Anyone who has watched March Madness on TV has seen the super-slick clips they put together with players from top-seeded teams staring at the camera with a steely gaze, spinning basketballs on their fingers without even looking at them, dribbling the ball between their legs in slow-motion and then at normal speed, etcetera. To make the clips even more awesome, they are always set to ultra-dramatic orchestral scores like Lux Aeterna or “Dawn” from Thus Spake Zarathustra. Polished film segments of high-caliber athletes set to epic soundtracks always make for an enjoyable viewing experience, but how often do viewers actually consider how incredibly awkward it is to film these segments?
Lucky for the student-athletes at our school, our PR/media department was inspired by videos made by the Louisville men’s basketball team, and they decided that our sports teams were going to film similar clips to show before every home game. So, one day last spring I found myself standing in front of a green screen with three of my teammates, all of us trying to stare unblinkingly and unsmilingly at a camera lens while the videographer adjusted the focus and the lighting guy adjusted his equipment to make us look super shiny and the PR woman hit us with a barrage of directions:
“Show me some swagger, girls! Don’t be afraid to show some attitude. Stare at the camera…hold it… Ok now maybe spin the ball around in your hands, just play with it, you know, toss it from hand to hand. Maybe bounce it a few times? Good, good, perfect! Hold it just a little longer… Ok we’ve almost got it, maybe let’s just try one more… Do you need some more time? To stop laughing? Just pretend we’re not here. Ok maybe just a few more takes…”
It was strikingly similar to America’s Next Top Model, just without Tyra Banks and the aspiring models. And the direction we heard most frequently was “Are you girls ready now?” because we physically could not stop laughing long enough for them to begin recording. So much for being consummate professionals… But seriously, try staring at a camera and holding an intimidating facial expression in complete silence for 30 seconds when you’re not even sure what expression your face is actually producing (what if it’s less like a stare-down and more like a constipated grimace?) and you are standing between three of your closest friends and can feel them all trembling violently from suppressed laughter. I would argue that if anyone in such a situation is able to refrain from even chuckling, it is because that person is an undercover robot, who also probably aspires to be America’s Next Top Model.
Our best game face attempts…
These scenes are just a glimpse of the escapades that have taken place on my team and within our athletic department. Some days our locker room was filled with a cacophony of exclamations like “Why have we played country music in here EVERY DAY this week??” and (from the bathroom) “Guys, I finally pooped!” (This one was usually followed by whoops and cheers and congratulatory handshakes.) Other days would find me in the training room ice bath with a teammate discussing such topics as whether true altruism can and/or does exist. There were moments of unbelievable heartache, like when we found out a teammate had sustained too many injuries to continue playing the sport she loves. And there were moments of hysterical laughter, such as when the entire men’s basketball team showed up to one of our matches wearing Depends. These behind-the-scenes stories tell so much about the athletes, more than any highlights reel or post-game-write-up ever can. So while the price of being a student-athlete has undoubtedly been more than I bargained for, I have a wealth of memories to show for it.
Thanks for reading! Comment below with your favorite moments from this four-part series – I’d love to hear your thoughts.