The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.
Alas, the 2022 season for the First Flight varsity soccer team ended tonight. The team came up short by a score of 2-1 against Jacksonville during the NC 3A Eastern Regional. While it is clear that the team will feel the sting of losing the match for days, it is important to reflect on what the team accomplished, both on the score board and what I think that they learned as young men.
I attended ten matches of the varsity team and shot over 18,000 photos. Peering through the lens of a telephoto lens that much one can see things that the fans, and even the coaches, can not. Spending that much time on the sidelines of the pitch one can hear a LOT of things that the fans can not and are beyond the earshot of even the coaches. That said, my time on the First Flight pitch have etched a clear image in my mind of the basic character of the 2022 FFHS soccer team and as a result it has been a true privilege to capture memories of these fine young men playing a game that they clearly love.
Over the years I have been around countless young athletes. I have found none better mannered or have displayed better sportsmanship on the field than this team. Throughout this season I have heard a lot bickering amongst teammates and shouts of “displeasure” from coaches at their players. Fortunately however, I can’t recall a single event when I saw/heard First Flight engage in this behaviour. Of course, this team is not a team of saints. I saw a player benched for disrespecting the game, a player get a red card of a type of taunting, and I still received bogus logins from m.gmail.com and g.gmail.com (but, I know who you are). But overall, the team shows a lot of class. From my experiences, the character of a team reflects the attitude and character of their coaches. In this case, it's a sign of great coaching. Respect. Respect to the players but more importantly RESPECT to the coaches. You are not only teaching these men how to succeed at a game, but how to succeed in life with good sportsmanship and camaraderie.
Admittedly, words will do little to soften the pain of defeat. But consider this: the team made it to the NC eastern regional this year, one match short of the final. Last year First Flight lost in the 4th round. The year before lost in the 3rd round. I see a bright future for First Flight soccer.
To all the parents that supported me and especially the coaches that made me feel welcomed, I thank you. I did my best to capture unforgettable memories for you. I know that in the future I will look back on my photos and smile - you guys had an incredible run and played with skill and passion - thank you.
Until next time, be safe, be good and remember, there's always next year?