In any sporting event, there is far more that goes on than what you see on TV.
This sentiment led me to craft this photo essay recapping the Michigan softball season. The Wolverines finished the season with a 45-13 record, compiling a 17-2 record at home and winning Big Ten regular season and tournament titles.
From photographing this team at many points beginning at a practice in February until the final out of their season in May, I learned that the Michigan softball team truly represents what it means to be a team. They work together from start to finish and put forth a valiant effort in every game.
I attended a practice in end of February after the team completed three invitationals, holding a 6-8 record at this point in season. The Wolverines were preparing for another round of invitationals on the West Coast before returning home two weeks later.
Moving away from practice and into the games, a notable event at the start of the action is the announcing of the team lineup. When the Wolverines’ lineup is announced, every team member has a unique handshake with junior captain Madison Uden.
The players would not perform as cohesive as they do without the guidance of their coaches. The Michigan softball coaching staff is led by coach Carol Hutchins, along with associate coach Bonnie Tholl and assistant coach Jennifer Brundage.
Each coach has specific aspects of the game they work on with the players. But they all are motivating and supportive of every player on the team.
Michigan softball is also joined by three student managers. Their responsibilities include assisting the coaching staff in practices, organizing team equipment, and preparing Alumni Field for game-day operations.
From suspense to celebration to cheering on teammates, there is always something going on inside the Wolverines’ dugout.
Throughout the season, Hutchins referred to her team as “jungle tigers,” meaning they play aggressive in order to win. Still sticking with the jungle tiger theme, at the beginning of the postseason, a new mascot was introduced.
From the beginning of the Big Ten Tournament, Theo the Tiger appeared in the dugout, on the field and the team bus. A Twitter account was even created for Theo and continues to be active, even with the season over.
By the time NCAA Regionals came around, Theo the Tiger had made itself known to the Michigan softball community. Fans even had mini versions of Theo to support the Wolverines during the games against James Madison.
While the season may have not ended on a high note for the Wolverines, there were many peak moments of celebration throughout the season. And from an in-person perspective, the enthusiasm runs high from warm-ups until the team has left the field. As a photographer, while you are able to get much satisfaction from an in-game action photo, it is nothing compared to the satisfaction you feel after capturing an exciting celebration photo.
Michigan softball had an action-packed season, full of celebration as well as defeat. While the team will be losing five seniors to the upcoming year, it will not lose the high energy it carried throughout the season.
Here are some more highlights from the Michigan softball season: