Sky Warrick is a sports videographer who covered and captured content during the entire NWSL Challenge Cup. Below, she shared her thoughts and photos from the NWSL’s historic tournament in Utah.
Everything about this tournament was a grind. Covering the NWSL usually is, but when you take the work of an eight month season and compress it into a month, everything feels like it’s the highest priority.
This type of work is nothing new to me, except I’m used to being tied to a specific team. This Challenge Cup presented both opportunities and challenges I’d never had before: juggling 8 teams’ schedules, with back-to-back double-header days (such a long 48 hours), all while balancing equal coverage for everyone. I was excited to cover teams and players I’ve never worked with and tell stories I may have never had a chance to otherwise.
As games progressed to the knockout rounds, the intensity increased to the highest levels. The play was passionate, and the skill was entertaining. Amidst the organized chaos of tackles, battles, and diving saves, I couldn’t help but be mesmerized by the competition playing out 5 feet from my seat on the sidelines.
You have to admire the tenacity the players brought to the pitch. To have seven of eight teams in the quarterfinals with clean sheets forcing PK shootouts with everything on the line was just insane. And each time a game went to penalties, I would sit back and think, “Yeah, I love sports.” I couldn’t help but feel giddy being in the position to cover those moments which contain both the best and worst of sports: the joys of winning and the despair of loss.
Under the bright stadium lights of Rio Tinto Stadium, the grind continued through the semi-finals and the final, with strength and endurance on full display in every match. As much as it was a grind, it was also an absolute joy. I loved being around the sport I had missed so much. It felt incredible to work with players I thought I’d never see again, and I met so many new professionals who share similar passions. Ultimately, the Challenge Cup afforded me the privilege to continue a career I thought could be a thing of the past given the times.
It was an absolute blast to be in the post-game celebrations. Covering a championship celebration was an experience I had never had the opportunity to shoot. I wanted to soak it all in. How often do you get a chance to cover such pure happiness and excitement like that? The long days, the hours spent going through footage and photos, the early mornings, all came down to that beer-slinging celebration. I made sure not to take it for granted.
As someone who has been around the NWSL for several years, there was so much to celebrate coming out of this tournament. The grind it took to pull it all off. The health and safety of the athletes, staff and workers, not one of whom tested positive throughout the Cup.
The teams and players should celebrate the thrilling product they put on the field that attracted the attention of hundreds of thousands of viewers. Everyone behind the scenes that made every moment of this tournament possible should celebrate being the first pro-sports league to successfully return. I think we could all relate to the fact we were happy getting back to doing what we love. If I’ve learned anything from working within women’s soccer, it’s that there will always be a push to be better, to be successful, to bring about change. I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to be a part of this latest push and to have once again been able to take up the grind.