By Chet Piotrowski Jr.
I see the world differently than most people. I see it in my own Matrix-esque view. I see the world in degrees of relationship: shapes, symmetry/asymmetry, colors/contrast, and light/shadow. I’m a people watcher. The best images I make are ones where I know who I’m photographing because I’m better able to anticipate the action. With that, here we go:
March 3, 2021 – Charleston’s Shae Littleford breaks the school’s career point record
What I like about this image is the asymmetry between being assertive to break the career points record, but not wanting to touch the ball with which she broke it.
April 26, 2021 – Charleston softball versus St. Anthony: Charleston’s Karah Moore fires a pitch to home plate
I like how the placement of the ball “imitates” her eye. I spent two innings *just* trying to get this image. There’s a fair amount of luck that goes into photography to get everything lined up how you’d like. You can find art in anything you want; you just have to look for it.
June 6, 2021 – Charleston baseball sectional championship
There’s nothing more rewarding than being in the right spot at the right time when an athlete just explodes with the passion of a thousand burning suns. I was bouncing back between the home and away dugouts to get them batting and running to second. When Dane yelled, I just *knew* I had it, and I started shaking because we’re immortalizing these moments – and this would be one that would be remembered for a long, long time.
June 14, 2021 – Charleston goes to the Super Sectionals
I was trying to get a really tight shot of the first baseman’s glove with the infield dirt around Cory’s face as he was sliding into first. At the last minute, I zoomed out and got lucky with the ball appearing at the top of the frame. About this same time, the sun started to set behind a building, which created some interesting shadows.
September 24, 2021 – Charleston football versus Mahomet-Seymour
I couldn’t imagine the emotions going through this player’s mind in trying to regain control of the ball while a quarter of the defense was bearing down on him. The weird thing on this play is that the ball and Dukeman were going forward at the same speed and for a moment it felt like he’d never recover it.
October 2, 2021 – Charleston defeats Taylorville
Sometimes we forget coaches are humans first. Coach Payne had to juggle a lineup with fresh faces manning key positions, especially at running back. Then Payne missed a handful of games. Then losses piled up. It begins to take its toll even on the strongest of people. When it became clearer that Charleston was likely to win, Payne had a reason to celebrate something positive.
October 23, 2021 – Mattoon travels to state ranked Civic Memorial for regional soccer championship
There’s a point in games where, as a player, you’ve done everything possible and it’s still *just* not enough. The Green Wave’s ran into a Civic Memorial team in the regional championship that was clearly playing at a level that many teams would envy. Gardner’s body language spoke volumes – exhaustion, frustration, stunned.
October 28, 2021 – Mattoon volleyball wins first regional title in four years
My photojournalism professor at EIU said on the first day of the semester in 1994: “If you think you’re close, you’re not close enough.” That’s stuck with me ever since. I live for these moments. You almost become protective of the student-athletes you cover because you want them to succeed; you want the best for them.
November 1, 2021 – Waterloo ends Mattoon’s magical season
This image never saw publication to this site, not because it wasn’t chosen but because I didn’t submit it because I felt the emotions at the time were just so raw that it would be too much. We live by a mantra of ‘do no harm’. If there was future story on Quick, I would’ve submitted it.
As I said before, coaches are humans too. We don’t give them enough credit either. We ask them to win. We ask them to beat rivals. We ask them to lead. On top of their coaching responsibilities, they have to juggle ego and personal issues, and currently COVID-related issues.
I interviewed Quick a handful of times throughout the last month of the season and I soon learned how much this team meant to her. When she was hired as varsity coach, these seniors were freshmen. These girls were her girls. No loss was going to change that.
She always addressed Bella Smith as ‘my Bella Rose’. There’s a lot to unpack in those three words.
I’m not going to lie. It was hard making that image. There’s so much emotion in it knowing the relationship Quick has with those seniors. I have a responsibility to make that image to accurately and fairly visually capture the story of that event.
Thanks for taking the time to go through my top 2021 Coles County sports images. It’s been an honor and a privilege making images of your student-athletes.
Chet Piotrowski Jr. is the owner/artist at Piotrowski Studios specializing in telling stories of sports photography, seniors, and weddings. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and (217) 821-0342.