An Open Letter from the Benchwarmer | Softball is for Girls
To Whom it May Concern;
Hello there. I am the benchwarmer. I love softball and started playing when I was 8 years old. It was so much fun, my friends and I had the best time being on the field together. We did this for several years, and then suddenly at the age of 12, there were not enough “REC TEAMS” in our area to form leagues. Everyone went to travel teams with fancy uniforms and cool names. We played tournaments instead of games. With nothing else to do, and 13 girls looking sad faced at the adults, a couple parents decided to make a travel team. We had hit the BIG TIME.
Oh what fun we had. Great competition and tons of softball players every weekend competing at local fields.
After the first year, I became the benchwarmer. I didn’t like it, I will admit. It kind of sucked being stuck on the bench, expected to just cheer for my teammates and never get to really play. Sometimes the coach would put me in pool games, swap me and two other girls out for an inning or two. We figured out that meant we sucked the most on the team, but people like our parents and coaches kept saying things like – keep working harder, this builds character, a team needs a warm bench, BLAH BLAH BLAH!
If we were upset about not getting to play any games, we were being selfish and not putting the team first. I was young, and to be honest, I just wanted to play. Otherwise why was I here?
The next season, some kids moved on to bigger and better teams with better reputations playing the best competition. I get it. Then we also had tryouts. I get that too. Growth. Then when we finally had enough for a team again it was the scramble for positions. I worked hard, earned a spot – only to lose it to another girl that was brought on without even having to try out. So I sat on the bench and cheered, trying to feel grateful for my inning or two – and hearing the same advice I heard before. Keep working…blah blah blah.
Here’s the thing. I was working. I was working HARD. And even though I was just a kid, I couldn’t understand why they would put 12 of us on the team, knowing the same 3 weren’t going to play – or just get rotated in every once in a while.
When I started getting discouraged, I was being spoiled. When I didn’t really enjoy softball anymore – I was being a sore loser, or too lazy to “Earn it.” But listen…at the end of the day, I just wasn’t that good. I worked and tried hard, but I didn’t have the athleticism of some other girls, never would. Yet I still loved the game.
When I wanted to quit, my parents acted surprised! Like duh, sitting the bench constantly would be like showing up to work every day, every week and never getting a paycheck.
So here is what I want to say. At some levels of this game – sure, the benchwarmer has a big responsibility. But if you and your team are just playing local tournaments, and a fun World Series – albeit competitive, please stop adding benchwarmers to your team. Warm bodies, just in case. And please stop telling the benchwarmers that they just have to work a little bit harder, and then when they do – going out and finding someone else, or a pick up player to do what us benchwarmers thought we were going to get a chance at doing.
Softball is competitive. But if your team isn’t in the top 100 in the country, or your players are there to have a good time, play locally and fill the void left by disappearing community teams – then try to understand that the girls coming out to play ACTUALLY WANT TO PLAY!
I know you want to win, I know you want to move up the ranks in your community and have bragging rights and pictures to post showing you with your team holding the big trophy. But try and remember how us girls got started. And try to remember that eventually when we are old enough, have been doing this enough, you don’t need to hide behind aphorisms to try and make us ‘feel’ better. Because we get it.
During my years of playing local travel ball, I have seen the same kids playing the same spots no matter what the benchwarmers do to work harder. Nepotism in youth sports is real.
Please dont lie to us any longer, and please stop expecting the everyday benchwarmers like me, playing on ordinary teams for the fun of the game (you know, not going to Nationals, not in a big expensive travel league, not looking to play in college) playing for ordinary coaches (you know…parent became coach, now thinks he/she is a bigshot) to sit down and stop being upset and just work harder.
And parents of these benchwarmers…if you would not show up to work without getting paid, stop trying to morph the obvious into a life lesson. Especially if that life lesson is not even what is going on. Getting the jersey, and going to practice, and being the extra day in and day out, well…it gets old and disappointing.
If I am not good enough to play, don’t tell me I will get a chance, and then forget about me again and again. If my hard work and love of the game is not hard enough for your team – pass me by, so maybe I can land on a team where I will actually get to use my glove for what it was intended for.
A girl just wants to play…..