Toronto basketball program empowers youth both on and off the court for free
Max Daviau believes that basketball can create positive change in a young person’s life.
“I played basketball as a kid,” said Daviau, found of Lay-Up Youth Basketball. “At the time it was just about fun, but as I look back on it I developed so many life skills like leadership, teamwork, communication – not to mention all the friends I made.”
Basketball made such a difference in Daviau’s life that he wanted to make sure the same opportunity was offered to all youth regardless of financial means, skills, gender or background. Daviau founded Lay-Up Youth Basketball in 2013, a free program for girls and boys aged 6 to 14.
“I was a kid that had everything growing up,” Daviau said. “I can only imagine what it could do for kids who are less fortunate than I was.”
Founded with a commitment to high quality year-round programming, Lay-Up is now in six priority neighbourhoods and focused on developing participants as leaders like Billal Ismail, both on and off the court.
“I really wanted to become a coach not just for the money, but also just to help kids that are less fortunate in the community,” Ismail said.
“It’s not only basketball,” said summer camp participant Serena. “We do other stuff and we also have guest speakers and they also provide lunch so our parents don’t have to wake-up really early and prepare our lunch.”
“They can stay here and they can be safe,” Ismail said.
“Not only be safe, but they have role models.”
“Ismail is a role model for these kids like I could never be,” Daviau said. “He comes from the same neighbourhood, he’s gone through some of the same experiences. His ability to be that figure for them is truly amazing to see.”
This year alone, more than 350 kids will be able to participate in both on- and off-court curriculum – which includes workshops and a diverse network of guest speakers.
“When I was little I wasn’t very good at basketball,” said Aron, summer camp participant at Lay-Up. “Then I came to Lay-Up, I feel empowered.”
“Ultimately sports in general is an amazing catalyst for change,” Daviau said.
“It just so happens with the popularity of basketball in Toronto, it’s the most effective mechanism to engage youth and draw their interest and once we have their interest – we try and support them in their everyday lives.”