his work cut out for him putting together the freshman basketball team.
“We normally have between 50 and 60 guys trying out every year for the freshman team. As the freshman coach I can honestly say that’s my least favorite time of the year is cutting 40 or 50 guys from the team.” Mr. Cox said.
Basketball player Michael Nabong ’14 said he has been fighting for playtime on the court since sophomore year,
“I’ve been on the team for three years…I never played any of those years.” Nabong said.
Nabong said he has no resentment or misgivings over his lack of playtime.
Nabong defines his role on the team as, “lifting the team up…and from the bench giving spirit for the players.”
Nabong said he plays on the team knowing he probably will not get off the bench, but he said his love for the team and for the sport is too great for him to even consider quitting.
Chad McClanahan ’16 is the starting quarterback for junior varsity football with a secondary position on varsity football.
“What I do is I go out there and I have a clipboard that has just a blank sheet on it and I write the down and distance, what yard line we’re on, I write what the defense is doing during our plays so the coach knows what the defense is running against our offense,” McClanahan said of his role.
McClanahan is effectively starting on one team and suiting up to do play analysis on the other. “I was the starting JV quarterback and I would go up with Varsity on Friday’s to dress out for the games.” McClanahan said.
McClanahan stands on the sidelines during the varsity games and plays a role that still has some impact on the game.
“What I do isn’t really a position…this is just to help out the team and help out the seniors out there,” he said. “I’m helping them have the best opportunity to win.”
Nabong’s situation is not so unique.
Mr. Cox said players have made huge leaps in the past.
“We’ve kept guys who have ended up in the 13th or 14th spot who end up starting for us on varsity years later,” he said.
Nabong said being on the team is about more than just minutes.
“I’ve been playing basketball all my life and I just kept playing, kept going on,” Nabong said. “I love basketball, it’s my sport…I’ve been playing since first grade.”
“I help out the team in practice,” Nabong said. “We play defense on them and help them get better so they get ready for the game.”
Nabong said he gets no negative treatment from his coaches.
“Everyone is treated equally, and we’re basically one team,” Nabong said “(Coaches) respect me the same way as the starters.”
As for a coach’s view of their backups, Mr. Cox said “I don’t really like the title benchwarmer. As a coach we really value every player on the team…regardless of role.”