When I started HoopGurlz.com, a national Web site about girl’s basketball that’s now part of ESPN, I focused on bringing visual and audio elements to it. I have for the vast majority of my career been a writer, but lately I spend as much time, often more, on photography. I do because I believe girls (and women) are more visually oriented, plus media coverage of the sport, particularly on a national basis, is a pretty new phenomenon, so I believe it’s important to put faces with a lot of the names people are seeing for the first time.
A large part of my mission, I believe, also is trying to show the girls in a light that belies what still are common stereotypes — for example, that they don’t play in the air and aren’t athletic, or that they are not tough or competitive. If any of that was ever true, a lot has changed, believe me. This part of the mission does still pose challenges. I learned that early when girls or female coaches would ask, “Why did you publish that terrible picture of me?” In journalistic terms, those “terrible” pictures actually were very good because, among other things, they showed fire and emotion. But there are limits in this game to how one can portray those qualities. My version of “fire” is a “funny face” to the subject and, instead of a moment to cherish, having the photo shown to a national audience is, instead, embarrassing.
So I am careful about those sort of things. I got some good images, for example, during my recent coverage of the Deep South Classic, a college-exposure event in Chapel Hill and Raleigh, N.C. However, they will remain in the archives because of the “funny face” factor.
The following, of Heather Butler, a senior-to-be for the Tennessee Wings, tip toes along the borderline. I have others in a sequence that are less flattering. I decided not to use this one on the site, but show it here because it’s got a low “funny face” factor and it shows some of the consequences of the physical play that frequently occurs in the girl’s game. Butler is being tended to by a trainer (left) and her coach, David Hart, after being flattened and, I’d guess, suffering a slight concussion.
This next shot shows the level of basketball these girls are playing. Chaunice Powell, of Union City, Calif., has dribble penetrated, along the baseline, into the teeth of the defense. She goes airborne, is able to pick out a teammate in close and crowded quarters, and delivers a pass around a defender. Pretty impressive stuff.
I like the following because Ashley Betz-White, of Mechanicsburg, Pa., is only 5 feet 5 but clearly is off the floor, while 5-9 Hannah Huffman, of Diablo, Calif., goes even higher in pursuit.
For larger-sized versions of some of these images, and more, see the Soundslides presentation from the Deep South championship game: