“We have to remember that sport is a performance, and athletes are performers,” says Amy Bass ’92.
An academic expert in the fascinating intersection of sport, culture, and society, Bass shared three insights about what’s going on when sports teams — in this case, Bobcat teams — gather for their pre-season photo shoots and pose in creative, fun, and powerful ways, as seen in these examples.
What separates athletes from other performers — say, an improv group — are the many rules of their sport, which means that athletes can’t readily express themselves as individuals within the context of their sport, even when it comes to what they wear.
“We’re seeing right now, how FIFA changed its mind on the OneLove armband during the World Cup,” says Bass, a professor of sports studies at Manhattanville College and frequent opinion contributor to CNN and other media outlets.
For athletes, rule-free zones are few. There’s the NFL end zone, where, for example, star receiver Justin Jefferson does his Griddy dance after a touchdown — or during a freewheeling Bates sportrait session when a couple of Bates volleyball players do their own version of the dance (see below).
Bass’ second point is about how sport creates meaning. “Spectators use sport to make meaning out of our lives. But it’s harder for athletes to make meaning out of their lives through sport — again because of those rules and prescriptions.”
A sportrait session is where an athlete can make a statement about themselves. Some statements are silly, some witty, and some “pretty powerful,” says Bass, pointing to a pose by a Bates swimmer last year, along with the athlete saying that her broad and muscular swimmers’ shoulders are her “badge of honor.”
“That’s a pretty significant statement,” says Bass. “That’s women taking up space in terms of the kind of bodies that they feel that they need and want to have — and that they can have — to succeed at what they do.”
And third, as much as these photo sessions offer fun moments for self-expression, Bobcats mostly talk about the way the sessions build team unity at the start of a season.
During the sessions, the team is pretty much in control of things, with encouragement and guidance from the photographer, Brewster Burns. Coaches aren’t a big part of the show.
“Team building has to include some kind of player autonomy,” says Bass. “A coach can’t tell the players how to be together.” She recalls a moment captured in her book One Goal, which chronicles the 2015 championship season of the fabulously multicultural Lewiston High School boys’ soccer team. “One night they created a team song. And then they tell their coach what it is, and what his part of it is.”
In the past — before digital replaced film, allowing for expansive photo sessions — team building moments might occur elsewhere, maybe during “a pasta dinner the night before the big game,” Bass says. Now, team photo day “is another version of the pasta dinner the night before.”
Here are our 13 favorites from the fall 2022 season:
For their sportrait, these four first-year football players gathered around a spinning football.
“We’ve seen NFL players individually spin the ball and ‘warm’ their hands over it, like a campfire, so we decided to sit by our campfire and warm our hands,” explains quarterback Sergio Beltran (right) of East Palo Alto, Calif.
The four teammates “had become very close friends pretty quickly, so we decided to take a sportrait together.”
This squishmallow, Dinosaur Hal, resides in the volleyball team’s locker room. “He’s like a team squishmallow,” says Ellie Asada ’26 of Honolulu, Hawaii, who credits teammate Madison Broda ’23 of Portland, Maine, with the idea. “She loves squishmallows.”
Angel Among Us
This image is inspired by the iconic logo of the Charlie’s Angels franchise.
Rowing coxswain Rowan Cody ‘25 of Madison, Wis. stands in the center, “guarded” by her fellow rowers.
“As the coxswain, she’s kind of the brain of the boat so that’s the significance behind her position in the photo,” explains Sakakeeny-Smith on behalf of the group.
Eight Is Enough
When we first glanced at this photograph, we figured it was a stop-motion strobe image, the kind made famous by photographer Leonard Kamsler, showing the swing of golfer Alex Voight Shelley ‘24 of State College, Pa.
In fact, the image shows the golf swings, at various points, of all eight Bates women’s golfers. “We wanted to show the sequence of a golf swing in one of our photos,” explains Voight Shelly on behalf of her fellow juniors (Acton and Shind) and senior (Battye).
“We loved this photo because it shows that while golf is mainly thought of as an individual sport, having a supportive team environment is what really pushes us to be better athletes.“
Voight Shelley is joined by Grace Acton ’24 of Harvard, Mass., Nerea Barranco ‘25 of Zarautz, Spain, Sylvia Battye ‘23 of Auburn, Ala., Ruby Haylock ‘26 of Hartford, Maine, Maddy Kwei ‘25 of Pasadena, Calif., Kendall Reed ‘26 of Newtown, Conn., and Mira Shind ‘24 of Wellesley, Mass.
‘I find your lack of Bobcat Pride…’
This amalgam of various Darth Vader strangle moments is courtesy of football offensive linemen Quinn Woods ’23 (left) of Minot, Maine, and Cole De Magistris ‘24 of Emerson, N.J.
De Magistris (“I’m a big Star Wars fan”) came up with the idea, using props from when he was a kid. “All I needed was a teammate to complete the picture and Quinn was the perfect guy for the role.
Says Woods, “It’s an instant classic that we can look back on forever.”
De Magistris even came up with his own tag line for the photo: “I find your lack of Bobcat Pride…disturbing.”
Football wide receiver Maverick Selementi ‘26 of Montclair, N.J., uses his hands to frame and emphasize the ski mask he’s wearing, which Selementi refers to as a “shiesty,” after the Memphis rapper who popularized the accessory.
It’s a Keeper
That’s soccer goalkeeper Bruce David ’25 of Pittsburgh in front, with additional arms support from fellow keepers Erik Janzon ’25 of Ridgefield, Conn., and Nico Hessel ’26 of Brattleboro, Vt.
“As a keeper, you often have times where you’re in top form and you feel like the opposition has no chance at putting a shot past you — when it seems like you have six arms to an opposition striker,” says Janzon. “We wanted to channel this feeling.”
Like a kicker for an American football team, soccer keepers don’t have a lot of company at their position, so “good camaraderie is extremely important,” Janzon adds.
“We play the most competitive and isolated position in the sport, and we’re the only players who truly understand the challenges that come with playing our position.” Good camaraderie “helps us continue to push one another to get better during training.”
Out to the Curb
Senior year for a college athlete is bittersweet. For most, the end of a competitive career is near. And that’s how these four senior soccer players ended up with their bit.
“We were sort of reflecting on how this season was the start of the end,” said McKersie. “Soon we’d be ‘washed-up’ former college athletes!”
‘Where We Come From’
Football defensive back Mohamed Coulibaly ‘23 and receiver Mohamed Diawara ‘23, cousins from Philadelphia, Pa., hold the national flag of Mali.
“The flag means a lot,” says Coulibaly. “Both of my parents and both of Mohamed’s parents are from Mali. It represents where we come from. It’s important to remember the culture and the things we embody that come from our parents. It’s in our DNA.”
Sisters and field hockey players who hail from Auburn, Maine, Anna Cote ’25 and Paige Cote ’23 offer their takes on poses that show the strength of siblings.
In the photo at left, Anna is in foreground, and Paige’s arms are seen, flexed. In the right photo, Anna is hugging Paige.
Words to Row By
Rowers Genesis Bussey ‘24 (left) of Bronx, N.Y., and Ollie Young ‘23 of Burlington, Vt., cross arms as they display team bracelets with the words “Bright” and “Grit.”
Each year, as the women’s rowing team nears NCAA Championship season, the squad’s seniors choose a word to rally around, explains Young. “Bright” and “Grit” are the words from 2021 and 2022.
“Each senior speaks to what that word means to them, and everyone carries that with them as we move forward, no matter where we go,” says Young. “Everyone on the team gets a bracelet, and a teammate ties it for you. It’s a tradition that connects the team throughout the years — even after each class graduates.”
“We just thought it would be a funny picture to have,” says volleyball player Kate Hansen ‘25 (right) of Menlo Park, Calif., doing the Griddy dance with teammate Alyssa Lowther ‘25 of Wyckoff, N.J.
Here’s a quick tutorial from the Griddy master himself, NFL star receiver Justin Jefferson.
When the summer camp where Gabe Coffey ‘23 of Bangor, Maine, worked last summer bought new flags, he offered to take this well-worn Maine state flag.
“I had no real idea of what I’d do with it,” he said, until the cross country team prepared for its team photos. “I realized I’m the only Mainer on the men’s team, and thought it apropos to make it known.”