Just a quick question... How do you get into the world of sports photography? How do you land a job that will put you on the sidelines to get the good shots?
Nick - gettin access to Division I NCAA sidelines or pro sidelines is reserved for people with "propepr credentials" - basically people with the press, national magazines, etc. These folks have their paper/magazine apply for credentials for a specific event. Usually access is controlled by the home team and a press pass alone will not get you in - you have to apply for a sideline pass.
Now, the logical follow-up question is: how do you land one of those jobs? That's TOUGH. There are few positions at major newspapers or magazines for sports photographers. And College newspapers. So you can try to get a job with them - assuming you're a student or independently wealthy and don't need to be paid. And, they are truly the best of the best. To get on staff, it's much like journalism - you need to work your way up through the ranks:
1. Learn photography
2. Learn sports photography
3. Practice, practice, practice - shoot high school, little league, rec league - whatever where you can get near the action (but always get approval from whoever is running the game to shoot the game) - more info available on this point if you wish.
4. Beg/borrow/buy top notch gear to work with - talking about thousands of $$$ here - why? because you're competing against the best and brightest in an industry - there may be a dozen pro sports shooter jobs at major newspapers near a given city - how often is there an opening?So, you have good photographer A shooting with Canon 1dMII N and his 300mm 2.8 lens and you have good photographer B shooting with his Canon 30d or Nikon D200 and 70-200 2.8 lens and good Photographer C with his Nikon D50 or Canon 350 and 70-300 5.6 lens. Everyone submits their 10 best shots - if all 3 are equally skilled the one with the mkIIN and 300mm 2.8 is going to have better stuff - end of story (again, IF ALL 3 HAVE EQUAL SKILL - having the right equipment doesn't make you a good photographer).
5. Must be willing to make it your CAREER - you don't shoot NCAA Division I bowl games or pro games as a hobby - your craft won't be good enough.
6. Keep your eye on the publications you want to get a job at - is your work as good as the photog's they already have? No? Too bad - someone else out there is just as good. The only other route is to get a job as a general staff photographer and work your way up to the sports beat. That takes time.
If you're really interested in sports shooting, see point 3 above - pick a sport you like and shoot the sport at lower levels - high school is great for this.
Hope that helps somewhat. Bottom line is: hobbiests don't get sideline access (unless you donate lots of money to college :G) - and pro jobs are scarce. So if you want to be a pro and shoot the big time sports you have a tall mountain to climb. It's certainly doable - if you have the talent, the dedication and the drive to pursue that career.