Behind The Camera: Reflections On My Time As A Sports Photographer At The Pioneer

Jared Darling, Sports Photographer

When I first entered the Pioneer Newsroom deep in the bowels of Meiklejohn Hall, I didn’t know what to expect besides knowing that I would continue pursuing my passion for photographing sporting events. What I didn’t know was that in ten short months, I would leave that newsroom with a new family, and a passion for journalism like I could never have imagined.

Having never been part of a news publication before, I was intimidated by the prospects of living up to expectations and creating meaningful content in this new fast-paced setting. That intimidation quickly switched to inspiration, as I was inspired by the brilliant journalists who filled that newsroom.

The allure of sports is undeniable, uniquely mystical, and captivating. Though games end as teams score their last points and the final buzzers ring, the enthusiasm for the game lives on as fans long for a peek behind the curtains. As a fan myself, I was inspired to do photography and journalism as an outlet to learn more about the personalities of the athletes and the behind-the-scenes of the sports world.

As I settled into my new role as a sports photographer, it quickly dawned on me that photographs alone would not suffice in telling the true story of Pioneer Athletics and the athletes responsible for building the brand. To do these athletes justice, I had to transcribe what my camera saw. That is when the journalism bug bit me, leading me to find my purpose in providing a platform to share the stories of athletes, as they are the ones who deserve to have their stories and voices heard.

Through my position at the Pioneer, I was able to get an exclusive look at what goes on behind the scenes of many CSUEB sports teams, none more than the men’s basketball team. As the season dwindled and the intensity of each game ratcheted up, head coach Bryan Rooney graced me with full access to his program to document the team’s hunt for a playoff spot.

The final two weeks of the basketball regular season were one of the many highlights from my time at the Pioneer. Earning the nickname “J” I became emotionally invested in the team’s success as if I was part of the action, feeling the joy of every shot made and the pain of every foul. Being welcomed into the team and capturing their scrappy fight to the finish line reignited my passion for photography and for that, I am entirely grateful.

By the end of my Pioneer tenure, I will have photographed over 50 CSUEB sporting events, covering nine of the fifteen sports East Bay has to offer. I had the privilege of connecting with nearly 200 student-athletes whose tireless dedication to perfecting their craft motivated me to show up every chance I could because they deserved it. As I became increasingly intertwined with the athletics community, I saw how special and truly gifted each Pioneer athlete is.

Oftentimes along this journey, I felt like an imposter, undeserving of the trust these athletes vested in me and the stories they allowed me to tell. “I am just a photographer, not a journalist,” I reasoned, “I tell my stories through images, not words.” That was until Pioneer baseball head coach, Mike Cummins cured my imposter syndrome.

While many know him as the stoic figure with a booming voice at the end of the Pioneer dugout, I know Cummins as a father figure that athletes, and I, deeply respect and look up to for guidance. Without realizing it, Coach Cummins instilled in me the confidence that I needed, helping me to cast aside my self-doubt towards my work and cement my journalistic drive.

To all the athletes who entrusted me with telling your stories, thank you.

Thank you for your willingness to open up and be vulnerable with me. Your trust enabled me to share the intricate details of your unique perspectives, triumphs, and challenges that have made your journeys so remarkable. I am honored to bring each one of your stories to light, conveying your voices to the eager community at East Bay. You have inspired me, igniting a fiery passion for journalism in me. So I thank you, for allowing me to be part of your journey and for giving me the opportunity to tell your awe-inspiring stories.

To all my fellow journalists at the Pioneer, thank you for welcoming me with open arms and reinforcing my purpose as well. Your pursuit for greatness, much like the athletes, inspired me week in and week out to elevate my work. I am incredibly proud to have shared this experience with you.

The hours spent in the newsroom and on the Pioneer courts and fields, have left me with thousands of stories and memories I will treasure forever. Being a part of the Pioneer athletic community and depicting your successes has truly been a pleasure.

It was short, but it sure was sweet.