There’s nothing unusual about the girls varsity basketball team at Lyons Township High school.
Not when you’re on the outside looking in at least.
They’re a group of 13 or so teenage girls that seem to play pretty well on the court. They win more than they lose.
I had a unique opportunity to follow the girls’ season (I photographed all their games as a team gift from one of the Dads). Now I don’t call myself a full-time sports photographer, but have done before, and really enjoyed the prospect of this diversion from my usual portrait and head-shot work.
The season started out gangbusters with win after win. There were bumps along the road like injuries and those close games “that we should have had”.
In the end they progressed to the second round of the play-offs and lost by a small margin to the top-ranked team in the state. I had some difficulty shooting that game because it was so riveting, and these girls played with such heart, that I’d forget my job for a few moments and find myself cheering them on as if I was one of the moms! (I think I was reverting to my time as a soccer/volleyball/gymnastics/softball-MOM)
Anyway, this post isn’t really a story about basketball or game statistics.
Because what I found after some time showing up to the games, spending time with the girls, and getting to know some of the parents, was so much more than a high school varsity team.
I asked the Dad who hired me why this was so important to document. Why this year and this team?
He told me that it was a “special” group of girls who’d played a long time together. Even Coach Frick (his last season coaching-and he’s been around) admitted that this was no ordinary group.
Sidney (senior) said this of the coach-
“He taught me that it’s not about wins and losses, but the relationships you create”
Sure, I could see that the girls seemed to like each other. That’s a bonus with teenage girls for sure. But, it wasn’t until I hung around for awhile, took lots of photos, and even more so--asked the girls to explain how they felt--that I saw them differently.
I asked them what the best part of being on the team was. The answers were astoundingly the same--and went something like this:
“I LOVE this team. I’ll never forget this amazing experience. The entire team is my extended family and I consider them all my big sisters. They have embraced me and loved me, and I them. I will cry when the season comes to an end but the friendships and bonds that were created will last me a lifetime. They are special people” --Lindsey (freshman)
Many of the girls had played together in some way since they were 7 or 8 years old, and 8 of them will be graduating this month.
I was curious to know how being a member of THIS team affected their ability to navigate high school-if it had any effect off the court.
Yep, I confirmed that high school IS stressful.
“Being a member of this team during high school was VERY effective...helped me become a leader, create amazing friendships, and make me a better person when it comes to dealing with difficult situations...It made my life less stressful because I could always go to my teammates for advice because they’re like sisters and we are like one big family...it made me less insecure, vulnerable, and lonely” --Gabby (senior)
In these times, what could be better for a girl trying to figure out her place in the world? I wish that for all teenage girls.
I’m glad I was able to document this final phase of togetherness for these talented and beautiful young women. I also truly believe these girls will always continue to be sisters.