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I went to a pretty average High School. Maybe the diversity of the school was special. I really haven’t seen a school since then like that.

So our sports teams were quite average. Well, there were a few that were special. Like our girls volleyball, co-ed cross country and boys soccer teams. The latter two were regularly in the league championships. The volleyball team may have had the longest winning streak at the State level for years!!! Yes, State champions for years. From this fairly average school.

So from this fairly average school of average students, what made the team so special? The number one thing: the coach. Over 10 years of State championships. The only thing that didn’t change was the coach. And probably, what the coach demanded from the students. Now, I know she wasn’t rough with the girls. Everyone seemed to have lots of fun with each other. All the members of the team were lovely girls. Nice people all of them.

Years later when I was starting to get into photography, sports photographer, USA Today photographer and colleague Kelley Cox asked me to help her photograph the Water Polo Olympics at Stanford University. I had been a serious athlete in my teens and 20s but never photographed sports. I thought it would be fun! So I said ‘yes’.

Team Picture: The Happy and Pro Look. Image: Ricardo Gomez Studios

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The one glaring thing I noticed was the lack of diversity in the event. Mostly white people.Water-polo really isn’t a 'cool" sport and something you can’t make a ton of money with it when you leave college. Being on a league-winning team would certainly look good on a resume. But you can’t make money with it.

However, there were these 3 teams that completely stood out. Two teams of Latin girls and one Asian. So I asked around about these teams. I found out at least about the Latin teams. Their coaches were ex-Stanford University water polo players and they coached teams from Latin-communities in Los Angeles. And these Latin girl teams were GOOD. Really good. I think they both made it to the semi-finals until finally defeated.

Team Picture: The Latino Way! Love it! Image: Ricardo Gomez Studios

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I was so freakin’ inspired! I took their team pic. Incredibly nice girls.

So how does this relate to photography? Well, not as much as it does about making a difference. A real difference.

I think my own, most relatable experience is when I taught a variety of classes at my local Boys and Girls Club. It started when the company I worked for offered to help a local club and I volunteered. I taught computer-related courses. Then when I started photography, I offered to teach a few classes. Classes that didn’t exist before.

Kick - Ass Girls! Photo: Ricardo Gomez Studios

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Image: Ricardo Gomez Studios

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I’m going to toot my horn a bit: I’m a fantastic teacher. I was teaching 6 – 12-year-olds web development. Yes, web development. They were creating their own web pages! The little ones would go letter by letter on the keyboard. But they did it. In my photography class, I had big plans of winning the National Boys and Girls Club Art Competition. That is, until I was going broke and had to quit on the count of that. But we would’ve won. Certain of it.

But with these classes, the children were exposed to something they never knew before. They ate it up! I never had late students. In fact, the web development class, they were waiting outside the classroom waiting to get in. They loved that stuff.

And the girls on the water polo team. Being athletic for decades, I know what they learned:

• Discipline. With your training. With your education. With your life.

• “Smart” work. Hard work is absolutely important. But you also have to smart about it.

• Strategy and Skills. Learning what you do best and knowing how to use it against your opponent.

• Teamwork. No one wins by themselves. There may be stars on the team. People who are exceptional. But they can’t win by themselves.

• How to win. Combines all the above. Not necessarily against a person or group, but within yourself. Honestly, it’s where the greatest battles occur.

I also know about their lives. I was one of them as my parents. First generation Americans and immigrants. I know what they’ve gone through and what they live with every day.

I can speak for my father and myself. We’ve had people from all sorts of different backgrounds give us hints and tips for becoming successful. They knew we were good, hard working people. So when I see someone I can help and feel I won’t be wasting my time with, I’ll help. Without question.

“Give a man a fish. Feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish, you feed him for the rest of his life….”. Origin: From many.

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Ricardo Gomez Photography

Originally from San Francisco, Ricardo is now a New York-based photographer specializing in editorial and commercial photography.
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