an open letter to the eastern greene community

It is no secret to most, if not all of you, what my connection to Eastern Greene Schools is and has been for quite a long time.

Being the son of a former English teacher and district superintendent, I’ve always been told I’m a good writer, so between that and the fact that you all have welcomed me so warmly since coming on-board as a photographer with the Greene County Daily World sports department, I wanted to share my story directly with you and a few of my thoughts looking ahead to the future.

After talking with my wife and parents yesterday about my recent work, it occurred to me that I’ve only been focusing my photography efforts heavily on sports since late November of last year. To call the last 8 weeks or so a whirlwind is a huge understatement to say the least. Prior to turning my attention toward sports again in November, shooting photos up in Indy when Bloomington South won 4A basketball championships between 2008-2010 was really the last time that I’d given sports photography much of a go. Between then and now, I spent time focusing on birds and wildlife, landscapes, some portrait/modeling work, etc. As most millennials are stereotypically prone to think, I immediately got frustrated with the lack of immediate recognition I thought I deserved from certain people and organizations after taking some decent photos at IU men’s and women’s basketball games from the stands. I’d invested big bucks for access that other photographers were paid money to have and probably took for granted. Looking back, it was ridiculous to think but honestly it really irked me for a while. With this new realization that I needed to put in the time and build a portfolio of work, I began looking for other outlets where I’d be able to continue practicing and refining my craft while also gaining exposure and experience.

As a result, in December, I agreed to become a “photography correspondent” with the Greene County Daily World not really sure what that would entail or with very high expectations of what might come out of the work. Living in southwest Monroe County (6.4 miles from Greene County Chapel), and with so much time spent tagging along to basketball games as a kid in Toby Yoho gymnasium, I relayed to my editor that I’d probably like to start focusing my time and energy on Eastern Greene and maybe Bloomfield sports.

The first assignment I got was to shoot a boys basketball game between Eastern Greene and Wood Memorial. I was nervous, tip-toeing around to try to stay out of your (collective “your”) way, and just hoping I’d walk away at the end of the night with a few decent images that wouldn’t get turned away when I sent them off to my editor. It was the first win of the year for the guys, and it was awesome to see and feel everyone’s excitement in the gym that night. The images were fine, nothing that would blow anyone’s socks off, but good enough to run, so I was happy and content with the effort.

Unbelievably enough, if my memory is correct, the boys team would go on to win the next two games after that, that I was present for. Driving home after the huge comeback win over Clay City, I sent Coach Jamie Hudson a tweet that said:

“Just so you know, your guys are 3-0 in games I’ve been at with the camera…might be on to something here. Look forward to tomorrow night at my school (Bloomington South). Big test of focus and conditioning with this kind of back-to-back. Great game tonight!”

His response:

“Thank you very much for all you do.”

All that I do?

I’d just been to a couple of games, took a few photos, and lurked around the sidelines.

Around that time though, players began sending me messages on Instagram saying how thankful and appreciative they were for the photos, and without getting too superstitious or gassing myself up too much, I began to think (no, not think, believe) that maybe having somebody there from outside the immediate fanbase of friends and families helped turn up the pressure and focus a bit on the guys that they needed to perform better.

The jury’s still out on that hypothesis, but even if it’s just a silly theory I made up in my head, it felt really good to start feeling appreciated for my effort. I could physically feel the awkwardness melting away, that sense of being an outsider shrinking.

Now, I’d be amiss to not talk about what it’s been like getting to cover this year’s girls basketball team.

My single biggest regret since aiming my focus toward sports photography again is that I wasn’t involved with this year’s girls team from the beginning of the season.

They are incredible.

Not just great in terms of X’s and O’s or shooting form or cranking up full-court pressure for some instant offense, but so many intangibles as well.

Indy has been a really inspiring senior leader and point guard quarterback for what is truth be told, a young team.

Keylee and Kennady are instant offense from all over the court, and play with a humble swagger that demands attention from everybody in the gym.

Brynlee, Mia, Kenzi, Kaylyn, and the rest of the team are all dangerous shooters that understand the often under-appreciated value of communicating well on defense and rebounding like crazy.

As you head into sectional play this week and hopefully a long run of playoff games in February, I wish the whole team good luck. Play confidently, disciplined, focused, and for each other. The rest will take care of itself.

Many people in my position might feel weird or awkward about writing so directly to high school athletes, but after this weekend’s Homecoming game and festivities, and the outpouring of support and kind words and gestures directed my way, I don’t. Whether it be friend requests on Facebook, likes, comments, shares, IG messages – it doesn’t seem to ever stop! Really incredible and touching…

There was a day recently where I didn’t have an assignment from GCDW, and was considering going to check out the Edgewood v. Owen Valley girls game because I heard Edgewood is quite good as well, and I just wanted to get a good shooting session in somewhere. That same day though, EG was traveling to Clay City to play, and GCDW had set-up an arrangement to have the story and photos covered by The Brazil Times rather than asking one of us to drive all the way to Clay City.

As a bit of a social experiment and to see if I should instead head to Clay City not on assignment rather than Owen Valley (which was essentially halfway between Bloomington and Clay City anyways), I created an Instagram story with a poll asking what my followers thought I should do.

Head to Spencer or Clay City?

The response was 100% for heading to Clay City. 24 out of the 28 votes for heading to Clay City were from current Eastern Greene students/players, parents, or coaches.

If that isn’t cool and worth recognizing, I don’t know what is.

So with all that said, I simply want to say thank you.

Thank you for welcoming me into your building, your gym, your collective experiences as friends, families, competitors, and as a community.

It’s been really fun for me so far, and I absolutely look forward to continuing to be around and helping to capture memories of the highs and the occasional, unavoidable lows.

Please don’t hesitate to stop me when you see me (I’m the guy usually with a camera backpack on my back and camera with a big lens in my hand) and introduce yourselves. I frequently get caught in my own little bubble focused on my task at hand and am pretty introverted by nature as well. I promise it’s not me being anti-social, just focused!

As Coach Burton and Coach Hudson preach, #family.

Thank you,