Benchwarmers: more than just placeholders
Assistant coach of the women’s soccer team Erin Shwab explained what determines playing time on the team. The hard work and dedication players show during practice goes a long way. Certain player combinations work better than others, so that is also a factor.
Attitude also goes a long way.
“We haven’t had a problem this season, but we have had problems in the past. As a player’s attitude gets worse, they see less and less playing time,” she added.
Sometimes, a player will see less time for no fault of their own, but simply because the team as a whole is that skilled.
“We obviously have a lot of depth this year on the women’s team,” Shwab explained. “There’s a lot of players competing for starting positions, as we have more than 11 players who could start each game.”
Shwab disagreed with the label of “benchwarmers” completely.
“They are substitutes. If a starter isn’t performing the way they should, or they get injured, a sub will be put into the game. They’re very important at practice as well. They push the starters to bring their game to the next level, as everyone is very close to being on par with each other,” Shwab said.
Distribution of playing time varies from sport to sport. While in soccer, playing time is more spread out, in a sport like volleyball, starters tend to see the majority of playing time. Lesley DaCosta, who played for the men’s volleyball team last year, saw almost no action as a first-year player and was just fine with his role on the team.
“I probably played for about 19 points in total last year,” DaCosta said. “I’m there for the team, and the other guys earned their spot on the court.”
DaCosta said he was there to support his team and earn his playing time.
“I knew I wouldn’t start, so it was never an issue,” he said. “Sure it’s not the best situation, but it inspired me to work hard and raise my game.”
Nolan Souchotte, a second-year forward for the men’s hockey team, was faced with a difficult situation as a rookie last year.
“I played in the [Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League] in LaRonge and in my last year I was captain and saw a lot of minutes,” Souchotte said. “I expected more minutes coming in, but I know they bring in a lot of good guys. I knew I was back to the bottom of the totem pole, I didn’t take it personally at all, I just started working my way up the ladder again.”
As men’s hockey head coach and SAIT Athletic Director Ken Babey stated, performance affects playing time.
“If they’re doing their job and contributing to the team’s success, I’ll notice and that player will get more ice time. Performance always dictates playing time here at SAIT,” Babey said.
Babey feels that no player is above the team.
“We have a team philosophy where we go as much as we can with four lines, six defenceman and two goalies. We have 25 players and 20 of those guys have to earn their spot”
In a team sport, every player puts their heart and soul towards success. Even though that player’s contribution may not show as much during game time, it’s behind the scenes performance that really drives the team. The next time you’re at a game and see a player spending more time on the bench than in the game, remind yourself that they are just as important as any other player.