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A perfect set. 1, 2, jump! SLAM! The volleyball whizzes straight into the ground with a loud hit. The opponent team sprawls onto the floor in a missed attempt. The buzz sounds, the winning point is scored, and the game is over. I would like to say that the person being cheered on and patted on the back is me…but then I would just be kidding myself. Sadly, I’m the girl sitting down without a single sweat drop gliding down her face. Sadly, I’m the girl people so rudely refer to as, “The Benchwarmer.”
I love volleyball. Ever since 7th grade, when it was first offered to us, I played. I was good enough to get on the team; in fact I was so good I was a starting player – the main back row receiver. Yet when we all reached high school, there seemed to be a steady improvement in the other players, but I just flat-lined. The nets got higher, the hits became harder – I realized I was no longer playing middle school level - this was high school. Throughout my 9th, 10th, and 11th, grade my coaches put me in less and less and eventually stopped putting me in at all.
Those games were some of the most frustrating moments of my life. I couldn’t even focus on the games because I was so angry. What was I doing wrong? I went to intense volleyball camps during my summers, I came to practice everyday, and I gave it all that I got. I was good at everything I put my mind and heart into. I got the A’s that I studied hard for, I learned the piano songs I practiced dutifully, then why was I not getting the volleyball positions I worked for?!
By the time it was senior year I was discouraged, I didn’t even go to volleyball camp that summer. I gave it all I had during tryouts and once again I had the ephemeral joy of seeing my name on the list. It was my senior year; maybe my coach was going to put me in this year. But the same old story happened and I was once again the benchwarmer. By the 6th game, I was still the only player who had not even put a single foot onto the court. I sat with my teammate and close friend on the bus after winning a game.
“Why so depressed, Lorraine? We just won!”
“No, you just won, I just watched.”
I didn’t even feel like I was part of the team. I was just another bystander, another tool for the coach to use as a degrading line judge. Well you know what! I didn’t want to be a line judge, I wanted to contribute to the game! I burst into tears, I couldn’t take it anymore. It was my senior year, why couldn’t he cut me some slack? Did he not remember I was there?
“Lorraine, you are so important, we wouldn’t have half the spirit we have if you didn’t keep cheering us on,” she said, attempting to cheer me up.
“That’s stupid. My cheering has no effect on you guys.”
“Yes it does Lorraine. By the 3rd or 4th match we’re all so tired. It’s nice to hear you cheering us on from the sideline. And besides I don’t do that much anyway either.”
“Of course you do! You’re the main back row receiver.”
“Yea, but I never get the ball, and then I get subbed with a hitter when I get to the front.”
I thought about it. It was actually true. She technically rotated only two spots and then was out again. Besides the two captains, every one subbed out. After that talk with her I made a resolution to stop being a whining baby and be positive. I actually began to have some fun afterwards. I realized that I was seeing a whole other side of the game no other player got to see. I saw the whole spectrum and I was more than a bystander: when on the chairs I got to hear commentary about the game from my coach, when being a line judge I got to see the game up and close.
She made me remember the most important aspect of volleyball – teamwork. The whole time I was upset thinking, “I’m just as good, why doesn’t he put me in? I want to show everyone how good I am” I wasn’t thinking I want to help the team win.
One game I was doing the usual line judging when coach called me over. He made motions with his hands to tell me to hurry. What was going on? The game was still going on I had stay in my position as line judge. I quickly ran over. “Go, go!” he said. What was he saying?
“Ten, you’re in. TEN!” the referee was shouting. Confused I looked to the court, the center back position was empty, and my teammates were waiting. And then it all hit me: realization, adrenaline, speed all came rushing into my head. I was in the game! I was in! I proudly crossed over onto the court and gave it all I got, and guess what: We, not I, won the game.
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