On the bench

In the opening game of the boys basketball season, SHS faced off against rival Perry Meridian. In the final seconds of the game, the score was tied at 43, until senior Brian Miller grabbed a loose ball near the right wing and pulled up for a deep two-point shot as time ran out. Basket good: Cardinals win. Senior player Antwuan Payne launched off the bench with his teammates in close pursuit to swarm Miller.  Despite playing only two minutes and 36 seconds during the game, Payne was among the first to rush to Miller and celebrate.

This would foreshadow much of Payne’s season as he only averaged less than two minutes of playing time per game throughout his senior year. With this, came frustration.

“Some of the frustrations (are) not really being able to be out on the floor as much in order to show college coaches what I can do,” Payne said.  

So, why do players, like Payne, stay committed to their team, knowing that they won’t receive much varsity playing time?

Payne has been playing basketball and football all his life, but like others at SHS, he hasn’t received consistent varsity time for sports in high school. While some would consider quitting in this situation, he has stayed committed to his coaches and teammates. He believes sports keep him out of trouble and says he has never had doubts or considered quitting either sport because of playing time as he feels God has a plan for him.  

“With him and everything else, I could… be the best that I could be,” Payne said.

Another senior football player, Josh Lane, has been playing wide receiver for the high school team all four years, but he also hasn’t received much varsity time. According to Lane, while this is upsetting, he understands he has had a lot to prove, and he couldn’t quite cut it. However, he hasn’t stopped playing or working hard and will pursue a collegiate football career.

“I’m not going to dwell on it,” Lane said. “I’m going to use it as motivation for the future.”

According to Lane, he and other non-starters still have a role on the team. Football is a physically-demanding sport, and injuries are not uncommon. Lane and other teammates have to stay ready on the sideline because if any starters get injured, the substitutes have to get in the game and prove themselves.

“All it takes is one injury, and you’ll be in the lineup,” Lane said.

According to head football coach Brandon Winters, seniors like Lane are the ones that help the starters to be as good as they are. The players that aren’t starting varsity on the football team learn how to run other schools’ offense and defense throughout the week at practice.

Then, the starting varsity team plays against these practice squads, which helps them prepare for a specific opponent that week.

“They support each other,” Winters said. “They make each other better.”

Like Payne and Lane, senior Sophia Shook has been a part of her sport since before high school but didn’t receive the varsity playing time that most players desire. According to Shook, while she might feel a little embarrassed at times, it doesn’t matter that much to her. She has been playing with her teammates for years, and she says it would be selfish for her to quit on them just because of playing time. Shook claims it doesn’t matter if she’s on varsity or junior varsity because she still works as hard as she can.

“If I’m still having fun, and if I’m still enjoying my sport, I’m going to do whatever I want,” Shook said.