Beatitudes of my life

Being grateful for everything in my life…. no matter what…

An Open Letter to the new Principal at Midlothian HS July 1, 2012

Filed under: Communication,Lacrosse,Photography,Sports — beatitudesofmylife @ 11:26 am

I know this seems like a strange thing to blog about, especially given the overall theme of my other posts, but this letter is meant to lend my support and my appreciation to this person who is new to the landscape of lacrosse in Chesterfield County.  This person is walking into a difficult position, but is willing to consider the possibility of fully sanctioned Virginia High School League (VHSL) lacrosse programs for boys and girls at his new high school.  Considering that lacrosse is the fastest growing sport in the country, I believe that our kids are seriously behind the 8-ball by *not* offering this sport across the board.

It’s astounding to me that we’ve had kids who have felt the need to leave their home public high schools; however qualified those schools may be, to attend private schools that might give them the opportunity to play their favorite sport at the collegiate level.  AC, a teammate of my younger son, transferred to St. Anne’s-Belfield in Charlottesville, and was subsequently recruited by several Division I programs,  eventually settling on Georgetown University.  CC, another former teammate, has recently transferred to a local private school with designs of being seen as a serious recruit to also play at the Division I level in college.  These kids shouldn’t have to leave their friends and transfer to a private school when the academic caliber of our public HS’s is so high.  Offering lacrosse as a VHSL sanctioned sport in a second HS in Chesterfield could only do GOOD for our community.  As much as people want to tout football as the only sport people will come out to watch on a Friday night, the Freeman program was able to bring a huge number of people to the stands when they held a lacrosse doubleheader (boys game followed a girls game, I believe) on a Friday night this spring.  That’s the sort of thing that creates school unity, team bonding, and a positive community feeling… right?

My son, E, was lucky… we spent a great deal of time and effort in his recruitment effort, but the question we kept hearing was, “why isn’t he playing for his HS team”.  To have to then detail the lack of available programs in our area was almost embarrassing.  People were simply stunned that lacrosse was not available as a varsity sport in Richmond, Virginia.  HS’s in neighboring counties were adding lacrosse, or had programs in the pipeline, but we were continually told that our AD’s and principals were strongly against adding lacrosse to their athletic roster.   E’s saving grace was a combination of his skill in the classroom (33 on his ACT) and his talent on the field.  He played for a travel club lacrosse team (Richmond Shock) throughout the year, all through his high school career, and ended up signing an academic letter of intent (he was given no athletic funds as he was awarded a full-tuition academic scholarship) to a Division II school.  E subsequently realized that he needed a more academic focus and transferred to UVA last year, where he played on the UVA men’s club lacrosse team and is now one of their club officers.  He also believes in giving back and is spending his summer working lacrosse camps and helping to coach the Richmond Shock HS-A team during tournaments.  Lacrosse is a huge part of his life.

As I’ve written before, my older son, D, had a rockier introduction to lacrosse. The only option for him to play lacrosse came through the now defunct Swift Creek Lacrosse Program.  He played during his last two years of HS and rarely had an adult coach who could help him learn the sport.  Even so, when his college decision came down to being a member of the band or a varsity athlete, he chose the school that would allow him to be an athlete.  D played varsity lacrosse at Hood College (Frederick, MD) for four years and, after graduating with a degree in chemistry, has decided to go back to school to become a Certified Athletic Trainer.  He loves the sport of lacrosse.  He now joins his brother in the ranks of coaching lacrosse, helping conduct weekly camps and also as an assistant coach for the Richmond Shock HS-B team.

As for my own participation with lacrosse, I have been associated with the board of Richmond Shock lacrosse since 2005.  I was Coach Barnard’s team manager for two years and became their Athletic Director/Scheduler shortly after Coach left to start the Midlothian program.  I became a free-lance sports photographer in 2009 and have been on the sidelines to shoot Navy Football (for GoMids.com), RMAL swim championships (for the past three years), and have been requested to shoot a number of area HS events and local championship/senior nights as well as the Richmond Chapter of US Lacrosse’s annual HS All-Star game.   I don’t take this sport or its future in our community lightly.  I have worked diligently to support those who envision a day where HS Lacrosse is the expectation and *not* the exception.

As you come into this new job as Principal of Midlothian HS, I’m sure you are wondering if adding lacrosse can really be that important to your new community.  It is my opinion that you would be remiss in dismissing this program without serious consideration.  At Coach Barnard’s request, Weaver Athletic Association sponsored the Midlothian LC for the past four years.  They’ve worked within a budget, purchased any needed equipment, and procured any and all field space on which Midlothian LC played.  They’ve allowed Coach Barnard and Assistant Coach Jason Trueblood to create a program of which you will be proud.  He approaches the program with the dedication of a college coach and works hard to instill the necessary values in his players that will carry them through to the next level.  He is, in essence, handing you a program that is completely formed and thoroughly planned.  To allow this opportunity to pass you by would be a sad commentary on the future, both for our children and for the great sport of lacrosse.

Lacrosse is growing… and Chesterfield county schools need to join the ranks or be trampled by them.

With all my best wishes as you begin this new chapter of Midlothian High School,

Alison Althouse

Freelance Sports Photographer (AliSportShots.com)

Richmond Shock AD

 

The worst thing about sports can sometimes be the parents… April 1, 2012

Filed under: Blessings,Lacrosse,Parenting,Photography,Sports — beatitudesofmylife @ 6:58 pm

I just came back from a weekend of varying degrees of lacrosse.  It was all “college level” but I’m convinced, more than ever, that the worst thing about sports, and enjoying sporting events, can sometimes be the parents.  I’m all for following your child’s athletic endeavors… cheering their team on to victory… commiserating when referees and officials make calls you deem questionable… but that’s about the ONLY place where I agree.  Our job, as parents, is NOT to coach our children, if we are not the coach.  We are to be supportive… nothing more and nothing less.

Friday night, we were on hand for two club lacrosse games.  The first game was pretty tame… parents complained about calls that were either made or missed, depending on their point of view.  I was spared much of what was said… I’ve learned to plug in a single ear bud and listen to some “head banging tunes” while attempting to shoot the game from a photographer’s point of view.

That being said, the second game was a huge challenge for me.  I had my music going…  Drowning Pool “Bodies”, DMX “Where the Hood at” and “Ruff Ryders Anthem”, along with Fort Minor “Remember the Name”, Kings of Crunk “Get Low”, and Steve Aoki/Laidback Luke “Turbulence” were all shuffling through my playlist.  We were playing a traditionally rough team, but I was unprepared for a MOM to yell “make him sorry” when our goalie left his net to bring the ball into play.  A mom?  Really?  The rest of the game was equally frustrating.  Our parents were primarily cheering generic and positively focused themes of Poke check!… Get the Ball!… Go Hoos!, while the opponent’s fans had reached down and came up with “Hit Him!… Crush Him!… Get Him!  Thankfully, this was a blissfully short game.  Two running halves with the entire game completed in an hour.  I don’t think I could have taken much more that evening.

Sadly, I was in store for much worse the following day. The game I was shooting Saturday was a conference lacrosse game that was not expected to be a win for us.  We were hopeful for a “good game” against a historically tough opponent but I was truly unprepared for how bad things got over the course of the game.  The boys were putting forth, in my opinion, a valiant effort against a team that had blown them out in the past.  To be within a handful of goals by halftime was amazing and I was proud of the work done these young men.

What was most upsetting was when one of our parents decided to personally heckle and single out a player on the other team.  Seeing him sink to this level, in a college game, made me embarrassed to be on the same team.  Clearly, no one had ever stood up to him while his son was in HS to explain that this sort of behavior was neither productive nor helpful.

Youth and college sports are terrific places for our children to learn life lessons… what to do… what NOT to do… how to portray yourself in public… how to make your point without turning into a bully or using inference to try and turn others to your twisted version of reality.   Our children are watching us… they are watching to see how we handle situations and they will mimic what they see, especially if it’s shown to be an acceptable behavior.  If we yell at the ref, scream at players on the other team, or whine when we don’t get our way, doesn’t it stand to reason that our children will repeat this behavior and become our own worst nightmares?

Two weeks ago, I was unhappily invited into one such situation within our High School/youth program.  A disgruntled parent decided to voice their opinion to the coach…something perfectly acceptable within the confines of a private conversation.  The problem came when this parent decided to voice their displeasure to the entire team, coaches, and myself (the athletic director) while insinuating that they were not the only disappointed family within the program.   ” I know I am not the only parent concerned just the parent willing to express my concerns”.  After saying that they “respected what we are trying to do”,  the parent went on to complain that their team was being “set up for failure” and that they “do not have any chemistry as our opposition has pointed out”.   If a parent wants to voice this concern to a coach, I support that right.  When that same parent decides to call an entire program into question by complaining in a blanket email, I take great exception.  I was LIVID…

Over the next few days, there were some terrific messages that were sent out to the entire team… defending the coach, our program, our schedule, and our kids.  No one called this parent out for their message but everyone who took the time to respond did so by sharing the way they try to raise their kids.  Praise in public… reprove in private.  Wasn’t this part of what we were supposed to learn as kids…. so we could teach the same thing to our own kids when we became the adults?

I was blessed to have been placed in a humbling situation just after I got married.  We were watching a HS football game in Michigan and the kicker was having a hard time getting the ball off before being tackled by the other team.  I was feeling “above it all”, since we didn’t know anyone on the team, and thought it was a good idea to yell that they should replace the kicker… get some kid who could get the ball off… when a parent on the team told me to “shut up… he’s doing the best he can”.  Wow.. such a small comment but it had a huge impact on me.  I sat back, embarrassed for having been yelled at in public like a little kid, but I got it.  The kicker was doing the best he could… and if I couldn’t cheer positively, I wasn’t welcome to cheer at all.   After 24 years, the sting of realizing that I was being a verbal bully, even if that kicker couldn’t hear me, still remains in my head and colors how I see things today.

As parents, we have the ability to make their kids into sportsmen (and women) or into bullies.  As parents, we have influence over their kids that can help build or break a program.   As parents, we should all THINK BEFORE WE SPEAK/WRITE and ask ourselves…. is this message helpful or hurtful… am I acting in the best interest of my child… would my child be embarrassed if they knew what I had said/written?

Let’s all do our part to raise the game, whatever the game may be, to a higher standard than is currently in vogue.  Let’s teach our children how to be positive… responsible… respectable.  Free speech isn’t always free…. sometimes there’s a tremendous cost in how it affects our community.  Think, people, before you cheer.   Let’s teach our kids to build one anotherup instead of tearing each other down…

 

I love comments March 29, 2012

Filed under: Blessings,Blogs,Communication,Football,Lacrosse,Photography,Sports — beatitudesofmylife @ 8:03 pm

I shouldn’t open myself up on this topic, but I really do love comments… on my blog, on my photography, on activities… it just makes me smile. It probably shouldn’t matter to me whether anyone reads or sees my photos, but it honestly does.  My goal, when I shoot a sporting event, is to cover the game in photos as if I were writing the game with words.  I know I take too many pictures, but it makes me happy.

Case in point:  Tonight, I posted over 500 pictures of a lacrosse game from Tuesday (3/27) and the most vivid comment I got was from a Hood senior who posted the following on my wall:  “those pictures are AMAZING!!! Your pictures captured what happened better then my own memory!”  Wow…. those words had such a positive impact on what I do.  This young man felt compelled to get a message to me regarding how he enjoyed my photos.  What a wonderful endorsement he offered me for my business.

Knowing that people are checking my website (or even my business Facebook page) to see what I captured with my camera pushes me to do my very best every single time.  I know there are parents who live too far away to attend games.  I like to think that I’m providing pictures for these people… so they have the opportunity to “see” a game, even if they can’t be there in person.  If my child were on that field, playing a sport he loves, and I couldn’t be there in person, I would certainly be grateful for any documentation of that accomplishment.   Our kids are young and athletically active for such a short time in their lives that I feel it’s my honor and privilege to capture these endeavors in whatever way I can.  Having people react in a positive way to the photos I take, and send/post comments along the way, just makes it even better.

If you have a moment and can post a comment for me to read, I would be grateful for the feedback.  While my blog is really my own way of getting those random thoughts out of my head, I appreciate any time taken to read these missives.

Oh, and if you have some time to flip through a few photos, please feel free to visit my website:  http://www.alisportshots.com.  I post thousands of pictures of sporting events for High School, College, and Adult leagues.  It’s my passion and my joy… thanks for letting me share both my photography and my thoughts with you, dear reader.  YOU are very much appreciated!

 

I’m a Yellow Lab March 22, 2012

Filed under: Blessings,Parenting,Pets,Photography — beatitudesofmylife @ 7:37 pm
Tags: , , , ,

As weird as it may sound, I’ve been told that I have the personality of a yellow lab puppy and I’m OK with it.  Seriously.  I think it’s a huge compliment that my husband, and a few select friends who understand the analogy, feel that my outlook on life reminds them of a yellow lab.   Happy, ready to play, forgives slights (ok… I’m still working on that one), always seems to look at or for the positive?  Yeah, I’ll take that one.

The first time someone commented on my general outlook on life, I was quick to downplay it.  After all, it’s not “normal” for someone to always look at the positive side of things, is it?  I thought that lots of people looked for the good in others… sought the happy side of things instead of focusing on the negative… but that doesn’t seem to be the case.   It’s easy to see the glass as “half empty” instead of “half full”, but that is definitely not my way of seeing things.  I’ve learned that I actually have to make a concerted effort to see all the negative aspects of a situation instead of making the best of whatever may come my way.   Is that a bad thing?  Is this a character trait or a character flaw?  Why don’t more people automatically lean toward the good in their lives?  Am I really so strange?

I’ll admit that there are times when I actually have to focus my attention on the positive instead of drowning in the negative.  Late at night, when the house is quiet and I’m the only one left awake, my mind starts spinning webs of “bad stuff” that can be pretty negative… dragging me down… keeping me awake and spooked.  It’s only with repeated practice that I can pull myself out of that hole.  I count my blessings… say my prayers… and drag my sorry butt back to the happy side of life.   It’s not always easy, but I much prefer to be happy than sad… to be positive than negative… to be up rather than down.  It’s just in my nature.

This blog has been my way of acknowledging and counting my blessings.  I may look at my life through “rose colored glasses”, but the other option just isn’t palatable to me.   Whining and complaining feel like a slap in the face when I take stock of all that I have in my life.  I have a husband I adore and who makes me strive to be a better person… I have two boys who are happy, healthy, and amazing young men… I am blessed with family and friends who remind me every day that I am loved…  I work with some pretty fabulous and interesting people who I thoroughly enjoy… I really can’t complain about a single thing in my life.   God has blessed me in so many ways… I cannot help but be grateful for every aspect of my life.

It would have been easy to become a whiner when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  My boys were only 3 & 5 years old and I was only 31 years old.  It would have been so easy to complain and gripe, to bitch and moan, but where would that have gotten me?  Would I have infected my sons with my negative attitude and altered who they would become?  I had been blessed with an amazing and supportive husband and family who loved me, no matter what my abilities or limitations.  If these were blessings, couldn’t I also turn this diagnosis into a blessing?

As weird as it may sound, my MS has indeed been a blessing to me.  Because of my MS, I was forced to leave the work force but I was given the gift of time to raise my children and be a stay-at-home mom.  Focusing on what I’m unable to do is unproductive… I choose to see what I am able to do and be grateful for every day.  God made me… and He deserves nothing less than my praise, thanks, and gratitude for THIS life he’s given me.

So, yeah, I’ll be the “Pollyanna” any day.  I’ll look on the bright side…. focus on the positive… see the good in everyone… and plan to take pictures in the rain.  Don’t tell me that being compared to a dog is a bad thing… I’ll always be grateful to have a “happy yellow lab” personality.   This outlook in life has gotten me pretty far and I count it as one of my greatest blessings and strengths.

 

A quick commentary on parental travel March 3, 2012

Filed under: Blessings,Communication,Lacrosse,Parenting,Photography,Sports,Uncategorized,Volunteering — beatitudesofmylife @ 8:15 am

It’s a Saturday in March and we are getting ready to drive 3 hours to MD to watch my son’s lacrosse team play.  Mind you, our son D isn’t playing… he’s got an Avulsion Fracture on his ankle and is on “complete rest” for 5 days before he can even start rehab.  It’s just “what we do” when our kids’ teams are playing and we have any possible opportunity to watch and attend the game.  Is this craziness or just parenting?

We’ve always been this way.  If our boys were on a sports team, we were in the stands (or tramping out onto the opposite sideline) to support their efforts.  It’s never really been an issue of whether or not our son gets his moment on the field… it’d be nice to see him play, but that’s really not my focus.  The primary reason for being there is to show our support in the most tangible way… we’re THERE.

No matter the level of sport played, there’s always a component of dedication that must be present in the player.  Youth leagues, High School, Travel programs, College… they all require participation on the part of each student-athlete.  In my humble opinion (IMHO), I believe the part we play as parents is simply to be present at any venue in which our kids participate.  It’s not an issue of how many minutes they play…. it’s not whether they’re even physically able to be on the field.  It’s the idea that our kids have made this choice… this commitment… to get up each day, get out on that field, and be a part of a team so we need to support them.

My younger son has had many more years of parental participation with regards to his sporting choices, simply because D came to lacrosse much later in his HS career.  M and I were on athletic boards, M has done websites for most, I have volunteered to be the team mom or “Athletic Director”, depending on the needs of each program in which our boys belonged.  I am still the Athletic Director (scheduler) for Richmond Shock Lacrosse, simply because I’ve been doing the job for the past 5 years and just can’t seem to (want to) hand it off.  Sports can be a business, but they can also be a saving grace that allow parents to do the “behind the scenes” work and still remain supportive of their childrens’ efforts.

We may gripe and whine about all the travel we have done, and have yet to do, but I would never trade it for an extra hour of sleep.  I know this hectic chaos has a lifespan and will all-too-soon become a memory.  Being on the sidelines of our boys games is a privilege.  It’s a gift to be able to see our boys do something they love, even if they don’t ever make it to the field on any given day.  Seeing D on the sidelines, bolstering his friends and helping to coach them in their efforts, is worth the lack of sleep.  He’s going to graduate in a few short weeks and this too will be  part of his past.  I just can’t imagine being anywhere else but AT THE GAME.

I’ll sleep in next week… for now, it’s off to the lacrosse game of the moment!  Go Hood Blazers… we believe in you and WE SUPPORT YOU!

 

How I became a Sports Photographer February 22, 2012

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…

 

 
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