Why playing time no longer matters

by Skye Donaldson
Print Content Editor

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The definition of playing time according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “the amount of time that a team member is allowed to play during a game.”

The definition of playing time according to any college athlete is different. It goes a whole lot deeper than that.

Playing time for an athlete is pride, it’s drive, it’s hard work, it’s toughness, it’s a want, and for a few — it is a need. Playing time is a college athlete’s livelihood; it’s what we practice for. We will work harder and battle anyone just for a couple minutes and a chance to represent the colors on our back through a game that we’ve loved since we were little.

College athletes will bleed for playing time, we will kill our bodies day in and day out to compete. We play through pain, fatigue and injury just to make sure that we can secure a spot on game day.

We equate our playing time to our worth to the team. How much we can contribute is how much we mean to the team. In individualistic thought, if we’re not playing, we’re not contributing. And that makes us work harder, that makes us hungrier. But it can also make some of us dangerous, a kind of dangerous that can implode a whole team.

My time with athletics is almost up, and I’ve heard a lot of things said about playing time:

  • “She doesn’t work hard in practice.”

  • “He mouths off at coach and still gets to play.”

  • “She is just a suck up.”

  • “He doesn’t even know the plays.”

  • “He’s a senior, that’s why he plays.”

  • “She’s only good at shooting.”

No matter how true the offhanded comments you hear from those who aren’t seeing the playing field, does playing time actually matter?

Is playing the ultimate goal? Does seeing the floor determine which team wins and which doesn’t?

I was a great all-around player in high school, but in college athletics, the game changes. Kids are bigger, stronger and everyone has the same game IQ as you, if not higher. The competition for spots on the floor gets harder and fiercer. For me, the players who were going to make the plays got to see the floor – which ended up not being me.

I’ve had time to work harder and that time has resulted in me seeing the floor in a little more. But I’ve had time to reflect as well. Being on a team and being a part of a family means a whole lot more than any playing time I could have gained during my collegiate career.

The ultimate goal is not to satisfy the deep pride in showing out for your school, but for your team —your family—to succeed. Playing time doesn’t matter, but making your teammates better does. Preparing your team for any competition they could face matters. Pushing and encouraging your family matters more than playing time ever will.

Now that I begin my last season as a college athlete, it has become clear that we are playing for nothing less than a banner that will hang in our gym. We are on the hunt, and if one of us eats, we all eat.