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The art of being a benchwarmer



Four tips for being the best reserve player, from a guy who spent five years on the bench.

The NBA Finals are over and the FIFA World Cup has just begun. For sports fans, it's the closest thing to heaven. 

But while others are fawning over Mohamed Salah bursting past defenders or Lebron dunking on his thousandth victim or, I sympathise more with the ones whose names no one seems to recognise – the benchwarmers (also known as the reserve players).

I was never a standout footballer in secondary school, though I represented my school in C and B Division football. Sure, I wanted to be like the stars from AS Roma. But just like my idols, I usually lost my position on the pitch unceremoniously to better players when push came to shove.

Matching gear? Check. Sports glasses? Check. Someone tell me why I (centre in spectacles) was only a bench warmer?

Over the years, I accepted my place on the bench and mastered it. As such, here are some of my tips to becoming a world-class benchwarmer

1. Act like you've worked out after the warm up 

Psychological intimidation wins half the battle, even before the game has begun.

Light jogging? Sweat and pant. Quick shootaround? Adjust your headband and wick imaginary sweat off your forehead. Light stretching? Grunt loudly.

Watch as the opponents think: "Oh god, if even the benchwarmers are working up a sweat in warm up, surely this team is disciplined."

2. Be ready to hand out water and snacks for the starters

The duty of substitutes. 

These are the three facts of life: death, taxes, and benchwarmers being part-time waterboys. Beyond handling out water bottles, a good benchwarmer must be prepared to lend the starters your shin pads, socks, and even your jersey should theirs tear. Yes, it happens.

You may be half naked, but don't worry. You're half naked with dignity, knowing your contributions to the team may result in a victory.

3. Hype up the stars on the team

The Golden State Warriors' bench go nuts whenever Kevin Durant drills a three pointer, or when Steph Curry annoyingly drains another impossible shot from near the half court line.

When your team scores, swing your towels, do a little dance, and high five that player. It really helps with chemistry!

I was not afraid to shout out praise even when other benchwarmers on my old soccer team called it a little weird. And I still believe that their lack of support is why our team lost four goals to none against Victoria Secondary at Jalan Besar Stadium.

If you hype up your team the way these pros do, I'm pretty sure your team will play a hundred times better.

4. Be prepared for your moment to shine

Possibly the toughest part, but miracles do happen and sometimes the coach actually puts you in the game. Put down that swinging towel and show everyone your game face. Go out there and ball out with confidence!

This is every bench player's worst nightmare – finally getting your moment to shine but not being prepared for it.  

And don't worry if you guys lose anyway. After all, the star player will be the one catching most of the flak. 

Being a benchwarmer is often unglamorous. But if you work hard enough and show a good attitude on the bench, you may yet work your way up to the first team. 

Or you could end up like me – after years of languishing on the bench, I finally found my success…in a different field. 

Sprinting around the field after being subbed in to a football match made me realise I'm better at
running than kicking, and eventually led me 
(first from left) to success in the hundred-meter sprint.