It's easy for me to make the joke that I conned my way onto this team with my stunning good looks and charming personality, but honestly the fact that my sideline tenacity piqued their interest told me that BENT had their priorities aligned with mine. This team cares about their mentality, positivity, commitment, and cooperation. So they offered me a practice player spot.
And I took it! Because I care about improving my game and what was required of me during practice was motivation enough. Despite that playing in tournaments was out of the question, I felt compelled to blend in seamlessly—this highly competitive team took a chance on me and I was determined not to drag them down, I did not want to stand out. I would work hard to stay level with them and maybe even help them elevate their play. I would learn all the plays, calls, marking schema, even though I wouldn’t use them in a single game.
Explaining to friends and family that I was not actually on BENT but I was sort of kind of on BENT and yes I was still very busy every weekend tended to give me pause. At first I felt a little ashamed, eventually I felt proud, and here at the end I am beyond thrilled. It turns out practicing with the team was the best thing for me at this time in my ultimate life.
Entering your first club season with a Nationals-level team can be intimidating. I watched fellow rookies stress over playing time and performance. I was struggling with my own doubt, so I identified with and did not envy their elite jitters. I was mostly relieved of that, needing only to keep my head straight in the privacy of our garbage island practices — an upside of simply practicing that I had not previously considered.
I saw no tournament grass, but went through every other motion and benefited immensely. I felt more mentally engaged in the sport than ever before, which was thrilling. I swam with the big fish and gained a better understanding of elite level intricacies and physical expectations that I may not have otherwise been exposed to this season. I'm so grateful for that.
My portion of the season is over, but luckily I'm sending off 25 dear friends to Frisco. Post injury, I feel like I wormed my way into a better situation than I could have possibly imagined, and that was no doubt due to the endless support I received from my teammates, who never treated me any differently despite whatever my role was, or however I was feeling about it.
Practice players throw a wrench into the already complex mechanism of "team mentality." I'll bet a lot of teams and individuals struggle with the concept—BENT had never had any before. But if you can swallow your pride and focus on being your best self, there's a lot to be gained. I'm so glad BENT took a chance on me and that I took a chance on them. I feel incredibly lucky.
Love you BENT.
- Julia Longinotti