By: Erin FitzGibbon
Also published in Dufferin Total Sports
I love sport!!! As a child I played a million different sports. I was a gymnast; I competed in show jumping; I played hockey; I played soccer; rugby was one of my favourite sports. I just loved being active. As I got older I focused on just a few sports. My favourites were hockey and rugby. I played both sports in University; it was a fantastic ride.
Now I photograph sporting events. I love to photograph children playing sports. They have this raw energy that isn’t necessarily focused on the same kind of priorities that we adults expect. They come to the game they play with this innocence that makes every day at the rink or the gym brand new and exciting.
I recently helped my husband coach his Tyke team during a practice. The kids are seven and eight years old. They jumped on the ice excited to participate in practice. My husband blew the whistle calling all of the players to join him so they could go over the first drill. One little fellow stayed in the corner and continued to shoot the puck against the boards. I went over to collect him. I started by calling his name; I was annoyed that he had chosen to ignore the whistle, wasn’t he serious about his hockey? Didn’t he tell me in the dressing room that he loved to practice? Why was this little guy ignoring his coach? Especially, after he’d told me all about his love of the game. After reaching the corner and finally getting his attention I suddenly realized that this little man was so focused on working on his shot he hadn’t heard the whistle. He hadn’t heard me calling him and he hadn’t realized practice had started. He was focused on a skill. I asked him to join his teammates so we could start practice.
Now I’m a reflective person and this experience taught me something important. I realized I was taking a child away from practicing a skill. He was focused, he was driven to succeed and here I was redirecting his energy. I had to do it; we only had so much time on the ice. I felt sad that I had to redirect him. The hockey coach in me struggled with the fact that I might be redirecting a child into an activity where he might be less focused and less productive. This is one of the faults with adults always directing the learning of children. It’s more philosophical then I really need to be right now. But this issue highlights my focus when I photograph sport.
I want to focus on the energy that incident displays. It’s this effervescent energy that I love to capture in my images. Children aren’t on the ice for the same reasons we adults sign them up to play for. Kids see the sport in a way we don’t. I try my best, as a photographer, to show those reasons. I want to dissect sport and show the love of the game. People hire me to take images of their children. They want great shots of their kids stopping the puck or making a beautiful pass. I shoot images of their children playing sport so I can show everyone how kids see sport. I want to show just how much sport is about kids just playing the game and about kids pushing themselves to learn new skills. I shoot their games because I want us to see that sport has a human side far removed from the commercialized photographs of professional athletes. Kids are there for their own reasons and they don’t always match with the ideas of adults. Maybe we as adults should be okay with that. At one point in our lives we were just like them. We wanted to focus on getting our shots just right too.