Our son is a brand new freshman soccer player and, as a result, I suspect the entire team feels like they are being hounded by the paparazzi. I take roughly 300-400 photos per game. They play up to three games per week. Of those, roughly 10 percent will actually make the cut.
With those averages even an only passable photographer is bound to get some great shots. I have captured flying feet, amazing leaps and fleeting moments of grace and hard work — captured in a split second. I have snapped headers in mid air.
On more than one occasion I kept the shot, if only because I feared we might need to explain the incident to the medical professionals after the fact.
Whatever the final record, they will definitely be the most photographed team in the league. I say it is so if any of these kids becomes famous I can make a mint selling their images to the tabloids. They think I’m kidding (I’m not).
I can tell you via online “likes” which are the most popular shots. Those are any close-up suitable for framing (those are for their mamas). I call these the “game face” shots. That’s when they look “beast” (we called it “tough” back in the dark ages). They are fierce. They are fighters. They are as intimidating as a teenager in cleats can be.
As I scroll through the images, one has become my favorite. It is not, as you might imagine, the moment of the game-winning goal. That shot was predictable and it’s a good one. That’s a given.
No, my favorite shot captures the moment immediately after the game winning goal. It’s the moment when the team captain, who made the shot (on his 17th birthday, no less,) ran back toward his teammates as they rushed to congratulate him. It is all feet, half faces and outstretched arms. It is pure elation and it is completely blurry.
Trying to capture high energy kids on film is like trying to catch lightning in a bottle sometimes.
Our team has had some great games — and some lousy ones. They have seen great sportsmanship — and poor sports. They have been kicked, run over, fallen on and heckled.
Once, when our player lay injured on the field, a spectator was heard to say, “that’s what I like to see.” I momentarily lost faith in all humanity. I have attended games where fans were ejected from the stadium for poor sportsmanship while the players on the field, much younger but clearly wiser, extended a hand to a fallen opponent and said “good game.”
Sometimes the kids really do know better. We would all do well to pay attention to that.
Despite the lack of sharpness in the post-goal image, I keep coming back to it again and again. The shot is not a particularly good one. It is grainy and slightly blurred. I didn’t expect it and didn’t anticipate well. No matter, I love that shot and my kid isn’t even in it.
We are blessed to have the good health, good fortune and pure good luck to win some, lose some, and play at all. In most games — and all of life — you will get kicked, pushed down, and if you are lucky, picked up again. Sometimes you will lend a hand — and sometimes you will need one.
I’m sure most of them won’t ever need a photograph to remember the early mornings, hard work, sacrifice and the fierce competition of the game. As a parent — and photographer — what I hope to remember, if we are fortunate enough to look back on these days, is the love of the game that made all the activities, the money, the travel and the time worthwhile.
The kids in the photo are not crashing, running or bracing for impact. What they are is happy. They are laughing. This split second moment in time is what they came for.
The photo may be blurry but the message is clear: your real game face should be the one that captures the moment when it was good and truly fun.