Hannah Bensel

"Benched" athletes often find themselves confined to the bleachers.

Leyton Dudley and Malavika Kannan

It lies beyond the dazzling gleam of the football pitch. It’s tucked away from the screaming crowds, forgotten by the hysterical harbingers of fame and glory. Known as “the bench,” it’s the place where athletes languish in obscurity, and big dreams go to die. Since many of Seminole High School’s sports teams takes on more players than they actually need, several players from each team are inevitably relegated to the bench. But is the bench truly as awful as pop culture makes it seem?

In fact, some benched athletes have tried to make the most of their status. Those who occupy the bench often end up building bonds with their fellow teammates and learning valuable life skills. While not all athletes get the privilege of being on the field, some have come to accept their position with positivity. Four brave athletes have come forward to share their experiences from the notorious bench.

One of these is senior Jorge Castano, who has been on the football team for the past four years. He hasn’t played in a single game.

In spite of this, Castano still derives fulfillment from attending practices and working alongside other dedicated players. While he hasn’t played as much as he originally intended to, he said that participating in football provided him with an outlet for his stress. Since Castano is a member of the rigorous IB program, balancing football with schoolwork also taught him about time management skills.

“My favorite memory from football was at camp this past summer where all the seniors had to get up and share what football means to them,” said Castano. “Playing football allowed me to truly understand what it means to have work ethic and what it means to be a part of a family and a brotherhood. The sport, my teammates, and coaches were essential in making me who I am today, and I love having played football for that.”

For athletes like sophomore Varsha Anumala, being benched provides the motivation to participate more thoroughly in games. Anumala used her bench time to gain experience so that she would be more prepared for when she was finally put on the court. From the bench, she learned more about what it meant to be on the girl’s volleyball team.

“At times, I did get frustrated, but I really just went with the flow and always had to be ready to go in,” said Anumala. “One time, the coach did need to put me in because my teammate could no longer play, and I ended up playing the entire game. Plus, I had never played a sport before so I was really just in it for the experience.”

Others have accepted being benched as the necessary price of being a new player. For example, freshman tennis player Andrea Rivera-Maldonado said that because the tennis matches are limited, there are fewer opportunities for freshmen to play. Regardless, she still enjoys playing tennis.

“So far, my experience with the tennis team has been great. The whole team is very friendly, and the coach is really nice,” said Rivera-Maldonado. “Although the newer kids don’t play much, we still play a bit. This is also due to the small amount of matches we have.”

Ultimately, benched athletes agree that their position allows them to grow as individuals, arguably as much as they would have if they were actually playing. While students on the bench may feel upset, it is understood that these decisions are often made by the coach, and may not actually reflect the player’s worth.

“Do you want to know the funny thing about not getting enough playing time? Although you feel totally out of control, in the end, it’s the coach’s game,” said Katherine Davis, a sophomore softball player. “You do ultimately have the choice to be motivated or unmotivated. Not getting enough playing time isn’t fun at all, but not playing doesn’t dictate whether you’re a good player or not. How you handle your emotions when not always being chosen to be out on the field dictates how good you are.”