It’s the beginning of lacrosse season and one of my favorite times of the year. I’m grateful to be busy as a photographer and am constantly reminded just how organically this career path came to be. As weird as it sounds, it all started with my kids and my husband… as does much of what is right in my life.
E started playing lacrosse in the fall of his 8th grade year. He had decided not to play his final season of association football and had opted instead to play lacrosse. We knew nothing about the sport at that point, so we figured this was just his way of choosing to “do his own thing”. We supported him, but I made the decision to remain with his former football team as their team mom and equipment coach since I had already committed to them for the fall. Truth be told, I could have quit that job if I’d wanted to do so, but really loved being on the sidelines and helping the team. I also felt it was important to show the boys that one doesn’t just quit something if you’ve made a commitment. I pulled back a bit from football, but still did all the typical organizational stuff that I so loved. That fall was a bit more chaotic than usual, since we were attending all E’s lax games AND I was going to all the association football games. D was a sophomore in HS and in the marching band, so his activities didn’t really conflict with all that was going on for E and me.
It turned out that E was a natural on the lacrosse field. We had parents who asked us where he’d been playing before… that surely this kid hadn’t just picked up a stick and figured out how to play in just a few short weeks of rec ball. When he asked about trying out for the Middle School travel team, we encouraged him again but were sure he’d be passed over for those who had been playing for longer… instead, he was selected and became a stronger player as this second season went along. He still was in his very first full year of playing lacrosse, but it was obviously becoming his passion. We jumped in with both feet and began to learn the rules, help behind the scenes, and do whatever we could to help him improve his skill sets.
He tried out for our local travel lacrosse team when he was in 9th grade and, not surprisingly now, made the team. Schedules were adjusted to accommodate this expensive hobby and both M and I learned where our own skills would be most helpful to the program. I found that I loved watching the action of a lacrosse game but I missed being on the sidelines. Having spent four years on the sidelines for football (M called me a “bench Nazi”) it was increasingly difficult to pay attention to the game itself when parents kept shouting their “helpful words of encouragement” to/at their children. I wanted to get away from them and do something productive… and then I found a camera…
One of the dads had a Nikon D40X. It was simple… clean… workable… and I wanted one. My darling husband found one for me for my birthday in 2008 and the rest, as they say, is history. I fell in love with the idea of capturing the feeling of a game through photographs. I asked questions… talked with professionals… experimented with different settings… read countless articles and books… and slowly got better. I never stop learning about photography but I’m significantly better than when I started.
Around this time, a website that M helps to moderate (gomids.com) made mention that they were looking for someone who’d be willing to be their photographer during the fall Navy football season. My darling hubby sent me a text asking if I was “interested”…. and I almost fell over trying to quickly text my emphatic YES! back to him before he could rescind the offer. Thankfully, they let me start in the fall of 2008…. and what an incredible journey that has been, but I’ll have to touch on that later. Still trying to focus on explaining how organically my sports photographer career came to be…
E was still playing club travel lacrosse at this point. He attended a lacrosse Showcase in the fall of 2008 that really drove home the point to him that his skills really were competitive with many higher level players… he stripped the ball from some kid in one of his first shifts on defense that had parents around us gasping and applauding his talent. I was taking photos of him as often as I could and it got to be a joke that he was “levitating” down the field when he played, since I seemed to catch him in the air more often than not. I kept asking questions and learned how to take better pictures as we continued to follow E’s lacrosse career.
By this time, I had been given many photo opportunities since getting that Nikon for my birthday and, after fighting and questioning my own abilities, had finally started to call myself a “Sports Photographer”. I’d earned that title… by now I had been on the sidelines of Navy football for two seasons, I had photographed lacrosse for three seasons, including summer travel games, I had shot volleyball photos for two years and covered the event when E’s HS team went and WON the State Championship, and I’d “taken one for the team” and gotten run over by a referee during a lax game, giving me a black eye for a few weeks. Note: you can see the faint purple mark under my eye in this photo, two weeks after I got the black eye. I was also cautiously photographing D’s college lacrosse games and learning how to share them with the team via Facebook. It was time to say I was a Sports Photographer.
Eventually, it came time for E to graduate HS. E was selected for the Richmond area’s US Lacrosse All-Star game and I was bound and determined to photograph this accomplishment. When we got to the event, being held at a nearby college, I introduced myself to the US Lacrosse president and asked if I could shoot the game. I gave her a brief overview of my abilities and promised to stay out of the ref’s way… no need to get plowed over by another one, right? I walked away to rejoin my family, happy they were going to allow me this small concession.
Here is the cool part of the whole thing for me. A little while later, this same woman came up to me and asked if I would consider being their “official photographer” for the game… photograph the remainder of the girls game, all the awards presentations, and then photograph the boys game and awards… that their Official Photographer hadn’t shown up to cover the event. O M G…. how often does something like this literally fall into someone’s lap? She then asked me about my event charge and my website address…. I quickly collected myself and asked if I could email that information to her after the game…. I had NOTHING at this point! Wow… talk about organic? I looked at M and said “I need to figure out how much to charge for an event and I need a website ASAP.” FYI: My website address is www.alisportshots.com.
That was in May of 2010… I’ve since been the photographer for Swim Championships, College lacrosse games, Milestone Family events, Senior Nights for volleyball teams, and of course, Navy Football (and lacrosse) for GoMids.com. It’s been a whirlwind journey for me. Each time on the sidelines is truly a gift and I am constantly reminded how much I truly adore this job. I’m blessed to have an eye for sports action and consider each event I photograph to be the most singularly important thing I do at that very moment. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished in such a short time and am grateful that God has seen me worthy of these blessings. It truly is magical to do what I get to do…