Our Team Has A Camera Guy!
The Ann Arbor Saints may not be the best team in football but it has some of the best things that a football team can ever hope to have.
When 20 middle school boys started practicing in August, some were new and some had been here before. The fathers who stepped up to coach wanted to do their best and that made the kids want the same. Just like football teams do all over our great country, they got stronger and they learned together through the season.
I showed up at the beginning of the season with my oldest son and my camera, just as I have the past three years. I have to explain that I don’t know much about football but I love to take photos and my son tolerates my poor knowledge of the game. He loves this team and he loves photography, too.
Through the short football season, we witness so many incredible leaps. The boys learn that they are committed to doing their best for their team. They learn what their job is and what it isn’t in dozens of plays. They learn to respect officials, coaches, parents and teammates. They learn to harness newfound physical strength and to polish talent. They learn to praise one another for success at whatever level of play they can achieve, while leaving deficits unspoken. They learn to be punctual and to work as hard as they can.
In my volunteer role as photographer, I get to be a storyteller. I have the opportunity to be there for every practice and every moment of triumph and defeat. I get to see fathers and sons connect on a level that means a great deal to both. I get to see moments that we all dreamed of when we first became fathers. I see small victories and long-awaited breakthroughs. I feel the gut-level sense of pride when I watch these young men do the right thing in the face of challenge and adversity.
By the end of the season, the team has become a brotherhood. When plays are called and run during practice, there is explosive speed and precision. Still, between plays, we see a silly bunch of kids just having fun. One of the coaches told me that the practice photos mean so much because of the glimpses of sheer joy. I think we all know that our sons, our boys, are growing up fast. They are becoming self-conscious and their belly laughs are becoming subdued as they seek to appear more mature. We don’t want to let go of the little guys we have known, yet we are confident that they are becoming good men.
At the beginning of every practice, the coaches – the fathers – spend a few minutes talking. Yesterday we gathered for the last team practice of 2016 and I heard some things that made me realize how much it can mean to have a storyteller on the team. Just like the kids who don’t catch every pass, they know I don’t see every play and sometimes the focus isn’t perfect. I guess it doesn’t matter. Coach Jeff pointed out how the sky was really blue. Coach Jeff and Coach Mike agreed that the grass was a perfect shade of green against the changing leaves of the trees. Coach Tim reminded us that sun was getting lower in the sky and they all agreed it was going to be another great night for pictures. They were right.
Book is available at https://www.mixbook.com/photo-books/interests/ann-arbor-saints-2016-14371832?vk=mK4wXkUjgU
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