Photographing Leaders On and Off the Field


Look for the leader both on and off the field as you develop photo opportunities.  Whether an athlete chooses to play a team sport, or takes on the more personal challenge of an individual score, there is a very good chance that at some point an opportunity to lead the way will present itself. That may be in pioneering a new football play or skating move, or it may mean serving as team captain or president of the local track club. It may mean mentoring a younger child or serving as an assistant coach. Far from simply “leading” by scoring the most points or setting a record, this kind of leadership lasts. It requires an added depth of responsibility as well as instills a deeper sense of pride. Being chosen to lead an association of equals is an affirmation of how much has been learned, how much the child now has to give back to the sport, and how much trust has been earned from his or her peers. 

Most people don’t really set out to be leaders. They grow into it, as with everything else. When a child first joins in the playground game, it is as an outsider, an unknown quantity. Look into their faces, and you can see pretty much the same thoughts running through every head. Can she play? Is he a bully? Can we trust that kid with the ball?

The first game pretty much answers those questions: relative skills get sorted out and personalities get assessed, just as when an adult walks into a new workplace. Over time, natural leaders will rise, the ones who speak up and suggest new strategies, who instinctively head off fights, who rally flagging spirits. These are the obvious marks of leadership, but there is another kind as well, instilled in a much more subtle way.

Participating in any endeavor takes a certain amount of courage, from joining the chess team to extreme skateboarding. “Crash and burn” isn’t always a physical thing; a humiliating loss in chess stings just as much, even though it doesn’t break bones. For the shy newcomer or the prickly kid who is terrified of being laughed at, every mistake feels like someone has turned all the spotlights right on them. The answer is not to soothe and cuddle, but to tell them to look around. When you watch the best athletes in the club miss a jump, fall over their feet, or fluff an easy layup, the notion that you must be perfect starts to seem sort of silly. When you see the champs pick themselves up, laugh it off, and try again, it can make a powerful impression. Imitating that behavior can become force of habit—and pretty soon, the new kids are looking at you like you’re a god. What a boost to the self-confidence!

Vince Lombardi said, "Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile." The day-by-day progress in sports is made over weeks, months, years, so gradually that when we stop to look back, we can hardly believe how far we’ve come. That one-time new kid on the playground is suddenly the one teaching the little kids how to hold the ball.

By finding a following the leaders you will find the essence of the team emotion and the spirit that unites the team both of which will create photo opportunities no only of the leader but those around them.

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