The Joys of Sitting the Bench by Eat Schmidt

Having to sit the bench is probably one of the hardest things to do in any sport, but I find it especially hard to do in roller derby.  Watching your close friends and teammates give 110% out on the track, getting banged up in the process can be hard to watch, especially if you aren’t out there yourself.  Being a newer skater to the team, naturally I get the privilege of sitting the bench during the bouts.  Sitting the bench is the inevitable rite of passage that everyone has to go through when starting out as a skater.  Right now it is my turn to take that seat.  Naturally, like any other competitive person, I want to be out there in the action, not warming a seat on the bench.  When sitting the bench, I realized I had two options, A: Pout, be sad, and frustrated or B: Have fun, enjoy myself, and be as much of a team player as possible.
Since I started playing roller derby, I have gotten to spend my fair share of time on the bench.  At first, I felt more comfortable sitting the bench.  At this point, I was still unsure of what I was doing and WAY too out of shape to stay in very long.  Looking back, I could barely make it through one jam without having to sit out for 5 minutes to recuperate, not to mention I understood less than 10% of the rules.  As I have progressed and grown as a skater I have started to develop this intense hunger and passion for skating and being out on the track. As you would expect of someone with this craving, I have tried to develop strategies to get into the game and believe me, I have tried just about everything I can think of.  I have spent a lot of time trying to use “the force”, puppy dog eyes, sad faces, angry stares, and my own will power to get a chance to play the game, but sadly those normally don’t work and I continue to sit on the bench.  (P.S. if you know any secret ways of mind bending or strategies to get off the bench, feel free to let me know)
This last weekend, I got the pleasure to travel with the Dames to Des Moines to play some roller derby.  I ended up spending the whole time sitting the bench along with some of the other newer skaters. The game started out slow, but within a few jams, it was full of intense, emotionally charged jams.  Everyone in the crowd and the players were on edge as each team jockeyed for the lead.  While I wasn’t physically out there playing I felt like I was with my muscles tense, holding my breath with each turn trying to will my teammates onward toward victory.   As the other team pulled ahead, I could see the looks of frustration coming from the bench and my teammates on the track.  I decided that from that point on, I was going to try to help others on the bench to focus on the positive.  While I take the game seriously, laughter and humor never hurt anyone, right?  So I proceeded to incorporate some dance parties on the bench, which is rather hard work I might add.  I intermixed these dance parties with some powerful loud cheers for my teammates, that I could only do in short bursts because I started to get light headed and had to stop or risk passing out.  And finally along with others on the team, I tried to encourage my teammates both on the bench and out on the track.  Since smiles and laughter are contagious, by the end of the game, there were smiles throughout the team (which was also because we won), but part of me would like to think it was because of peoples’ change in attitudes.
Those on the bench are just as important to the team as the players out on the track.  Not only is having a strong group of skaters on the bench important, but the attitudes of the players on the bench is also important to the strength of the team.  So the next time you get to sit on the bench, remember it is what you make of it.  You are part of the team, you practice with them, and you help make the team what it is today.  So don’t forget that and remember, have fun.
~Eat Schmidt 

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