Together We Triumph

This post originally appeared on on September 30, 2019.

Local soccer has changed my life, and I haven’t spent any (significant) time “on the pitch.” Let me explain: I’ve had anxiety for a long time, its manifestations so much a part of my daily life that I can’t even tell you when it started. Panic attacks have happened when I’m by myself at home, in the cereal aisle at the grocery store, and surrounded by people at church. I’ve made many accommodations, left many parties and classes and games (eventually not going at all), avoided talking to people or trying new things, all in the hopes of eluding that feeling: the tightness in my chest, the sudden uptick in my heart rate and breathing, the tunnel vision from the walls closing in on me as time slows to a halt. All that to say: going to a crowded, adrenaline-packed stadium I’ve never been to has the potential to be a personal nightmare.  So how did I end up involved with two hometown soccer clubs? I was not an athletic kid by any stretch of the imagination. Growing up in the South, football was the first sport I loved. The first time I really played sports was at a summer camp in 1999 where you could learn two sports-I picked volleyball and soccer. It just so happened that the US women won the World Cup the week before I left for camp. Pictures of Brandi Chastain and Mia Hamm were all over the papers that week; my first real glimpse at female athletes being celebrated. I was hooked.

Again, not being athletic, I never played outside of those camps, but I followed soccer as best I could, mostly World Cups and televised matches. I went to my first game in person while in college at Furman. MLS came in my life by way of seeing the Portland Timbers and their chainsaw on ESPN in 2012. Joining the Timbers Army, even from afar, was the first time I followed a club consistently. I fell hard into the fandom: designing patches, following players, organizing local meetups, and staying up entirely too late watching West Coast games. None of that is the same as a gameday experience, though. When not one but two teams came to Greenville, I couldn’t believe my luck.

(Repping the Timbers/SNST/both Greenville teams/USA)

I spent the first GVLFC season on the sidelines, thanks to an uncharacteristically bold email to the club asking if I could use them to try out sports photography. It was a bit of a personal stretch for me, meeting new people, but the team played at my college’s soccer stadium, so it was a familiar environment. It was not without incident though. I white-knuckled my way through the season and left at least one game due to a panic attack I couldn’t get under control. The players, leadership, and the fans were all very kind though, and the connections I’ve made are still truly special to me. That season cemented my love for local sports, learning the stories of how each person on and around the pitch ended up there.

 Then this year, the Triumph came to town. The season started at a weird time for me. I made my second attempt at medication the week of that first scrimmage against App State. I should state the usual here: I’m not a doctor, meds aren’t for everyone, etc. But I needed help:  as you may have guessed, the all-encompassing anxiety I described as my normal was not okay. I was not okay, and I knew that deep down. My first attempt at taking anxiety medication went very poorly, and it took me a year and a half to brave trying again. I told my husband half-jokingly that Triumph games would provide the ultimate test of how this new attempt was going.  I wanted to be there, though, so buying season tickets was both an act of defiance against this cloud that ruled my life and hope that things could be different.

I knew a magic pill didn’t exist, that medication was to help take the edge off these sharp feelings I knew too well, but I didn’t know what to expect. The first home game of the season found me starting to settle into a bit of a rhythm with my meds: learning how they made me feel, how best to space them, and testing some long-held boundaries around things I “couldn’t do.” So with trepidation, I got ready for the game. I got my photo equipment together, packed some sunscreen, and we headed out to Legacy. I wasn’t ready to brave the Riot tailgate yet, so I picked up my press pass, we went through security, and entered the stadium.

Just as I gained some confidence that maybe things were okay, disaster struck. In my nervous packing, I left my camera battery at home. The options felt limited: re-entry is prohibited, but I was very much looking forward to taking pictures of the inaugural game. Thankfully, the club president knew us from our burgeoning avid fandom, and 30 minutes before kickoff, my husband got permission to run home, leaving me at the stadium. This was a huge moment for us, as I previously insisted on having an exit strategy at all times due to my anxiety. I wouldn’t even ride with my in-laws to dinner when they’d visit, on the off chance we needed to leave. Yet here I was, choosing to be alone amidst the thousands of people spilling in and filling the stadium. It was not easy, but he made it back and I did not fall apart.  It was the first time I really believed that things could be different. Honestly, it felt a little like magic.

The magic continued that night, with the Triumph’s first win. The winning goal happened right in front of my camera, the first in a string of fortuitous moments this season when I happened to be in the right place just as the men did something amazing. We won, the Riot cheered, and I was in the middle of all of it. And I was okay. In fact, it was better than okay: I felt alive. Every game gave me that feeling again, sometimes even more so, and sometimes even away from the games themselves. The first Riot tailgate I went to, I felt a little sheepish; I didn’t really know anyone. That familiar dread sat heavy in my body, but bolstered, I went anyway. I was welcomed, and people knew my name. They asked me to take their picture, and they thanked me for ones I had taken previously. I got lightheartedly teased for being a Timbers fan by some Atlanta fans who had been to the MLS Cup last year. I was offered beer and food, and when I mentioned thinking about interviewing some of the Triumph players, people were encouraging about my ideas.

I ended up doing a few of those interviews, thanks to the social media age and the kindness of players who took the time to let me record them at my local watering hole. That’s not to say they went off without a hitch: I cancelled my first interview appointment because I was so nervous, I made myself sick. Friends encouraged me, and Dallas was nice enough to reschedule. I did not do as many as I had hoped, but the fact that multiple players sat down with me and told me their stories of how they made it to Greenville – that’s something truly special, and something that would have been completely out of the question even a year ago for me.

Every game was extraordinary, whether we won, lost, or drew, because every game was a reminder of growth and progress on and off the field, for the team, for the fans, and for me personally. From winning our first US Open Cup match, to handing a loss to the league leader in their home stadium, playing in snow and rain and insane heat, and watching the men of the team stay after gutting losses to sign autographs and take selfies with fans who still loved them, every bit of the season was exceptional.

Heading into the last week of the season, I don’t know what the playoffs hold. I hope the team brings home some hardware. Whether they do or not, though, I want to thank the soccer community for giving me something better, though less tangible. They’ve given me hope that things can get better. They’ve given me community that is accepting and loving and honestly a Riot to be around at all times. I am in constant awe, and just hope I can give a little back to them too.

On photo credits, or how I’m learning to advocate for my creative work

In high school, my dad passed down his college camera, a Pentax K1000, to me, and that kicked off a passion for taking pictures. Being able to capture a specific image, a moment in time, is intoxicating. Since then, I’ve invested in that part of myself: taken classes in high school and college, bought equipment, and spent time-so much time- honing my craft. There have been times when I wanted it to be the way I made a living, and that feeling still comes and goes. There is still so much to learn, and imposter syndrome creeps in all too easily. I’ve mostly done portraits for friends and acquaintances, some landscapes for work, and various other odd jobs.

Last year, I took a few bigger steps. Thanks to local soccer coming to Greenville, I had the opportunity to learn about sports photography, both on and off the field. I called myself an “embedded photographer” with a supporters group, I had my work shared on social media, and a few pictures even showed up on local news (mostly because they were of a cute kid)! I was published on a website (shoutout to Soccer ‘N’ Sweet Tea for paying attention to me). I shot my first wedding (!) The opportunities were wonderful, and confidence-giving; they were also things I wasn’t ready for. I did not have a real strategy for keeping tabs on my work, for translating the hours of knowledge and shooting and editing into a solid way of growing my brand. I flew by the seat of my pants, and it often showed.

What I asked of people who wanted to use my work was photo credit, basically to be paid in exposure, and for pictures not to be used commercially without my consent/some kind of payment. I think I was worried about not being worthy of anything more (and the pains of figuring out logistics and taxes if I charged-jeez, you’d think a liberal arts degree would have better prepared me for adult financial plans!) I will be frank: I did not always even get what I was asking, and felt terrible about asking people to simply mention me while using my hard work. And honestly, it probably hurt other photographers-devaluing my work could set expectations for others. This brings me to a wonderful tweet by a local entrepreneur I respect:

Oh, Josh. You’re cutting to the heart of my issue:
1. I didn’t feel like I was charging a “good price” because I was shy about my product.
2. When I was confident in the “price”, and it was ignored, I would just lower the price (to “no credit”)
The problem is that I felt like it was the only option-I did not feel like I could advocate for myself, or change my approach. And that’s not good-it led to feeling resentment (when I was happy with the pictures) or unsure of my skills. As it turns out, sports leagues and teams are also sometimes bad at this from their end:

I would love to wrap this all up with a pretty bow, and say that I have it all figured out. That would be a lie. I’m still currently working for photo credit, opting to make my work available for download in order to get my name “out there”. I’m paying for website hosting and renting lenses and putting miles on my shoes and actuations on my shutters, all while giving away free content. But I don’t believe that it has to be that way forever anymore. I am (working to be) more confident in asking for credit where it is due, I have looked at paid positions shooting soccer, I am (maybe) finally seeing what I and my work are worth. And I will not apologize for that anymore.

My Favorite Photos of 2018

So, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to take pictures this year. While my instagram may not show it (“only” 58 posts this year-haha!), I’ve done a lot of snapping. I even bought a new DSLR after using the one Evan proposed with for the last 9 years (it’s now my backup body, which helped when I shot a freaking wedding this year!) I originally set out to post one favorite picture from each month of the last year, in order to send off 2018 properly. What you’ll get instead are about 22 of my favorites. Oh well-rules were meant to be broken. There are a lot of friends (the essence of my life), and soccer (which is what happens when you take about 125 GB of soccer photos in a year).


Playing in the snow with Ella: it’s her smile, the sunset in the background, her red coat that makes me think of The Snowy Day-I love it all.


A foggy morning at Furman; simple, quiet.


More Ella, this time at soccer practice. Something about these girls sharing a snack and some gossip makes me fast forward to high school-same girls, same pose. This stolen moment tugs at my heart.


Ella’s last game culminated in a sprinkle doughnut. That sprinkle plunging towards the ground, Ella’s mouth open as wide as humanly possible, her still making eye contact.

May (here’s where my discipline went off the rails):

GVLFC’s first home goal: the excitement of the guys, the despair of the defender, the light coming across the box
Never not loving smoke pictures-I love Goose’s expression as it all swirls around him.


Malcolm Frago making a break for it; a very common sight this season.
I can smell the smoke and hear the drums in this picture.


Sheer elation, more smoke-this is soccer.
This always feels like less of a picture at a soccer game, more like a Burning Man photo.
I took a lot of shots of Lugnut over the season, but the lighting, his and Chris’ expressions, the colors-this one might be my favorite.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t include this one. GVLFC has used it multiple times, and it perfectly encapsulates how we all felt after we won the first Carolina Classico.


The lighting was perfect this night, and I love the motion of her hair. One day, I will own the lens that took this picture.
The entire football team came out to support the women’s soccer team (plus the front row are all mens soccer players!) and to celebrate some goals. Again: smoke pictures.


Lugnut again, dreaming big dreams while watching his role models.


This was a sidewalk at work after the rain-but looked so much like a forest that I had to take a picture with my phone.

November (again, lots of pictures):

Evan indulged me a lot of pictures this year, but this is my favorite. Autumn light, taken before work in our backyard. It was foggy and the sun was just peeking through the trees.
I looked over after church one day, and told Lucy just to stay exactly where she was. Something so simple, not even posed, yet elegant.
The Rampeys have known Evan for what feels like forever, but I had the pleasure of taking their Christmas card pictures on a rainy Saturday after Thanksgiving. The easygoing love they have for each other is amazing.
As I said, I had the privilege of taking wedding pictures for some friends last month. Redemption and grace at work. Still makes me teary.


We took a lot of pictures at Christmas this year, but my sister’s dog Ziggy stole the show. The tree lights twinkling in the background, the lighting…I am proud of this one.
Of course, I have to end on one more of Ella, this time with the rest of the family. All laughing, while sitting in front of a tree that fell in their yard during our big snowstorm this month. You don’t have to have everyone (or anyone) looking at the camera to have something special. It’s intimate and joyous, and I love it.

So there you have it; it was very tough to whittle the hundreds of gb of pictures (not counting what I shot on film) down to these, but I feel that I’ve learned and grown a lot this year. Here’s to more in 2019.

The Issues on the Table

This will be a rundown that’s pretty specific to my area/state, because while there are some high profile races happening all over, these are the ones I can influence. If you live somewhere besides Greenville, SC, you should do your own research-there is still time, and it is important. I know some people have said they’re tired of being told to vote, or who to vote for, and I get it: politics are very much in our face at all times right now. But here’s the thing: doing your own research and then voting will take less time than you’d think. Additionally, there are probably parts of our nation you want to change right now, no matter who you are, and this is a direct way for you to do that.

(You can go here to see a sample ballot for your precinct, and, if you’re in South Carolina, you can go here to see 1. whether you’re registered and 2. where you’re supposed to vote tomorrow!) Now, to the races!

U.S. House District 4

  • William Timmons (R) -you can see Timmons’ voting record in the South Carolina Senate here. I don’t think he’s done a bad job per se, but his campaign ads strongly compared him to Trey Gowdy, who I did not like. In addition, his support for a southern wall at the border makes him a no-go for me.
  • Guy Furay (A)- some of Furay’s positions appeal to me, namely his stances on healthcare reform and gun reform. However, he never quite mentions actionable steps, and on every platform seems noncommittal about taking a clear position. I’m not against voting third party, but this is not where I want to cast my vote.
  • Brandon Brown (D)-Okay, don’t go look at his website. It’s not pretty. His positions, though, are things I can go along with: he is against arming teachers as a means of “securing our schools”, is pro-environment, and against the tariffs that have affected several big businesses in South Carolina. Brown will get my vote.

South Carolina Governor

  • Henry McMaster (R)-McMaster became Governor after Nikki Haley was chosen to be Ambassor to the UN. The top 3 priorities his campaign listed for the League of Women voters are jobs, Relief for Ratepayers (related to the VC Summer project), and “Law & Order”. Surprisingly, he does not mean bringing all the seasons and spinoffs to a streaming service near you; his intentions are to get resource officers for every school, and banning sanctuary cities in the state. Entirely less fun than watching Olivia Benson and Ice-T take down perps. His positions on gun safety also leave much to be desired, mentioning common sense gun laws but in the midst of saying several times that he supports the 2nd Amendment. He also seems to believe gerrymandering is not something that happens in South Carolina, which is absurd. 
  • James Smith (D)-In contrast, Smith’s camp lists affordable healthcare, education, and jobs as his top 3 priorities. His clear and concise plans for gun control are encouraging, and he seems to be aware of issues like gerrymandering and inequitable funding in schools. Some have said they cannot vote for Smith in clear conscience due to his stance on abortion. McMaster’s camp certainly has stoked that flame: his spokeswoman is quoted as saying 

“James Smith is the anti-religious liberty, abortion-on-demand, high-tax candidate in this race, which is antithetical to everything Upstate voters stand for. Not only are the numbers not there for him, but voters will turn out in droves to keep this socialist wannabe out of the governor’s mansion.” (Link)

  • The fearmongering by McMaster’s mouthpiece (especially using the phrase “abortion on demand”, which has never been a thing in our state or country, to my knowledge) is a smokescreen. Being pro-life is about more than just pro-birth, and I feel good about Smith’s positions; he seems concerned with holistically improving the lives of South Carolinians across the financial and social spectrums, and across age groups.

SC Secretary of State

  • Mark Hammond (R)
  • Melvin Whittenberg (D)
  • I don’t know that there’s a clear and discernible choice here-Hammond is the incumbent, and seems to be doing an okay enough job that I didn’t know him by name and collective groan from my friend group. I will be voting for Whittenberg, though, because he has some interesting ideas (namely a cross-disciplinary think tank to, among other things, bring better internet providers to SC, as well as encouraging minority business owners), and would take pride in the office.

SC Attorney General

  • Constance Anastopoulo (D)
  • Alan Wilson (R)
  • Again, my voting position is less strongly “for” someone, and more “voting against the opponent’s principles”. In this case, Alan Wilson boasts about leading the states’ challenge to the federal healthcare mandate, and fighting “EPA overreach” (his site’s wording). I will give him props for passing more laws against domestic violence and sex trafficking, but almost the same amount of space on his campaign page is devoted to those issues, as is spent giving his family military history. That rubs me the wrong way, not because our military is not important (they are), but it has nothing to do with his service as Attorney General. Both candidates mention wanting to help solve the opioid epidemic in South Carolina, which is a positive.

SC Commissioner of Agriculture

Listen, I know all positions matter, but I don’t know that I care that much about some of them. Is that bad? Probably. Here we go:

  • Chris Nelums (United Citizens)
  • David Edmond (Green)
  • Hugh Weathers (Republican)
  • For me, it’s between Edmond and Weathers. Weathers has been in the position since 2005, and seems knowledgeable. His ties to agriculture come from being a fourth generation farmer; Edmond’s credentials lie in the fact he was a veterinary food inspector and did some farming in his childhood. I like Edmond’s support of farmers markets, but I think his goals are probably too lofty for the office (curing cancer is a noble pursuit, but I’m not sure it’s for that position to do…)

SC State Treasurer

  • Rosalyn Glenn (D)-Glenn certainly has the background for the position, as she’s been in financial management for 25 years. I’m concerned about how realistic her expectations for the position are, however.
  • Curtis Loftis (R)-Loftis is the incumbent, and seems pleased with his previous performance of the necessary tasks. He says he has tripled the College Savings Plan (and wants to double it still), and returned a record amount of unclaimed property to South Carolinians. His endorsements come from Tea Party members and the NRA, though, so it’s a pass from me.
  • Sarah Work (A)-I like Sarah Work’s nonpartisan attitudes, and that she wants to bring a certain amount of ethics and transparency to the position that I feel Loftis has lacked (namely, she does not want to use money gained from pimping out the College Savings Plan to support her political aspirations, which is a charge she’s leveled at Loftis).

SC Superintendent of Education

  • There’s a caveat here: technically, Molly Spearman (R) is running unopposed, after her Democratic opponent withdrew. She’s not doing a bad job, as far as I can tell; under her supervision, new buses have been purchased, and she cares about the teacher shortage.
  • There is a write-in campaign for Michele Phillips, a teacher from Charleston. I like the plans she’s laid out for some issues she has seen in the state, from funding inequity to recruiting shortages for teachers. I’m torn here, because I don’t know that she has enough support to make a difference, but reviews on Spearman are hot and cold; some find her take-charge attitude refreshing (it certainly gets results), but others find it abrasive, or a sign of government overreach.

SC House of Representatives District 22

  • Jason Elliott (R)-There was quite the stir when Elliott was elected; he’s the state’s first openly gay legislator, and some who voted for him felt duped. His politics are staunchly in line with the Republican party, though: he is pro-life, pro-guns, and pro-arming teachers. He rails against government overreach, while also calling for many of the positions I am listing here to no longer be elected, but appointed by the Governor.
  • BK Brown (D)-There is not a lot of information on this candidate, but the Greenville News says he is “pro choice, pro gun sense, pro public schools, pro environment and pro health care, and that he believes that government is meant to be a service to citizens and not a business.” I agree with some of these tenets, so I will be voting for the underdog here.

SC Solicitor Circuit 13

  • Walt Wilkins (R)-In the last few days, it has come to light that Wilkins borrowed a gun from evidence (on the suggestion of the then-Sheriff) for his own protection, and later that gun was stolen from his car and never recovered. He blames the then-Sheriff for saying it was okay to take. This is literally all I know about the man.
  • Lucas Marchant (I)-Marchant is on the ballot in some locations, and will have to be write-in in others. He is big on common-sense approaches to prosecution, and seems to genuinely care about justice for all parties involved. I believe he is also serious about restorative justice, which I strongly support.

Unopposed Offices (as far as I can tell)

  • SC Comptroller General: Richard Eckstrom (R)


Amendment 1 is also on the ballot: it puts to vote whether South Carolinians want to keep voting for Superintendent of Education (in which case, you’d vote No for the Amendment) or whether we want the Governor to appoint that position (in which case, you’d vote Yes). I like having options, so I am voting No.

On the state of soccer in Greenville

I never thought an announcement about a sports team coming to my hometown would elicit mixed feelings. As a lifelong Greenvillian and sports fiend, I thought almost nothing could make me happier. However, today’s announcement that USLDIII is coming to Greenville, SC in 2019 brought me excitement, very quickly followed by sadness, confusion, and a healthy dose of reality. First, my credentials: I love sports. I grew up on American football, but when Brandi Chastain and Mia Hamm led the US to a World Cup, that all changed. Since then, I’ve been an avid USWNT and USMNT supporter (though, more recently, some deserved criticism has also made an appearance), embraced MLS through my beautiful Portland Timbers and their Timbers Army, celebrated a Portland Thorns National Championship, and watched countless college games; I’ll take the game almost any way I can get it. Case in point: I spent an hour yesterday outside watching three-year-olds play (and, as cute as they are, I use the term “play” in the loosest sense). I am ravenous for more soccer, especially live games.

Second, a clarification: I desperately want soccer to do extremely well specifically in Greenville, for a multitude of reasons. I would like my eventual children to have the option of bypassing American football, with all its potential for long lasting brain injury, in lieu of something more elegant. I signed the petition going around last year to bring attention to Greenville from the USLDIII. I have season tickets for GVL FC, which came available as I was walking my husband into the dentist to have his wisdom teeth removed; we both became season ticket holders while he was being put under anesthesia. I can’t tell you how much time we’ve spent around TVs and dinner tables and pitches, talking and guessing about teams and stadiums and partnerships. I just never imagined that dream of professional soccer in my backyard finally materializing might have the potential to sink something beautifully grassroots that already exists now, in GVL FC.

Does Greenville have room for two teams? Maybe, but Greenville has quite the track record when it comes to professional teams falling by the wayside. While the Greenville Drive baseball team has seemed to thrive, any Greenvillian will remember the Greenville Grrrowl (yes, apparently, the three R’s were necessary, for reasons never fully explained). The city announced the hockey team as they demolished the Greenville Memorial Auditorium to build the Bi-Lo Center (now the Bon Secours Wellness Arena, or “The Well,” if the marketing campaign is to be believed). The team played in the ECHL for 8 seasons, declining in attendance a quick 3 years after winning the championship in 2001-2002, and eventually shuttering in 2006[1]. In 2010, another ECHL franchise moved from Pennsylvania to become the Greenville Road Warriors. The team has since changed names to the Greenville Swamp Rabbits, along with several ownership changes[2].

Along with hockey, Greenville has also dabbled in other sports. The Greenville Groove played 2 seasons in the National Basketball Development League (now the NBA G League), winning the championship their first year, and folding after their second[3]. The Carolina Rhinos called the Bi-Lo Center home from 2000-2002, playing in the AF2 Arena Football division[4]. The Greenville Force took another shot in 2009 and 2010 (after another team announced in 2004 they would play in Greenville, but never did)[5]. With all this history of sports teams with dubious tenure in the last 20 odd years, a healthy skepticism seems prudent at best.

It might seem like I am ungrateful that teams keep taking a chance on my city, or even that I am anti-Greenville sports; both of these could not be further from the truth. I remember multiple Grrrowl, Swamp Rabbits, Greenville Braves, and Drive games fondly, and the Drive at least seem to have discovered the keys to both staying power and success within the city. Soccer presents a unique challenge, at least partially stemming from the unorthodox setup of the structure.  When the average person hears the announcement of a USLDIII team coming to Greenville, they may assume we already have one. USL, technically, is the second tier in a pyramid system: MLS is the pinnacle, followed by USL (now that NASL has lost their sanctioning status[6]); both of these are sanctioned by the US Soccer Federation. USLDIII seeks to fill the third tier of this pyramid, above amateur leagues like the NPSL and PDL, who are unrecognized by the USSF. I assume that these facts are how the USLDIII committee this morning in Greenville could claim that they were “bringing professional soccer” to the city, not even deigning to mention GVL FC.

So what do I see happening? Well, best case scenario and worst case scenarios seem the easiest way to explain it. Best case scenario: Greenville gets not one, but two ways to take in the beautiful game in person. The two teams feed off each other’s energy, GVL FC attracts talent and passion this year that dovetails nicely into the USLDIII’s team next year. Eventually, maybe GVL FC becomes a stepping stone for the DIII team. That asks a lot of an organization that has yet to play a single game, and barely allows a season for them to get established. It seems GVL FC has a lot of fans aboard the “hype train,” but it is far too early to pass any judgements. Then comes the worst case scenario: two teams divides the attention of a curious potential fanbase, not allowing either franchise to find a secure footing. If that becomes the case, both could fold, becoming small footnotes in the history of teams in Greenville. USLDIII seems excited to reach new heights in new places, but I wonder if that comes at the expense of sustainability. Maybe the league has been considering their moves for a while, but the optics seem to imply they are lumbering into a burgeoning market in Greenville they may disrupt and even permanently alter. I, for one, hope that they start treading lighter, in hopes of keeping the soccer dream alive at all levels.