Last week I was sent to an art exhibition focusing on human body. I had the task of photographing nudity that could also be published on our website, Tampabay.com.
Just a few favorites from my assignment last week...
It was a humid late August afternoon that I began photographing the first More Than a Game at Strawberry Crest High School. While the sweat from my forehead began to cloud my viewfinder, what was unfolding in front of me was clear: passion. Over the 16 weeks of this past season, I had the honor of bearing witness to a community coming together over something that was bigger than individual teams, rivalries and who beat whom each week. What Hillsborough County taught me was that high school football is about more than what happens on the field.
It's the look of determination behind the football players' face masks. It's the laughter heard in a cheerleaders' bathroom while girls get ready for that evening's game. It's the marching band sharing fries after a long night of playing in the rain. It's the moment of silence before the homecoming queen is announced. It's the tears streaming down the face of players and coaches experiencing defeat.
Finding a different story at a different school each week allowed me to explain another piece of the important puzzle that was football in the county. It took all these different stories coming together to show why the stands fill with screaming fans and family members every Friday night. Not only do these players need football to teach them lessons that help them grow into young adults, but the community needs it too. In the adversity and challenges people face in their everyday lives, it gives them something consistent to believe in. Growing up in Minnesota, I never understood why high school football was important. After experiencing a season in this county, I am a true believer. It truly is hard to put into words the electricity that rushes through a stadium on a Friday night as the sun sets.
Thank you, Hillsborough County football teams, coaches, parents, families, marching bands, cheerleaders, announcers and fans for allowing me to tell your stories this season. I hope I have been able to shed some light on the football community and what makes it truly unique toHillsborough County.
Here's how it ran in the paper:
A larger edit will soon appear in my portfolio. Thanks for reading!
It's a sunny Thursday afternoon outside of Plant City High School, but inside the cafeteria, 20 teenage girls cook up enthusiasm for their passion: cheerleading.
The varsity cheerleaders spend most afternoons preparing for two types of events: cheering on the sidelines of a variety of sporting events and participating in cheer competitions.
They reach for the ceiling as they flip through the air. They work through a variety of stunts and cheers after a long day of classes, with practice to only be followed by homework. But all the hard work pays off when they step before football fans on Friday night.
"I hope they find a sense of pride in how hard they work, how much they learn, and hopefully achieving goals, both personal and team, that they set at the beginning of the year," said varsity cheerleading coach Karen Snapp. "I want them to realize that hard work and dedication in anything they do will make them champions no matter the end result."
That dedication and excitement could be felt in Madison Bradshaw's bathroom before heading to Alonso on Oct. 12. As Madison giggles with her friends Kaitlyn and Karaline about making sure her orange and turquoise ribbon is perfectly in place, she struggles to contain her excitement.
"There's no where else I'd rather be on a Friday," said Madison. "Being known as a person to support them and hype them up is a really great feeling."
One of my first assignments during my internship-give a preview to RNC attendees what St. Pete nightlife looks like..on a Wednesday.
The challenges that a football team faces don't rise solely on the field.
First, Jesuit High's preseason game was rained out after they made the long bus ride to Miami.
Then came a real storm.
Assistant coach Frank Rose suddenly passed away. He was 38 years old.
But at Jesuit, the players call upon a strength that can't be honed by lifting weights to overcome obstacles.
"The students know that their talents and opportunities they have to play come from God," said Father Richard C. Hermes, Jesuit High School president.
Before each game, the football team attends Mass, then has a pregame meal in the school cafeteria. They also pray in the locker room before and after the game. Hermes joins the team for their prayer after the game and stays on the sidelines throughout the game.
"There is a brotherhood and a sense of community at Jesuit High School," Hermes said. "That's especially intense in football."