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Amaya Battle and her search for the perfect shot

Aside from playing Division I basketball for the Gophers, Amaya Battle has delved into the world of photography.
Image by Amaya Battle
The women’s basketball guard has been shooting pictures with her new camera since May.

Gophers women’s basketball guard Amaya Battle has an eye for shots on and off the court. 

While the team was on a break in May, Battle started a photography Instagram account, @battletimeflicks. She started sharing her new hobby with her friends and family to explore her identity outside of being a basketball player.

Battle has been interested in photography since her senior year of high school, when she began taking photos with her phone. In May, she decided to level up to a better camera to shoot photos for a scrapbook of her summer.

“I went to the camera store and they gave me a real 35-millimeter camera,” Battle said. “I started with that and just took off ever since.”

Since then, it’s been all gas and no brakes for the young photographer. Battle has been experimenting with different types of photography — including nature, sports and using people as subjects.

“I really like taking pictures with people,” Battle said. “I love their natural element.”

Battle’s photo of her cousin, Tessa Johnson, taken near a pier in Charleston, South Carolina. (Image by Amaya Battle)

Of all the subjects Battle has captured through her lens she said her favorite topics are street photography and basketball. Battle’s skills behind the camera are still very raw. She is hoping to learn more by taking a photography class in the future.

Exploring hobbies outside of basketball is nothing new for Battle. She and teammate Mara Braun go back to third grade when the two played in a 3-on-3 league together. 

“Between every game, she would be reading Harry Potter or something,” Braun said. “She was the biggest little nerd.”

Braun and Battle would go on to play against each other in high school before the two joined the Gophers. Now good friends, Braun has been a supportive part of Battle’s photography journey.

“I’ve been to the camera store multiple times. Literally within a week we’ll go like three times,” Braun said.

Battle’s photo taken July 2nd of a seagull in the outer banks of the Carolinas. (Image by Amaya Battle)

As Battle navigates her new hobby, she is working to prioritize it while balancing basketball.

“You want something outside of basketball to balance you out,” Battle said. “Basketball can be a lot, and whether it’s going your way or not, it’s important to have something you can put your time and energy into.”

University of Minnesota Director of Sport Psychology Services Carly Anderson echoed what Battle said about athletic identity’s positives and negatives. Anderson said sport psychology research references a concept known as “athletic identity.”

An article in the National Library of Medicine defines athletic identity as “the degree of strength and exclusivity to which a person identifies with the athlete role or the degree to which one devotes special attention to sport relative to other engagements or activities in life.”

Athletic identity protects against burnout, according to Anderson, but when an athlete is injured or retired and no longer able to produce on the court, they have no way of feeding this identity. An inability to fulfill one’s identity could then lead to mental health issues.

Delving into hobbies allows athletes to pour themselves into other interests when they cannot compete. Anderson said this balance with an athlete’s sport is critical. Examples include things as simple as spending time with family, volunteering, practicing one’s faith or working a part-time job.

“That would be a healthy and important, feeding of the buckets of our identity,” Anderson said. “It’s increasingly very hard to do at the highest levels in sport.”

For athletes like Battle who have identified a hobby, Anderson said it is critical to make time for their hobby just as they would for sleep and nutrition.

“You just sort of need to put it as a priority,” Anderson said. “If you see value in it making you a better person and a more balanced person and a better version of yourself, then we have to prioritize it in your life.”

Battle’s teammates said she has been actively working to prioritize her passion. Aside from going with her to the local camera store three times a week, Braun watched Battle take pictures at the Twin Cities Pro-Am tournament.

Sean Sutherlin going in for a dunk at the Twin Cities Pro-Am Tournament. (Image by Amaya Battle)

“She always gets so excited to show the photos,” Braun said. Battle swiftly chimed in, saying “I actually have more to show you.”

Although Battle is often seen behind the camera, she can be found in front of it as well. She has recently taken charge of the Gophers women’s basketball team’s “Gold-Blooded Podcast.” 

“I had a little phase where I was kind of into broadcasting,” Battle said. “I still kind of think I can do it and also I love podcasts.”

The podcast, traditionally hosted by Minnesota Lynx guard and former Gopher Rachel Banham, invites current athletes to discuss hoops and life off the court. With the WNBA’s regular season in full swing, Banham’s plate is full.

“I was just like, ‘Can I do it just to get some experiences to see if it’s something I really like or could see myself doing?’” Battle said.

All of the experience with the camera has not pushed Battle away from the court. She recently took charge of Team Tyus as head coach in the Twin Cities Pro-Am on July 19, where she went head-to-head with former Hopkins teammate Paige Bueckers.

Bueckers, now a guard for the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team, coached Strictly BBall. The game ended with a final score of 116-109 and Battle’s first career win as head coach.

Whether Battle is leading her team to victory or chatting with teammates on the Gold-Blooded Podcast, she has been nearly everywhere this summer perfecting her shot on and off the court.

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