Sports photography is all about capturing the action. Fast shutter speeds, wide open lenses, and lickety split frames per second rule the day. My routine to get ready for a game is pretty routine and often the same. Tonight, however, my routine was anything but same old.
Coach Stacy Perryman died of breast cancer this past Monday at the young age of 45. She has been the coach at Pocono Mountain West for 17 years! The team was allowed to grieve for the loss of their coach and the previous two games were postponed for this reason. Tonight they would take their place back on the court with heavy hearts.
Interim Head Coach, Chrissy Campos, is Coach Perryman’s sister and has been her assistant coach. She did an incredible job tonight getting the girls ready to play a competitive game against a very good Stroudsburg team. They put their emotions in check for 32 minutes and played their hearts out.
Before Tip-Off, Coach Campos was presented with a memorial gift in memory of her sister and the girls’ coach. The few moments at mid-court were somber and respectful. Then everyone was invited to pause for a moment of silence as we remembered Coach Perryman.
Sometimes I am asked to photograph Senior Day or a presentation of a student-athlete during halftime, but usually my job is simply to capture the game with my camera. I really enjoy this simple, straightforward task. One of my interests is setting up remote cameras, which I mentioned in my previous blog post last week. Tonight was different–totally different. How does one capture the heavy emotions and sadness in a tactful yet unintrusive way?
As I began shooting the pre-game and then the game, my mind went back to my journalism training I received from Temple University many years ago. My professors were clear about the important job we had to do and getting into the right frame of mind to do it. Our job is to report the news, or in my case, report and re-tell the basketball game in its entirety with my camera.
My mind also was swept up into what in the world these girls must have been thinking in their minds. How could they lace up their sneakers, take the home court, and play a basketball game with so much running through their minds. The referee threw the ball up for the Tip-Off and with that, the game began. And these girls played!
They played in memory of Coach Perryman. Each moment was filled with effort and grit as they displayed all their coach had taught them over the years. It was incredible to watch and photograph. The heavy hearts did not bog them down on the court and they put up an awesome game!
The journalistic approach I am referring to here is trying to capture the story of the night, not just with the action on the court during the game, but specifically in the tiny moments that capture the whole essence of the night. In other words, trying to paint the picture of the wealth of emotions circling the gymnasium. Pink was the color of the night and that seemed a good place to start.
Some things happen during a timeout or during a break in the action. Sports photographers learn not to put the camera down too quickly after a shot or play but to follow the action and try to capture the emotion and celebrations. This was all in my mind tonight, too.
Try as they may, the game did not end the way Pocono Mountain West had hoped. They fought hard and kept things close even producing a nice run at the end of the game. Victory was not theirs tonight as they lost 50-40.
Cancer is an opponent that seems to win way too often, leaving its opponents to lick their wounds or say goodbye to their loved ones. It is not fair. It is not fair for a young, gifted, and inspirational coach to die at the age of 45 leaving behind a team she loved and who loved her. It is not fair for a sister and assistant coach to be thrown into a coaching position rift with heartfelt emotions swirling around like a tornado. It is not fair for a community to lose someone so incredibly giving and to be left with nothing but memories.
Every game has winners and losers. Cancer does, too. Some battle courageously and live to see a long life to come. Others battle courageously and find their lives cut way too short. Winners and losers. Basketball teams experience this as well. Two teams can practice just as hard and dedicate a great portion of their lives to the game but one ends up winning it all while the other team is left hanging their heads wondering what happened. Tonight, however, at this game, I do not believe there were really any losers. Every player and coach was a winner in a bigger sense of the game and in life. It was an emotional game and I was fortunate to be there with my camera. This is my journalistic approach to one emotional and incredible game.