You made it through tryouts. You made it through fresh meat. You finally made a roster. Now, time for glory, right?
It doesn’t always work that way.
I asked a few captains and coaches just how in the heck you’re supposed to get actual track time in a game.
Effy aka Reffy has coached children and grownups at Rose City. Hellslinger was a bench manager for some team called the Wheels of Justice? Never heard of them. Mona Mour managed the Boston Massacre for 3 seasons and now coaches and manages the Middle Georgia Derby Demons, a newer aspiring WFTDA league. (She’s also a YA author if you like buying books.)
They all gave me this sage advice, and then I edited their responses with the deft hand of someone who has warmed many a bench.
Be a team player.
Effy: Sometimes people end up being benchwarmers. It sucks but it happens. If you’re not being put out for a few jams, don’t take it personally, and definitely don’t become a black hole for the bench. Take that time to give your teammates high fives and tell them what they’re doing well on the track. If you’re one of the skaters being put out in every other jam, make sure you’re taking those high fives and being supportive of your teammates who are sitting. Coaches will definitely notice if you’re being positive and helping keep others out of a funk.
Mona: On the bench, cheer for your teammates. Shake off your foibles. Be agreeable. Smiling helps. And do not do not DO NOT question your manager about your playing time. Asking when you can go in, whining loudly to your benchmate about how long you’ve been sitting, or simply giving puppy dog eyes to your manager is the fastest way to wind up warming the bench for even longer. You are one of 14 skaters on a bench. Your needs are being balanced with everyone else’s, and you may not be able to see the big picture, but trust your manager knows it. That’s her job. If you have a question about playing time, ask about it later … and I don’t mean immediately after the game. Do it at a neutral time without being confrontational about it. Open it up as “what are some things I can do to get more playing time?” instead of “Why aren’t I getting to play?!”
Hells: Don’t take it personally [if you’re not getting time]. Especially at high level gameplay, remember it’s not about you. It’s about your TEAM. Trust in your coaches and your teammates. You are there for the team and to be the best teammate you can be and to win. Sometimes winning means you aren’t on the track at that time, but your team couldn’t have gotten there without you. Be calm and supportive on the bench. Bench presence goes a long way!
Communicate on the track. Talk to your buddies, your jammer, yourself, never stop! Calm communication keeps your teammates calm.
Mona: Skaters racking up penalties get benched. Period. Work on learning the rules and learning how to play within them. If you’re starting to rotate into the box, it’s better to dial back the aggression and play clean than to do things that might (probably) get you sent to the box.
Hells: Box trips will get you benched. Don’t blame penalties on the refs or teammates. Instead, learn from the each game and scrimmage and figure out how to limit your penalties.
Play more than one position & be flexible
Mona: Be a utility player. Skaters who are up for anything get more playing time. Don’t be the “I can’t jam if XYZ is out there” or “I only want to block with that skater and refuse to block with that skater.” If you’re willing to jam, block, pivot, go it alone in an extreme penalty situation, or play with anyone on the team, you’re likely to get more playing time.
Hells: Be able to pivot. If you can relief jam and block you may get more play time. But: a good pivot needs to also be someone who can stay on the track. Passing the star is a strategic move and the pivot doesn’t need to save the day. They do need to be smart and aware of their own jammers.
All blockers should be flexible on the track. Be able to play anywhere in your walls. The more flexibility you have on the track and in your walls the better you’ll be with anyone on the track. This will make you a better and more well-rounded player. Be able to work with any one of your teammates on the track. The more people on your team you can work with on the track the better. If you can be put in any line, the better odds you have of being put on a roster and being put on the track.
Make eye contact.
Effy: Make eye contact. Don’t be a creep and stare at me the whole time, but when I’m looking at my options of people to put in the next line up, looking at your coach, letting them know that you’re aware of what’s going on and that you’re ready is incredibly important.
THANK YOU Effy, Mona, and Hells. You are a credit to your sport.
Whaddaya think? How have you gotten more playing time for your team? What questions and frustrations do you have about being benched?