Bench Warmer

Saturday, March 25, 2023

I figured out I was a bench warmer as a third grader, before I knew there was a term for it. My parents allowed me to join Little Dribblers, our local kid’s basketball organization. All my friends joined, and they were the cool kids. I don’t remember how I ever got to the practices, I probably walked to most of them, but my parents weren’t always in the stands cheering me on. Usually, they dropped me off, picked me up, and that was that. Typical 80’s kid doing her own thing. Their work schedules often conflicted with extracurricular activities and there were two other younger kids at home. Later it would become three.

During practice I tried to keep up, watching the others with envy as their basketballs obeyed and bounced back to their fingertips for another forceful tap. I spent most of my time chasing my basketball. If a coach intercepted it and passed it back to me, I moved out of the way so it wouldn’t hit me in the head. I like to think I have a metal plate in my head that attracts moving objects. It’s still there and it still works. I was never good at catching.

My dad watched some games, but I rarely played. I learned that you have to be good to play, otherwise you sit and wait for the team to win. Or lose. Sometimes I’d go in and it seemed that just as I got warmed up, a buzzer went off or a whistle blew and there was a switcharoo. Back to the bench. Cheer the team from there.

The following year, the sign up form went home again. I looked at it, but I knew better. I wouldn’t bother. We didn’t have a smooth driveway with a basketball goal for me to practice. I didn’t get any better. I wanted to play because my friend played, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as they did. I preferred to spend my time in different ways. After all, if I was going to sit on a bench, I’d rather sit there reading a book, not wishing to dribble basketball.

10 thoughts on “Bench Warmer

  1. Looking back on the formative pieces often can yield some insights. I appreciate the slice and the connection to the person you became.


    1. Thanks, Amy. I was okay with not ever pursing other team sports. It’s just not my thing. They’re great and help kids develop great skills, but I found other ways to learn them. I was better suited for academic competitions.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved how you mentioned your parents could not always attend (same here) and compare that to today’s helicopter parents. And I enjoyed your twist in bench warming. 🙂


    1. My parents were always (still are) supportive of my activities, they just couldn’t always be there. I’ve been known to take a book to “watch” a baseball game with my husband.


  3. I feel like I could have written this slice! I also attempted to play basketball in third grade because my friend signed up. Although I enjoyed watching basketball… I was terrible at playing it! Looking back now… the girls who were on my team went on to play high school and college level basketball, LOL! I especially connected with your last line, “After all, if I was going to sit on a bench, I’d rather sit there reading a book, not wishing to dribble basketball.” Yes!


    1. Hi Krista. Basketball is pretty much the only sport I understand, oddly enough. In high school, I was the videographer (sounds much fancier than it was) for the girl’s basketball team. The coaches asked me to do it and I jumped at the chance. Growing up in a small town, it gave me permission to attend the games and hang out with my friends. They played, and after their games were over, we all cheered on the boy’s team. Win-win.


      1. So fun! I was part of video productions in high school. Although, I did not film every basketball game, I did get to film a basketball game or two for CNET our local broadcasting network. It’s fun to see so many similarities!


  4. I love your last line: “After all, if I was going to sit on a bench, I’d rather sit there reading a book, not wishing to dribble basketball.” That feels like a sentiment a lot of us bench warmers can get behind! I also loved your description of the hands-off parents of the ’80s–I grew up in that era, too, and it really resonated with me.


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