An open letter to parents of youth, high school, college athletes

My oldest son pinned a single photo to a cork board in his bedroom.


It's not of him playing the Nintendo Switch. It's not of him watching Netflix. It's definitely not of him doing homework.


It's from T-ball four years ago.


He's chubby cheeked, sporting a black-and-red hat and a red T-shirt he outgrew in what seemed like just one month. He's holding a bat, squinting back at the photographer, putting on a forced smile.


The image is ... okay.


It's from a hot and humid morning when his T-ball team had their pictures taken. The flash went off right in his face, his smile is kind of a grimace.


For him, it represents the start of a dream, a dream as a parent I want to do as much as I can to support. He loves playing baseball. I mean loves playing baseball.


A boy holding a baseball bat
Ryan Pidgeon | Baseball | Mountville

I wish that image pinned to his cork board reflected how much his baseball dream means to him. And to me as his Dad.


You might be reading this sitting in the car while your child is at practice. Or maybe you're on the bleachers and there's a break in the game.


No matter what, someone just needs to acknowledge how much all of this means to you.


Sure, all the effort, the driving back and forth to practice, the money spent on training camps, the hours on the bleachers in all kinds of weather, it's all about your child.


Their experience, their happiness, that's the number one priority.


But it's also okay for us parents to pat each other on the back for everything we do for our children.


When I coach or hold sport portrait sessions, I love connecting with parents as much as the youth athletes. We understand each other and what it means to love our kids so much we'd drive all over this continent and wash every dirt-covered jersey and be there for them when the season is good or it's a struggle.


High school tennis player holding a racket
Matthew DeBord | Tennis | Lancaster Catholic

When I look at that photo of my son pinned to his cork board, I know that photographer didn't connect. Not with my son. And not with me as his Dad.


I don't doubt that photographer is a super nice person. But I don't remember her name, and even if I did, I doubt it would mean anything to her to know my son is still playing and wants badly to be a starting pitcher.


It matters to me, as it should, that one of my lacrosse players, whom I photographed during her senior year in high school, chose to continue playing at a college up in New York.


It matters to me that one of the baseball players I photographed experienced serious health issues not long ago and today has found a way to live a full life and play his favorite sport.


It matters to me that the mom two soccer players I've photographed is having what's best described as a season of mixed emotions, as one of her children just made a high school varsity team while another child is in another state starting his freshman year of college.


High school field hockey player leaning against a fence
Autumn Rhoads | Hempfield | Field Hockey

It matters to you. It matters to me. And that's why it's a privilege every single time a parent hires me to provide sports portraits for their child and their family.


When your child pins a photo of themselves in their jersey to a cork board in their bedroom, when you hang a framed print in your house, when you share one of these portraits with your friends online ... it's more than just a photo. It represents something to you and your child, and that is why I put as much care and thought into portrait sessions as I can.


Thank you for reading. Thank you for considering. And thank you for supporting your children.


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