COVID Courts: Documenting the Impact of the Pandemic on Recreation Spaces

By Jordan Henson | Posted on July 24, 2020

Covid Courts blog 410

Have you ever played basketball at your local park without the rims attached?

As a recreation professional and hobbyist photographer, I used the time when many of the rims on basketball hoops at local courts had been removed as an opportunity for work and play. The result is "COVID Courts."

COVID Courts

On April 13, 2020, I began documenting the results of physical distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) and the impact it was making in the public spaces close to where I live and work. 

The main spaces I chose to document were the local basketball courts —also known as “the blacktop” — in Montgomery County, Maryland. As local park and recreation departments in many areas have taken down the actual rims or modified them to enforce physical distancing, I was curious to get a feel for these spaces when they were no longer occupied by people playing basketball, exercising or simply watching a pick-up game.

My goal was to capture photos of 25-30 courts, but by May 22 I had documented 40 courts. The photos are from basketball courts and surrounding park space between Rockville and Silver Spring, Maryland, and they are located in spaces managed by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) and/or City of Rockville Recreation and Parks

My project, #covidcourts, looks to highlight a common park space of social engagement and exercise, a basketball court's natural aesthetic and the accompanying landscape, as well as displaying the appreciation of stillness during tense times.

Personal Connection

Some of these basketball courts served as training grounds during my adolescent years, while many have been found again from years of passing by while in transit.

I was also delighted to find some of the lesser-known courts in the area, since there are also the ones that have been hidden from view, only known to neighbors and their neighborhoods.

This project has not only been a way to feed my love for photography and recreation, but has also served as a mental exercise and escape — as well as a safe trip down memory lane.

Questions to Consider

As you think about how COVID-19 has impacted the parks and public spaces that your agency manages, I encourage you to think about these questions and provide any insight in the comments below:

  1. What and how will these spaces operate once we resume to some sort of normalcy?
  2. Does a surrounding area’s socio-economic class directly affect the overall design, sustainability and quality of life that each court provides?
  3. Did your local agency or organization modify basketball courts in your area? Did you still use the space for exercise or any other means? 
  4. Can we, as park and recreation professionals think outside of the box in regard to the programs we offer and our park spaces moving forward?
  5.  Have your basketball court rims been placed back to normal yet? If not, are there any updates on usage?
  6. Did you miss “the blacktop?”

Be sure to check out all the photos in the gallery on my website.

Jordan Henson is a Recreation Specialist/Facility Manager for Montgomery County Recreation in Maryland.