Thursday, 23 May 2024

Cameras, Athletes, and Role Modeling

During my time at Colorado College and beyond, I had the opportunity to work as a summer hiking guide, embark on winter ascents and Outward Bound courses, navigate the Gates of the Ladore through river rafting in Wyoming, and climb in Marble, Colorado, near Aspen, and the MotherLode tournament. My passion for skiing runs deep, as it does with my children, and I eagerly await the upcoming season when we can hit the slopes once again. But my love for the outdoors doesn’t stop there. I also find solace in fly fishing and hunting, using these activities as a way to truly connect with nature and the local guides who share my passion for volleyball. Exploring the snowy landscapes of South and North Dakota, or braving the scorching heat of the New Mexican and Arizona deserts, has allowed me to challenge myself and appreciate the beauty that surrounds us. From fishing in the Snowy River in Australia to the South Island of New Zealand, from the Italian Alps to the Scottish Highlands, and even in South America, I’ve had the privilege of pursuing my favorite hobby in breathtaking locations. However, I have to admit that some of the best fishing spots are right here in the USA and Canada, from Alaska to Maine, with my home state of Colorado offering some truly remarkable experiences.

In addition to these outdoor pursuits, I am also an avid photographer. My parents always emphasized the importance of capturing memories through photographs, and those words have stuck with me throughout my life. My father, having spent a significant portion of his youth in Yosemite, developed a strong bond with nature and photography. He even had the opportunity to get to know Ansel Adams personally through our family friend, Uncle Onas Ward, who owned a photography shop in Yosemite Valley. My time spent in the darkroom working on my college yearbook made me appreciate the art of photography even more, and witnessing the evolution of digital photography has been truly remarkable. As a proud Canon user, I have accumulated over 200,000 shots and have a separate hard drive dedicated solely to my photography. To me, photography is more than just a hobby; it’s a way to capture the essence of role models, such as my father, who have shaped my life.

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Now, you may be wondering, what does all of this have to do with coaching and parenting? Well, let me explain. A series of well-captured photographs can be a powerful tool for teaching your players. Karch Kiraly, our three-time Olympic gold medalist and current assistant coach for the USA women’s team, understands this concept better than anyone. Using a high-speed camera, such as the Casio EXILIM, Karch captures slow-motion shots of opponents during tournaments. He then utilizes software like Dartfish to analyze these shots with the players, helping them anticipate the type of shot or serve their opponents are likely to make. Karch’s experience at UCLA, where he played under legendary coach Al Scates, taught him the importance of reading the game early and positioning himself accordingly. Now, he shares his insights with all of us, passing on the knowledge he has gained throughout his career. This holistic approach to training, which focuses on the entire game rather than just individual skills, is what separates good coaches from great ones. As coaches, we often possess the ability to anticipate a tipping ball before it happens, but our players on the court may not always be able to do the same. That’s where the camera comes in. By utilizing high-speed cameras capable of capturing anywhere from 30 to 1,000 frames per second, we can help our players improve their reading skills. Shooting at around 240 frames per second provides ample detail for teaching reading skills effectively. Personally, I use the FH25 version of the Casio EXILIM cameras, but all models in the series work well.

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It is essential to move beyond mere drills and incorporate the realities of the game into our training sessions. By doing so, we expose our players to the environmental variability and sensory inputs they need to develop the motor maps and implicit behaviors necessary for expert performance. As Dr. Carl McGown and Dr. Steve Bain emphasize, simply focusing on drills deprives learners of the essential experiences that lead to functional skills and expertise. Reading the game at a higher level can only be achieved through actual game play. So, as coaches, let’s not limit ourselves to teaching skills over the net. Let’s train our players to understand the flow of the game and prepare them for real-game situations.

In closing, I’d like to share how my photographer friend Jim Huffman recently discovered the Nikon D4 camera, which has been used to capture numerous films, including those featured on the North Face channel. This camera truly showcases the “why” behind photography, reminding us that understanding the purpose and meaning behind our actions is more important than simply knowing how to do something. As we embrace the new year, let’s continue to grow the game together and capture the moments that make it all worthwhile.


Q: How can high-speed cameras help coaches and players improve their performance?
A: High-speed cameras, like the Casio EXILIM series, are valuable tools for coaches and players. By capturing slow-motion shots of opponents during tournaments, these cameras enable coaches to analyze and teach players the art of reading the game. The ability to anticipate an opponent’s moves before they happen is crucial for success in volleyball, and high-speed cameras enhance this skill development.

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Q: Is it better to focus on drills or actual game play when training athletes?
A: It’s important to strike a balance between drills and game play when training athletes. While drills are useful for honing specific skills, they do not fully replicate the dynamic nature of actual game situations. In order to develop a deep understanding of the flow of the game and the ability to read opponents, athletes must also engage in realistic game play scenarios.


In this article, we explored the powerful combination of cameras, athletes, and role modeling. As a passionate outdoor enthusiast and photographer, I have found that these three elements can significantly impact coaching and parenting. By capturing memories through photography, we create lasting impressions and draw inspiration from our role models. Moreover, high-speed cameras, such as the Casio EXILIM series, provide coaches and players with invaluable tools for analyzing and improving performance. Rather than relying solely on drills, it is essential to incorporate game play into training sessions, allowing athletes to develop the necessary skills for expert performance. Let’s embrace the possibilities provided by photography and technology to enhance the way we coach and play the game we love. And remember, the “why” will always be more important than the “how.” Happy new year, and let’s continue to grow the game together!

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