Dear Collegiate Basketball Benchwarmers,

While your teammates and classmates are enjoying the splendors of March Madness, you’re sitting on the end of the bench, waiting for this season to be over so you’ll finally have some normalcy in your life. As a former benchwarmer myself, I understand the trials and tribulations of being the last player in the game and maintaining an optimistic disposition while knowing you’re missing out on spring break. When I see everyone storming the court after the winning shot is made to praise the players who played a full forty minutes, I am here to celebrate you, the real heroes of the game.

You could have been the star of a lower-division school. Yet, your fate wasn’t to be the lead scorer of the NE-10, it was to be the honorable woman who played a total of ten minutes over the course of your freshman year. It was always your dream to play for a Division I university. You had too much love for the game to be a starter, so you took the noble duty of being fourth reserve center.

The mental burden that you decided to undertake is incredible. Not only did you have to memorize the entire playbook, but you are always ready to execute plays with equal precision as the rest of your teammates. Sure, you may not be the most physically gifted, but you have the mental toughness to take on the harshest “constructive” criticism from your coach. A true champion remains strong when a coach says your main purpose is to help maintain team morale, and not the skill set you have devoted the past ten years of your life to.

As your teammates meticulously wrap their knees and tape their ankles to prepare for battle, you simply don your shooting shirt, which will only make you accumulate a thin layer of sweat from the pre-game warm up. It takes a degree of bravery to cheer your teammates on while freezing from the light film of perspiration on your back, and it takes even more courage to go out and do it all again for the second half!

Nothing exudes your heroism more than when your coach puts you into the game with less than two minutes left. Stunned, you whip off your shooting shirt, as you’ve spent the past forty minutes alternating between cheering for your team, and thinking about that physics exam you have next week.

Somehow, you get the ball and score your third basket of the year. Your teammates, who have spent their energy playing their hearts out, muster the strength to cheer you on as if you were the one who just won the game, even though your team is winning by twenty-five points. Only you could take on this simultaneous slightly joyous yet extremely uncomfortable moment that no other person should ever experience!

Mighty benchwarmer, you know you could have had a normal college lifestyle, but who else would suffer through hours upon hours of practice and sit during games bored to no end? These are supposed to best days of your life, but you know there are much better days ahead. One day you will have your one shining moment, it’s just not now.

Kristin Nalivaika
Former Division II Benchwarmer