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A Screen + A Ball


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In the face of constant uncertainty, the voices and energy of the coaches were a source of positivity.


Showing up for the kids every day meant drawing on the depths of our reserves; it also poured so much back into our spirits.


With or without the court, we are always going to find a way to be together.


Change can be difficult when it is met with resistance. Resisting change comes from the fear of not being able to adapt to new ways.


COVID 19 has created challenging situations for sports-based community organizations that has resulted in reimagining how programs are delivered to communities. Statistically, it has been reported that three in ten Canadian sports organizations have had to be temporarily or indefinitely closed, while six in ten are struggling to provide modified programming. The implications of this are costly; not only are organizations losing opportunities to employ staff and deliver programs, but members of communities are unable to access vital programs that help improve health and well-being of residents. Parents have reported that 62% of children were less physically active outdoors, while 86% of sports-based organizations were forced to reduce the number of employed staff.


With the foundation of its programming built on a basketball court, Lay-Up, one of the many community agencies impacted harshly by the pandemic was able to leverage the strengths and capacities of the staff and communities it collaborates with to deliver programming virtually in an engaging, transformative way.


I had the opportunity to document three coaches teaching Lay-Up programming remotely. I traveled from the far east to the far west of the GTA for a closer look into the behind the scene of the delivery of the virtual basketball programs. Each coach had a distinct set up, and what they all had in common is their vigorous energy and dedication.


Many people have adjusted to working remotely, myself included. I have done some online teaching and even virtual photoshoots. I thought I knew what to expect when documenting the coaches, until I found myself looking from the outside in.


I was in awe when listening to Coach Osama on the phone trying to figure out why PE teacher was not able to join the Zoom meeting with less than 10 minutes to the start of the hybrid program, while the students were waiting outside the gym. Getting the link to work took longer than expected, taking some of the class time which left Coach Osama and Coach Britt having to modify the warm-up. With technology working against them, and all the changes happening so fast, I couldn’t help but reflect on this being the new normal. I still recall the sigh of relief the PE teacher let out once he was able to join the meeting and let the youth in the gym.


I recall coach Osama, through his screen in his house, reminding the students to stay 6 feet apart as they enter their school gym. All the sessions opened up and ended with a huddle where all the students pointed their fists to the screen and on the count of three “Lay-Up” and on the count of six “family!” filled the room. 


I also took note of the multiple times the computer lagged and the coaches had to repeat the activity or technique and students asking if they’re doing it right?  It was many of the things I’ve experienced working remotely, but this time I was reflecting.


The entire concept of a virtual basketball program started to look bizarre, but the more bizarre things got, the more I understood the need for the program to continue during these times. This is what was holding the community together, a basketball, a screen and the resilience of everyone making it happen.



Ebti Nabag is a graduate of Ryerson University’s MFA program Documentary Media in Film and Photography. She is a visual artist who works with photography, video, and installation. She is also a digital and analogue photography instructor. She teams up with galleries and community centers to develop art programs that provide opportunities for creative self-expression and aid in the development of identity. Her work is motivated by stories from the people who don’t often get to be heard. She hopes her documentations serve as bridges between people and communities. 



Photography by Ebti Nabag

Co-Curated by Ebti Nabag and Chris Penrose

Design by Trung Hoang

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