22 September, 2022
01 October
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Women in Basketball programs a slam dunk in Sydney

MIES (Switzerland) - A couple of programs that allowed women to take up commentator and photography jobs at the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Sydney, Australia, have been deemed a big success.

The winner of the She Calls Game contest, Australian Julia Montesano, did the play-by-play commentary for the Opals' opening game of the tournament against France while Yaroslava Nemesh of Ukraine, selected from the FIBA Women's Photography Program, travelled Down Under and snapped a lot of photos at the event.

Both programs were set up as part of the FIBA Strategic Priority of Women in Basketball, which aims to increase the role of females at all levels of the sport.

Montesano fulfilled a childhood dream by doing the commentary. 

"As a little girl, when I told my friends I wanted to be a commentator, they laughed at me," Montesano said. "It was more of a 'that’s cute' laugh and I think they probably didn't believe it was going to happen because back then, there weren't many female commentators to look up to.

"I hope the positive impacts out of this competition extend to the younger generation. I want young women to be able to set a goal like this and not be laughed at."

Nemesh says she has had an unforgettable experience, which included working in the Sydney Superdome.

"It is so huge and such a great place to take shots of the games and the players," she said.

"I got so much support from the other FIBA photographers I was working with because I had so many questions. They all gave me great advice."

The trip to Australia was a first for Nemesh, who hails from Kiev, Ukraine.

"This has been my first trip to another continent, not just a first trip to Australia," she said.

"It has been a trip that has not just been about work and photography but a life experience and all my family and friends have been asking about absolutely everything.

"The Media Day with the teams was an incredible experience and there was a lot of planning and work went into shooting six teams one day and then six teams the next day.

"It was crazy seeing all the players and FIBA putting photos on social media and me knowing some of them were the ones I took. I was sharing and reposting everything for days.

"There was also special moments like when I was shooting with Arella Guirantes from Puerto Rico, who played in Ukraine for my team last year."

Nemesh enjoyed the work and also felt the love of the international basketball family.

"The good vibes also came when it was my birthday during the tournament," she said. "We were shooting the "Welcome to Sydney" gift bags for the teams and some of them knew about my birthday. Puerto Rico and Bosnia and Herzegovina sang 'Happy Birthday' to me and I had a cake given to me. This attention was so unexpected and a lot for me to process, but I was so appreciative of how kind they were."

Working at the Women's World Cup provided a chance to learn about the different types of photography at an event.

"I also had an opportunity not only to shoot games but for the first time in my life marketing photos," Nemesh said.

"I thought it might be easy, but it has opened my eyes a lot. You need to be focused on so many things, not just players and their emotions. You need to think a lot more and have to be ready to capture the LED advertising boards and other things. Switching between marketing and game shooting was a challenge."

It turns out that the FIBA Women's Photography Program allowed Nemesh not just to learn, and to network, but to forge friendships that have lasted beyond the end of the program.

"All of the girls that attended the original FIBA photo workshops with me were messaging and asking me how it was going," she said. "We have a group where we share our experiences and this has opened the door not only for work, but also for many friendships – things that are important in life."

Montesano's opportunity coincided with the return of basketball legend Lauren Jackson to international hoops.

Jackson had retired several years ago but began playing again this year. She is one of the greatest players in the history of the sport and Montesano called her first competitive international since returning.

"I'm just so thankful to be trusted with calling such a big game like this," she said. " LJ, well, I thought I had missed my opportunity to call a game of hers but to be able to do it in front of over 9,000 fans, most of them with an LJ jersey on, was so special."

Montesano says a lot of work went into getting ready for the game.

"The preparation started from the moment I won the competition," she said. "I followed all the teams on Instagram and turned post notifications on so I could keep track of team movements and any storylines that could develop in the lead-up to the World Cup.

"I then called some practice games and got feedback from none other than the voice of FIBA, Jeff Taylor. Jeff was so supportive of me and my journey..."

And while she was a little nervous before the start of the World Cup, other commentators working at the event helped her put on a terrific performance.

"I was able to navigate those nerves thanks to their advice and reassurance," she said.

The Women in Basketball strategic priority has given opportunities to two people that have had unforgettable experiences.