Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #198

Jan. 17 – Jan. 23, 2016

Welcome to week one hundred ninety-eight of the Sports Doing Good newsletter. This week’s 10 stories include:

  1. Driving Female Talent: New Initiative launched that will inspire, connect and celebrate women in motor sport (Beyond Sport)
  2. Braxton Miller – “Dear Buckeye Nation” (The Players Tribune)
  3. Once homeless and declared ineligible to play college football, Silas Nacita keeps his dream of going pro alive (SI/Campus Rush)
  4. Larry Fitzgerald Kills Opponents With Kindness (WSJ)
  5. The sweet reason this NHL star has a rainbow-striped hockey stick. (Upworthy)
  6. Mohammed’s dream: racing past Usain Bolt for Palestine (Peace and Sport/AFP)
  7. St. Jude Connect: Cancer Patient Completes In-Hospital Marathon (Women’s Running)
  8. Ansah, Lions donate 100,000 bottles of water to Flint (Detroit Free Press)
  9. From College Afterthought to NBA Prospect: The Stunning Rise of Luke Kornet (Bleacher Report)
  10. Federer Is Aging Gracefully, but Australian Ken Rosewall Set the Standard (NY Times)

1 Million pieces of soccer equipment redistributed through US Soccer Foundation’s Passback project (Beyond Sport)
Coaches: Show your young athletes that you believe in them (NAYS)
Sport and the environment: Was COP21 a game changer? (Sport and Dev)

We have featured more than 2,000 stories in the past 3+ years and are continually amazed by the resiliency of individuals, as well as the variety of ways they pursue their goals and inspire others. This week, we came across a story so moving that it stands out even in that group. It involves a young woman named Hilary who is fighting cancer for the fourth time. During one of her extended stays for treatment at St. Jude Children Research Hospital, Hilary took on an incredible challenge, to complete a marathon. Undergoing treatment and confined to the hospital made that a somewhat impossible task. But we did say “somewhat.” Hilary, a dancer her entire life, began training by walking a mile each day in the hospital to build up her strength. Three weeks after her transplant, Hillary walked 26.2 miles, or 286 laps, in the corridors of the BMT Unit, becoming the first St. Jude patient to cover the distance of a marathon while receiving inpatient care. Amazing.

The other stories featured this week include: an effort to get more women to be participants and business professionals in the motor sports world; a touching first-person account from Ohio State University student-athlete Braxton Miller of his dream, fully realized, of being a Buckeye; the persistence of another college football player, Silas Nacita, as he works hard to make it in professional football; NFL All-Pro Larry Fitzgerald, maybe the nicest guy in sports; an act in hockey to help support those in the LGBTQ community; a Palestinian runner pursuing his dream to bring joy and honor to his people; the incredible gesture by members of the NFL’s Detroit Lions in response to the inexcusable crisis in Flint, Michigan; the not-so-easy road to potential stardom for Vanderbilt basketball player Luke Kornet; and a look at one of sports’ early gentlemanly, yet fierce competitors, tennis legend Ken Rosewall.

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Driving Female Talent: New Initiative launched that will inspire, connect and celebrate women in motor sport (Beyond Sport)
Susie Wolff said: “Our main aim with Dare To Be Different is to Drive Female Talent. This is an ambitious and long-term project that will build an online community of women from all over the world. It will connect them through a shared passion and empower them to become the next wave of role models, whilst also providing access to some of the most successful female names in the sport. “Our UK events for young girls will boost awareness and demonstrate the varied and exciting areas of the sport – showing that they too can dare to be different. “I’m proud to launch today and must thank my team and our ambassadors for their invaluable contribution and dedication to the project.” The Dare To Be Different network will bring women in motor sport together in an unprecedented way, with members benefitting from direct access to their peers, colleagues and even their idols for information, advice and inspiration.

Claire-WilliamsClaire Williams – Deputy Team Principal of Williams F1 Racing Team

Braxton Miller – “Dear Buckeye Nation” (The Players Tribune)
Some moments, of course, take longer to make than others. That play against Virginia Tech happened in five seconds — but it took me five years to get there. Actually, it took me 23 years. Long before I ever played a down at Ohio State, I was a Buckeye fan. I was raised only 40 minutes from The Horseshoe, so the school had a constant presence in my life. There were so many amazing players that had come through — Archie Griffin, Eddie George, Jack Tatum. These were guys I viewed almost as superheroes. I was only 10 years old when we faced off against the Miami Hurricanes in the Fiesta Bowl for the national championship. It’s all still pretty vivid in my mind. That Miami team was basically an NFL squad — they were stacked at every single position. How were we supposed to beat these guys? I was so nervous, man. I was pacing back and forth in my room … then running to my parents’ room … then back to my room. The entire game, I was like that. I couldn’t sit still. By the time we finally won in double overtime and held up that crystal football — yeah, it was “we” even then — I must have jogged 10 miles around my house.

Braxton MillerPhotograph By Joe Maiorana/USA TODAY Sports Images

Once homeless and declared ineligible to play college football, Silas Nacita keeps his dream of going pro alive (SI/Campus Rush)
The Dream Bowl combine represents a slim hope to play beyond the college level. Designed primarily for Football Championship Subdivision players, the CFL-run combine tests prospects with a series of sprints, jumps and lifts. The only FBS player invited, Nacita started his career at an FCS school. After earning a 4.1 GPA at Bakersfield (Calif.) High, Nacita received an academic scholarship to Cornell in 2012. Unhappy with the bitter cold in upstate New York and wanting to play for a larger program, he left following a decent freshman season in which he rushed for 99 yards and scored six touchdowns. At the suggestion of friends, Nacita attempted to enroll at Baylor. Unable to afford the tuition, he secured an academic scholarship at McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas. He waited tables for 40 hours a week, drifted from apartment to apartment, earned stellar grades and eventually received an academic scholarship to the university. Nacita’s journey from Bakersfield to Baylor is the stuff of legend.

NacitaJerome Miron/USA Today Sports

Larry Fitzgerald Kills Opponents With Kindness (WSJ)
Taylor, now an analyst for the NFL Network, said Fitzgerald is regarded as “one of the rare guys who has lots of money and everyone loves him. He respects the game.” That respect, Taylor said, includes Fitzgerald’s uncanny knack for remembering nearly every fact about players he’s met. “Larry remembers people’s birthdays, anniversaries, just out of the blue,” Taylor said. “You hear stories, guys are like: ‘Hey, where’d this present come from? Oh, Larry Fitzgerald.’ And they’ve only met him one time!” Confronted with such positively decent behavior, players face a conundrum on the field: How should they respond? Blackmon, who has covered Fitzgerald since the cornerback was at Boston College and Fitzgerald was at Pittsburgh, said he used to responded to the nice comments—but has since realized that you do so at your own peril. “What he’s trying to do, he’s trying to relax you,” Blackmon said. “So eventually he keeps saying something like: ‘How’s your family?’ and you’ll say: ‘Oh great, how’s your family?’ And then he’ll run and try to slam you.” “He’s just a genuine human being” said Taylor. “You can’t trash talk that.”

Larry FitzgeraldCarolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman described his matchup with Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald as one of the most courteous encounters of his career. Photo: Bob Leverone/Associated Press

The sweet reason this NHL star has a rainbow-striped hockey stick. (Upworthy)
Pride Tape — which is currently being funded through a Kickstarter campaign — was launched by the Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta in Canada, as well as the You Can Play Project, which promotes LGBTQ inclusion in sports. The tape addresses a widespread problem. Fear of being bullied by teammates prevents many young queer athletes — an estimated 81% of gay males and 76% of lesbians — from coming out of the closet, according to an international report on homophobia released last year. Dr. Kris Wells, who’s heading the Pride Tape campaign, said homophobia in sports certainly exists in Canada too: “[Pride Tape is] a simple way to show your support for LGBTQ youth without actually even having to say any words,” Wells told Upworthy. “It can become a powerful statement.” Pride Tape has been a hit since it launched about a month ago, thanks in part to support from a star athlete.

Pride hockeyPhoto via Pride Tape

Mohammed’s dream: racing past Usain Bolt for Palestine (Peace and Sport/AFP)
Mohammed Khatib is 25 and dreams of winning Palestine’s first Olympic medal. The yoga instructor with a sociology degree first starting dreaming of flying the Palestinian flag after winning a 100-meter sprint a few years ago. So every day, he rushes at full speed on an asphalt track — neither very professional nor very safe — in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank where he lives. “There are football stadiums but for athletics almost nothing. There are 100-meter tracks, but they are asphalt and can cause injuries,” laments the young man wearing a keffiyeh in the colours of the Palestinian flag around his neck and with a curly mop of hair falling over his forehead. But Mohammed Khatib has no time for the lack of infrastructure because the stakes are high and the smiling boy with crinkled hazel eyes has always set the bar high. He wants to “create hope and happiness” for Palestinians, who have been waiting 70 years for international recognition.

Mohammed Khatib

St. Jude Connect: Cancer Patient Completes In-Hospital Marathon (Women’s Running)
Being able to dance for an audience is what she misses most, and she knows she needs to work hard to make her dreams a reality. The idea of walking the length of a marathon—26.2 miles—helped keep Hillary focused on the benefits of remaining active after her bone marrow transplant. She walked at least 1 mile each day to build strength, endurance and prevent fluid build-up in her lungs. Three weeks after her transplant, Hillary walked 26.2 miles, or 286 laps, in the corridors of the BMT Unit, becoming the first St. Jude patient to cover the distance of a marathon while receiving inpatient care. Hillary is now fighting cancer for a fourth time. She’s undergoing chemotherapy and a stem cell treatment at St. Jude. While Hillary fights leukemia, she continues with her coursework in college, majoring in chemistry. She has also choreographed line dances for high school students and ran a dance camp. With Hillary’s determination, she’ll be back on her feet very soon.

Hospital marathonAnsah, Lions donate 100,000 bottles of water to Flint (Detroit Free Press)
Ansah said he saw a news story on the topic and heard about it from a cousin, and the matter hit home because of where he grew up in Ghana. “Coming from Africa, I know exactly what it means not to have clean water or not to have water at all,” Ansah said. “So for me to be in a position where me and my boys, to be able to help out these fans down here was a great honor to us.” Tina Martinez, director of operations at the Flint-based Food Bank, said her organization has been accepting several semi loads of water a day in recent weeks. The Lions’ donation, some 1,680 cases of water, was immediately loaded onto waiting pickup trucks and delivered across the city. When no more pickups were available, Ngata and Jones offered their trucks up for a run to the Brennan Park Community Center.

Ziggy AnsahDetroit Lions defensive tackle Ziggy Ansah, center, is helped by Gabe Wright, left, and Angelo Blackson of the Tennessee Titans to distribute some of the 94,000 bottles of water Ansah donated to Flint residents at a food pantry in Flint on Friday, January 22, 2016. (Photo: Romain Blanquart, DFP)

From College Afterthought to NBA Prospect: The Stunning Rise of Luke Kornet (Bleacher Report)
The player with one of the highest ceilings in college basketball was almost a waterboy at SMU. That’s hard to fathom as you watch 7’1″, 245-pound Luke Kornet swish three-pointers and sky hooks while racking up blocks and assists for Vanderbilt, where the junior is one of three Commodores projected to be chosen in either the 2016 or 2017 NBA draft. Yet it’s true. In March 2013, Kornet ended his senior season at Liberty Christian School—a private school just outside of Dallas and off the radar of college recruiters—without a single Division I scholarship offer. It wasn’t just the power-conference schools that passed on the versatile 17-year-old. Mid-major programs in his own state didn’t recruit him, either. Not North Texas or Stephen F. Austin. Not UT-Arlington, Rice or Texas-San Antonio. Just a month before graduation, Kornet’s best option was to try to walk on at SMU, where he’d been offered an academic scholarship. “If they let me play, cool,” Kornet remembers thinking. “If not, I’ll move on and be the team manager.”

KornetNow measuring at 7’1″ and 245 pounds, Kornet has played his way into being a potential first-round draft pick, thanks in part to blocking 3.3 shots per game this season. Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Federer Is Aging Gracefully, but Australian Ken Rosewall Set the Standard (NY Times)
“I think Ken and Roger have a lot in common,” said Tony Roche, an Australian who played with and against Rosewall and later coached Federer. “Their games weren’t the most physical types of games. It all came pretty easy for both of them. Ken got through without any major injuries, and so has Roger, which, when you consider the amount of tennis he has played, is incredible, really. “But it’s got a lot to do with the way they hit the ball. Ken was so smooth and fluid with everything that he did, so that obviously helped him, I think, with being able to play into his 40s.” Rosewall is now 81 and stopped playing tennis only about three years ago because of persistent pain in his right shoulder. He collapsed in Rome in 2011 and was hospitalized for several days but has rebounded well from the scare and said he now took heart medication. He still has the firm handshake and brisk gait of a younger man. He still parts his thick hair on the left and still weighs 143 pounds, just as he says he did when he finally stopped competing at the highest level.

Ken RosewallRosewall in a Wimbledon quarterfinal against John Newcombe in 1974, when he was 39. He lost in the final. Associated Press

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