As of 2012, I have been the football cheerleading advisor for six seasons. I also coached basketball cheerleading for two years, and was a cheerleader in high school myself for three years. When you add that up, thats alot of high school sports. When I first started coaching it was a fun way to be involved with kids and to be a part of cheerleading which was something I enjoyed. As I've gotten older the purpose has evolved for me. High school sports teach kids things they won't learn in a class room, and being a part of that is pretty cool. These kids that graduate this spring... they were some of the little guys playing catch during the varsity game behind the bleachers when I first started coaching cheerleading. Watching them stand on the sidelines as ninth graders, go in at the end of a game as tenth graders, and now run out with the starting line is a very cool thing that not everyone gets to witness, let alone be able to witness it year after year.
Before the first game, the football coach had mentioned to my husband that he'd like if I could take some pictures at the games, since I was going to be there anyway. I thought to myself, perfect, I need to be there with my cheerleaders. I love the challenge that different situations in photography gives, and mostly, I don't fit in with most of the spectators (I like to WATCH the game more than most women and the men are a little too rude for me to stand next to) so I might as well be doing my own thing.
I missed the first game because our little baby girl was just two weeks old. The second game comes around, I'm standing on the sideline with my camera. I look to my left and there's two journalists for the Fertile paper taking pictures, as well as the yearbook photographer. I look to my right and there's an alumni who takes pretty awesome sports shots herself. I look behind me and theres about 10 moms with DSLR cameras. Holy smokes we've got a football paparazzi. Feeling a little embarrassed, I decide I need to think out of the box. I need to challenge myself so I headed to the other side of the field.
Terry gave me the idea to challenge myself each week and post one of these football pictures on our Cloud Nine Facebook page each week, problem was I wasn't sure how I would do better than the sunset picture.
Most people taking pictures of the games were sure to get basically the same picture. I wanted to make sure each of mine told a story or showed emotion, and that was hard sometimes. Below, the original picture posted during this week was of Cody #61, but since I had a few of these I thought I'd add them all to this post.
Yes these girls are the reason I'm at these games. Next year I'll make sure to take lots of pictures of them on and off the field and we'll do a little post to show how awesome cheerleaders are and how much they do for the school and for the team. This was a quick photo op on our way to the football game in Warren-Alvarado-Oslo.
I will bet that these boys one day will not remember the exact details of this moment, the score, the date, the temperature, but beating one of their biggest rivals in over time as the under dog in the game... and then eating their food... is a feeling that they will remember. My favorite part? The coaches hugging on the left side.
Before this game started, everyone was huddled in a small area protected by the wind and snow. I over heard an old-timer who was getting coffee tell a high school kid a story that went sort of like this "It was our homecoming. We played Erskine on their field, it was snowing so hard you couldn't see the field..." Things these kids might remember from this game: cold, lots of snow and a very bitter loss.
In all the years I've been coaching, this is the first time I hid in the press box. Those announcers may never get me out of there again.
My expectations of my cheerleaders this year were realistic. I was having a baby during the season. Half the team was going on a two week vacation right before the first game. The other half of the team was completely new to cheerleading. Wouldn't you know, these girls put in so much time and effort that they were able to accomplish everything they wanted. My best year of coaching, no question about it.
This game was in the Fargo Dome, here's a couple more action shots that I liked.
Never in all the years of cheerleading or coaching have I seen so much snow, fog, rain, or sleet. This was at the end of a victory against the Lake of the Woods Bears. Moving onto sections.
This is where I add a little personal story:
When I was a sophomore, our team was in the quarterfinal of the state tournament. I don't remember the final score (we lost because of a safety). What I remember most is the biggest, toughest guy on the team hugging his dad on the sideline, both sobbing when the game was done. To give you an idea, imagine the meanest, toughest guy you know at 350 pounds, hugging and crying with his equally tough and mean dad.
While I don't keep track of touchdowns or what happened in each quarter or how many tackles someone had, there are certain things that stick out during a game. This touchdown might stick with me for a while. Nice move, Alex.
This touchdown is also one that I may not forget for a while. I may just need to give up coaching and become a ref, because clearly cheerleading coaches know what is a touchdown and what isn't a touchdown. This one? Not a touch down.
I've watched enough high school football to know that the final quarter has a lot to do with clock strategy and luck.
The game nears the end and the lead has just slipped out of their hands. Gunnar gives a quick glance to his dad on the sideline, maybe looking for some reassurance and suddenly I'm back to 2001 watching those men cry.
These kids walk off the field for the last time with more than a season record. There's memories. There's life skills. Team work. You may not remember details of each game, but you will remember the important things, which might not have a thing to do with the game at all.