By TIM REUSCHE | Ball State Sports Link
Hey get this, get this!
Ay yo, camera guy, over here!
Are you recording?
Just some of the many commands I hear while operating a camera. Well, more specifically, a handheld camera. I am always at some sporting event with a camera in my hand (or on my shoulder).
Being a videographer has allowed me to go places I never imagined in my young life. Just this past summer I was fortunate enough to travel to Augusta, Georgia and Las Vegas, all to film basketball. Throughout my time, the part about video work I admire most, is capturing the behind-the-scenes footage.
Not just at Ball State, but specifically with Ball State Sports Link, I have had the opportunity to go all-access inside the locker room with the men’s basketball team. Seeing the Cardinals off the court has allowed me to see a side of these young men the everyday fan does not.
When James Whitford first took over as the head coach for the men’s basketball squad, he had a tall task ahead of him: to turn around a program going through one of its worst stretches in program history. In fact, in his first two seasons, he had a total of 12 victories.
For him it’s always been about the process, trust in the process. Fast-forward two years to the present day and the Cardinals are contending for not just a MAC West Division title, but a bye in the MAC Tournament as well. And we all know every team in contention in February wants to keep playing in March.
When Coach Whitford arrived, he was gracious enough to grant Sports Link access to the locker room following wins.
“Ball State Sports Link is a tremendous asset for our university, our athletic department and our basketball program,” Whitford said. “The quality of their work is exceptional, and their professionalism is outstanding. We are excited to once again be part of Out of the Shadows, and we can’t wait to see what this season has in store.”
Although the wins did not happen much in the first two seasons, one thing has been the same since Coach Whitford got his first wi — it’s always an exuberating experience in the locker room following a win.
During these locker room celebrations, players are always laughing and having a good time. Getting a victory at Division I level is a lot more difficult than getting victories at the high school level. These players recognize that.
From my standpoint, here is how my time in the locker room typically goes following a victory.
Following the final whistle, I try to find our Sports Information Director for the men’s basketball team, Tyson Matthews. He then proceeds to ask coach if I am allowed to go inside the locker room. Once I get the thumbs up from Tyson, I follow Coach Whitford inside.
Coach then talks to the rest of his staff before going inside. I position myself in the room to record the scene.
Before he talks to the players, they all interact with each other and create this festive mood I referred to earlier. Once Coach Whitford enters the locker room, all eyes and ears are on him.
The presence he commands is one where when he speaks, you shut up and listen. He always puts the victory into perspective.
He never gets too high or too low, with very few exceptions. He previews the week at hand and then gives his closing remarks. The team proceeds to break down a huddle one last time and that signals the end of my time in the locker room.
One of these exceptions where he got pretty high and understandably so, was against UT-Martin last year at Worthen Arena in the Collegeinsider.com Postseason Tournament.
The Cardinals were down by 16 at one time in the second half but came back to grind out a three-point victory. Out of the select times I have been fortunate enough to record the locker room talks, this game was the most electric I ever saw coach and the team.
As seen in the above picture, the team hangs up a general scouting report of the team they are playing at hand. After every victory I have seen, they tear down the paper in elation.
After this particular victory they tore the paper down and were jumping up and down throughout the locker room. I made sure I was securely positioned in the corner and the celebration that ensued was one that you had to be there to see. What was even more surprising was when Coach Whitford walked in the celebration continued and there was a big smile on his face.
While the season progresses, the victories will keep meaning more. Like the seniors on the team, my days are numbered.
Being able to follow and interact with this team has meant more than anything I can put into words. I am thankful for the opportunity I have been given to go inside the locker room and help capture each victory celebration and speech.