Dora Guo

Why did I play tennis in high school? Maybe to meet some friends, stay in shape, who knows. Had I ever really played before? No. Did I legitimately think that my first opponent made a mistake when going from “love” to “15” after the first point? Yes. Had I failed the “test” to make at least 10 out of 20 serves? Yes. Did I cheat and say I made a couple extra serves and STILL fail? Also yes. However, against all odds, whether it be luck or the confusing skill that comes from blind confidence, a young ninth-grader Georgia made it through try-outs and onto the JV high school tennis team. Alas, little to no tennis was played. Luck can only take a girl so far. When it came to actually playing for the team, some skill was required, and I, well. I lacked that skill. In change, my days off the court provided me some ever-valuable wisdom. Benchwarming is not simply a role, it is a feeling, a mindset, a state of being might I add. Each year, benchwarming morphs into an entirely new experience. Allow me to enlighten you NARPs on the timeline of a benchwarmer; our journey might not be as simple as you think.

Ninth-Grade:

You made the team! So what if you don’t play! You’re on the team! You have THREE other years to play, no need to rush it now! Michael Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team! You didn’t get cut from your high school tennis team! You’re already ahead of Michael Jordan! You deserve the team brownies! Benchwarming rocks! You lead the chants! You! Looooove! School! Spirit!

Sophomore Year:

Alriiiight… You did a year of benchwarming, and now you’re ready to play. You’re itching to get out there but not tooooo eager just yet. You’re still an underclassmen after all. Your Benchwarmer Stockholm Syndrome starts developing this year. You convince yourself that the bench is the most important part of the team. When the coach at the end of the game says that the bench really kept up the spirit and the cheering and that contributed to the win, you actually believe them. You are 100 percent certain that by merely lounging around, alternating between trips to the bathroom and sitting on the bench, you are contributing to the success of your teammates who are, oh you know, actually playing tennis.

Junior Year:

You are sick of this shit. You don’t even like the team. That freshman who gets to play before you isn’t even that good. Also, you have homework. Also, your teammates annoy you. Also, it’s cold just sitting on the bench, and you think you’re getting some sort of sickness. You have decided that the coach has a vendetta against you, and your lack of playing time has absolutely nothing to do with your lack of skill. You will — in excruciating depth — describe the coach’s vendetta against you to the small freshman sitting on the bench next you, who is both afraid and significantly better than you at tennis.

Senior Year:

I quit. Come on Georgia, have some pride. I’m here for commitment and all, but this high school tennis team really is not worth it.

Sure, benchwarming and really giving it a solid try is great and admirable, but nothing feels better than quitting something that truly sucks. And you know what truly sucks? Sitting on a bench in the team sweater while the rest of your friends break a sweat.

Fortunately, both my tennis and high school careers are behind me. The trials and perils of benchwarming are in my past and freer future lies ahead. But, to all the benchwarmers out there: Hey! Keep your head up! If you are actually good you will eventually get on that court. If you don’t play, it is just because the coach hates you. (Also maybe you should find another sport.) There is pride and there is glory sitting on that classic-steel-sports-field-sideline bench. Us benchwarmers are the unsung heroes, the secret weapon that sneaks in when a starter rolls an ankle. But also, no shame in throwing in the towel. You probably have homework to do or something.

Georgia Bynum | georgia.bynum@yale.edu