June 26 – July 2, 2016
Welcome to week two hundred and twenty of the Sports Doing Good newsletter. This week’s 10 stories include:
- Shooting for a Different Goal
- Ex-NFL Players Ahman Green, Al Wilson Back Fan-Run Indoor Football Team
- No handicap: Deaf swimmer on cusp of qualifying for Olympics
- NBA becomes the first pro sports league to walk in NYC Pride Parade
- How Pat Summitt inspired a generation of women
- From Forgotten to Coveted – Hassan Whiteside’s NBA Journey
- How Street Soccer USA helps young people overcome homelessness and drug addiction
- Coastal Carolina’s one-of-a-kind road to Omaha ends with history
- This French teenager just made Major League Baseball history
- Yuliya Stepanova, Whistle-Blowing Russian Runner, Gets Backing in Olympic Bid
The Greening of Tennis – US Open Green Initiative
The Impact of the Beyond Sport Awards
The Call (by Crystal Dunn)
Stars of sport and entertainment support Laureus Sport for Good at Laureus King Power Polo Cup
They say patience is a virtue. We all know it can be hard to not get what we want when we want it. Getting things right away, or at least pursuing those things, are part of who we are. But patience is indeed needed because there are so many issues and obstacles that can impede our individual progress and that of society.
This past week we lost one of the towering figures in sports, Pat Summitt. Coach Summitt led the University of Tennessee Lady Vols for almost 40 years. So many of the comments that came forth after her passing had to do with her indomitable spirit, her intensity and her determination and dedication to her players. Summitt was also a champion for equal rights for women. She started coaching full-time just a few years after the passing of Title IX. With basically no media coverage and fan support, Summitt helped create what we have today, a sport in which thousands play and compete for a recognized national championship. This development has touched the lives of millions, men, women and children. It was and remains a battle after 40+ years. However, one of the things we saw from Summitt was an unyielding desire to improve and strive for our goals. They might not come to us right away, but the journey is well worth it.
The virtue of patience finds its way into several of the stories featured this week, including the college baseball championship run by the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers that gave the school its first national title in any sport. We see it as well in one of our 10+ stories. It is a first-person account from Crystal Dunn, a member of the U.S. women’s national soccer team who writes for The Players’ Tribune about her disappointment of not making the World Cup team and her commitment to still play hard and improve at her craft.
The other stories we offer this week include: an opinion piece by legendary Olympic champion Edwin Moses, the Chairman of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA; a look at a potentially groundbreaking team management approach in football; a profile of Olympic hopeful Marcus Titus; the NBA’s participation in the NYC Pride Parade; a recounting of the amazing journey of Miami Heat player Hassan Whiteside; another amazing profile of someone turning his life around with the help of a soccer program for the homeless; the expansion of baseball internationally and across genders; and news regarding a Russian athlete who risked everything to expose cheating going on in her country.
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Shooting for a Different Goal
The girls were able to spend time with the Laureus USA Foundation, who brought them to a New York City FC match to meet with Right to Dream graduates now working and playing for MLS. One of these former students was a young man named Nathaniel Bekoe, who advised the girls to pay close attention to what they’ve seen in the US. “Nothing,” Bekoe claimed, “will get you to work hard like seeing this. “ Bekoe knows a lot about working hard. From Right to Dream, he went on to graduate from Fordham University, and now works in Community Relations for NYCFC. To build these bright futures, the academy attracts already outstanding youth. Louisa, age 15, vividly recalls her first tryout for the Academy. She remembers there being “tons of girls there, from all over Ghana and even the Ivory Coast.” The next tryout, she said “it was now just 42 girls, which were then cut down to 9.” This small group of girls became her family, as Louisa says “we are now sisters.”
A group of girls from the Right to Dream Academy recently visited the US. The aim of the trip, Meller explained, was to help them better understand the “the environment, the culture, and the schools that hopefully they will be going onto when they graduate.”
Ex-NFL Players Ahman Green, Al Wilson Back Fan-Run Indoor Football Team
A startup called Project FANchise is mixing football and fantasy sports, allowing fans to digitally run a real-life Indoor Football League team. Project FANchise, led by Sohrob Farudi, started an Indiegogo campaign that allowed fans to purchase different “perks.” One goal of the campaign was to prove that fans would be interested in being involved, according to Farudi. To date, the startup has raised more than $60,000, which will go toward the team and mobile app. “One [perk] we call the ‘Super Fan,’ which is just a basic perk to get our app first and kind of test that out,” Farudi said. “But then we are doing experiential things as well… the idea was to really get fans much closer to a team and have these experiences that are generally reserved for people that have had their whole careers in sports and in the sports business world.” Part of the fan-run experience includes naming the team, picking the design of the logo, selecting cheerleaders and choosing which beer will be sold at the arena. Fans are also involved in deciding who will be the general manager, head coach, players on the team and even which plays should be called in the game.
No handicap: Deaf swimmer on cusp of qualifying for Olympics
A native of Tucson, Arizona, Titus didn’t start swimming competitively until his freshman year of high school, but he never let his disability stand in the way. When potential roadblocks did pop up — most notably, he can’t hear the buzzer that most swimmers go by to begin the race — he pushed for strobe lights to be installed under the starting blocks, evening things out when it’s time to dive into the pool. “To me, being deaf is not a disability,” Titus said. “It’s just hearing loss. Anyone can do it, if they have the passion to keep on training. It’s just discipline, really. And I’ve had amazing coaches, amazing support, to help me keep on swimming.” When Titus was 3 years old, his parents learned he was deaf. They quickly shook off the jarring news, doing everything they could to ensure their son had a normal childhood. His mother, Mieko, was the one who pushed him to try swimming. Titus didn’t take to the pool right away. He despised the long practices, and wasn’t a big fan of the skimpy swimsuits. As soon as he started competing at meets — and, right from the start, touching the wall ahead of everyone else — he knew he had found his life’s passion.
NBA becomes the first pro sports league to walk in NYC Pride Parade
The NBA, under Commissioner Adam Silver, has been as aggressive as ever in supporting equality for all genders, races, religious beliefs, sexual orientations and more. He made sure it was known that racial equality was important when he banned Donald Sterling for life over his racist comments. He’s questioning whether or not the NBA will pull the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte because of a North Carolina law discriminating against the LGBT community. On Sunday, Silver, deputy commissioner Mark Tatum and the NBA family took that support of the LGBT community further by becoming the first professional sports league to walk in the New York City Pride Parade. Silver and others wore “#OrlandoUnited” shirts as they walked alongside the parade-goers, showing real support instead of just doing the bare minimum of potentially issuing a statement championing equal rights. Silver, Tatum, Jason Collins and both NBA and WNBA employees proudly showed their support in person.
How Pat Summitt inspired a generation of women
I remember in Reach for the Summit that Summitt didn’t identify as a feminist, but you’d never have known it by her actions. She fought for coverage and equality and put a product on the floor that demanded our eyes and ears. It’s not uncommon now to turn on the TV and see women’s basketball or softball or golf or tennis. That’s at least partially because of Summitt. One of the greatest rivalries in sports, UConn vs. Tennessee, elevated women’s basketball to unprecedented heights. Summitt, who ruled women’s hoops when that rivalry started to heat up, did not schedule those games to hang around with her old pal Geno. She knew that series was good for the overall game, and their famously frosty relationship made the matchup better. “Everything that this game has comes from the people who were willing to coach and invest in it before there were shoe contracts, before there was big salary money, before TV,” says Cal’s Lindsay Gottlieb, a young head coach who directly benefited from Summitt’s work. “My generation and younger don’t know anything else but this, but it’s our obligation to remember the people who did it when they were making maybe $30,000 [a year]. Pat legitimized the sport.”
From Forgotten to Coveted – Hassan Whiteside’s NBA Journey
Whiteside caught the rest of the NBA by surprise. Spoelstra first handed him a few minutes here or there. He opened eyes by hitting 10 of his 13 shots and grabbing 16 boards against the Clippers. Two weeks later, he blocked 12 shots to go with 14 points and 13 rebounds in a nationally televised game versus the Bulls. It was Whiteside’s first time in the United Center. The Bulls had been his favorite team growing up. Just hearing the introduction music pregame felt like a surreal moment. And then the Bulls kept driving into him again and again. “I kind of was surprised,” Whiteside said. “They just kept driving.” To Spoelstra, the game reminded him of one of Whiteside’s first practices with the organization. “It looked like he was two feet taller than everybody we had on the roster,” Spoelstra said. “His plays were above the rim. All the rest of the team was playing below the rim that day.” After the game, Whiteside memorably told the national audience that, “I’m just trying to get my 2K [video game] rating up.” “I think he was serious,” Donewald said. “I think he was playing the game and he was upset. It turned out pretty funny, but that’s just kind of the simplicity and youngness the kid is.”
(photo, Hassan Whiteside) Caption: Hassan Whiteside of the Miami Heat blocks a shot against Joey Dorsey of the Houston Rockets. (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)
How Street Soccer USA helps young people overcome homelessness and drug addiction
As he considers his future at the Street Soccer office, the room Philip gets to live in until he turns 25 is just blocks away. He used to roam the surrounding streets while out of his mind on crystal meth. A mile west is Margaret Hayward playground, where he now teaches soccer to kids growing up amid precarious circumstances in a neighborhood that often goes ignored. With moving pieces all around him and an uncertain future ahead, one thing Philip knows for sure is that he wants to stay involved with Street Soccer. “It’s one of those places where you can test, ‘Hey, if I show up every day, what’s going to happen? If I go above and beyond and cheer on my teammates, what’s gonna happen?’” he says. “It helps you refocus and reestablish yourself with positive things.” And the goalie who once staged a protest by letting the other team score? He plays midfield now, and has a lot more fun. “There’s not a day that goes by that’s perfect,” Philip says. “But understanding that I have the ability to get the support that is going to help me get through is the main thing I had to overcome with being on the street. It’s the difference between a good day and a bad day.”
Coastal Carolina’s one-of-a-kind road to Omaha ends with history
A party on Myrtle Beach awaits the Chanticleers in South Carolina. Gilmore will partake, then he said he wants to take this weekend to reflect. He’s going to turn off his cellphone and talk to no one. “I need two days to put this in perspective,” the coach said. “I’m numb.” No doubt, he’ll think about his father and the inspirational figures who drew this team together — like the wife of pitching coach Drew Thomas, Jaymie Thomas, who has battled breast cancer this year, and the son of associate head coach Kevin Schnall, Jayden Schnall, who faced life-saving surgery after a series of recent strokes. “All the things that have happened to us, I just have to know in my heart, there are bigger things at work,” Gilmore said. It sure looked like it over the past two weeks in Omaha.
This French teenager just made Major League Baseball history
It’s far from guaranteed that Melissa’s place on the list will lead to a pro team signing, but just the fact that she was listed at all marks a huge step forward for the future potential of women playing in the MLB. For generations, women baseball players — even really, really good ones — have been pigeonholed into softball or forced to end their careers for lack of opportunities at the professional level. Might the MLB be on its way to integrating women? We’ll see. As for Melissa, she says she’s never struggled with fitting in on the boys’ teams she’s played with her whole life. “I grew up with the same boys, so we’ve known each other since I was very little,” she told MLB.com. “I’ve never had a problem with integration or respect. We’re very well connected, and that makes a good team.” She added, “I’d like to stay in baseball as long as possible,” and we couldn’t agree more. We’re excited to follow Melissa’s career over the next few years — hopefully it leads her onto the field at a major league stadium.
Yuliya Stepanova, Whistle-Blowing Russian Runner, Gets Backing in Olympic Bid
Together with her husband, Vitaly Stepanov, who worked for Russia’s antidoping agency from 2008 to 2011, Ms. Stepanova spoke out in 2014 about a sophisticated, state-run doping system within Russia. The couple’s detailed accusations set off a series of investigations and additional whistle-blower accounts that have roiled global sports. Russian sports officials have apologized for general doping problems while denying government involvement and attributing the scrutiny of Russian athletes to international politics. The International Association of Athletics Federations, the governing body of track and field, announced the decision to allow Ms. Stepanova to compete two weeks after it voted to bar Russian track and field athletes from the Rio Games, ruling that the country had not done enough to restore confidence in the integrity of its athletes. “Yuliya’s thankful the I.A.A.F. looked at her case and decided that she deserves to compete again,” Mr. Stepanov said by phone on Friday. “That was always the hope.” In instituting the ban on Russian athletes, track officials left what they described as a “very tiny crack in the door,” the option for athletes who had been living outside Russia and subjected to rigorous drug-testing to petition to compete.