Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #295

Aug. 26 – Sept. 8, 2018

Welcome to issue two hundred and ninety-five of the Sports Doing Good newsletter. This week’s 10 stories include:

  1. Tributes pour in from sports world in wake of Sen. John McCain’s death
  2. Hitting the books: The boxing gym saving Detroit’s youth
  3. Former Arsenal ace hosts free camp for Islington youngsters
  4. Soldiers to Sidelines Gives Antwan Sorrells Opportunity to Shadow Football Coaching Staff
  5. Surfer, New Mom, And Philanthropist Alana Blanchard Wants To Help Young Female Surfers Realize Their Dreams
  6. The Men Who Have Taken Wiffle Ball to a Crazy, Competitive Place
  7. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: what sports have taught me about race in America
  8. W.N.B.A. Frenemies Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi Save the Trash Talk for Bowling
  9. Inside the MLS’s strategy to become the ‘sport of the new North America’
  10. Runs in the Family

This is Personal (by Stephen Curry) (The Players’ Tribune)
How to Spot Your Next Team Captain (TrueSport)
NEVER SURRENDER: Olympic great’s message on the power of perseverance (NAYS)
Annual survey results: Sport and the sustainable development goals (Sport and Dev) 10th Anniversary Spotlight: Our Inspirational Ambassadors Share (Beyond Sport)

We present again our “Featured Video” offering(s). With the explosion of video content out there highlighting the good in sport, we want to showcase such content for your enjoyment and learning. This will be an ongoing effort.

Charles’ biggest impact comes off the football field

In sports, we love challenges. Or at least we should. We need to test our capabilities, our determination, our progress against others, whether they be other athletes, teams, leagues, organizations, or corporations. Or better yet, even just ourselves. Are we doing our best? If not, there is room for improvement.

We read a book this week that challenges us to be better. And while it is not a sports- focused book, it is a piece of work super-relevant for that world. (we have occasionally highlighted media in Sports Doing Good that have had a special impact on us and our readers) The Person You Mean To Be by Dr. Dolly Chugh, professor of organization and management at NYU’s Stern School of Business, is a challenge, frankly, to all of us to gauge how we deal with each other in various situations. Are we unknowingly holding back others due to some heretofore unknown biases? If so, we need to fix that and the book helps us do just that. Here is a quote from the one and only Billie Jean King about the book. “Dolly Chugh helps us identify our ‘platform of privilege’ and guides us on how we can use this and other tools to create positive change. She encourages us to accentuate our strengths and to manage our weaknesses, and forces us to focus on being better and stronger in everything we do.”

We encourage you to get this book and begin the process of “elevating your game.”

The articles we are excited to feature this week include: testimonials on the greatness of the recently deceased Senator John McCain by those in the world of sports; a boxing gym developing minds and bodies of Detroit’s youth; former Arsenal star Gio Van Bronckhorst and his camp for youngsters in London; a new program giving veterans an opportunity to beef up their coaching credentials; legendary surfer Alana Blanchard and her work to support young female surfers; a very interesting take on the old-time game of wiffle ball; a first person account of race issues by basketball HOFer and author Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; the special bond between WNBA superstars Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi; how MLS soccer continues to find a prominent place in the American sports landscape; and a tale of search and discovery for NFL coach Deland McCullough.

Please continue to send along your stories. You are both our audience and our best source of stories. Our Twitter handle is @sportsdoinggood, and you can find us at And we are now also on Instagram. Find us at sportsdoinggood.

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So, enjoy. And have a good week.

Tributes pour in from sports world in wake of Sen. John McCain’s death
In an interview last year, McCain said his greatest memory as an Arizona sports fan was Luis Gonzalez’s walk-off hit off the New York Yankees’ Mariano Rivera in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. On the opposite end of the spectrum, McCain tweeted his displeasure after the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrated winning the 2013 National League West title by jumping into the swimming pool at Chase Field. McCain had a strong connection to wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and the Arizona Cardinals. He attended Cardinals games and made an appearance at training camp before the 2017 season. Fitzgerald became friends with McCain, penning a tribute to him last Christmas and visiting him this year. McCain was an avid supporter of the Coyotes and worked to keep the NHL team in the Valley of the Sun after the former owner filed for bankruptcy. The Coyotes honored McCain with a bobblehead at a military appreciation night in 2011, and he dropped the ceremonial first puck before the game against the Montreal Canadiens. McCain also attended Suns games, even wearing an orange shirt with his wife, Cindy, to join the rest of the fans. He also narrated the video for the Suns’ 50-year anniversary.


Hitting the books: The boxing gym saving Detroit’s youth
Hope for the future of Detroit begins here in this dark-gray nondescript 27,500 square-foot edifice with a leaky ceiling. Walk in, go up a small ramp and find two boxing rings in the front. There’s a row of heavy bags, some spare workout equipment and speed bags in the corner. As required in any boxing gym, there are, of course, plenty of mirrors for shadowboxing. A boxing gym, on its own, is not going to save Detroit. It isn’t going to be the reason this generation of Detroit kids has chances the last one didn’t. Those reasons are in the back, behind the workout area that has trained champion amateur boxers, including 11-0 professional welterweight Janelson Figueroa Bocachica. That the gym — and the lofty goals it has — is in a former book-binding facility is a small bit of irony because of what its founder has been working for the past decade-plus to accomplish. Boxing is how 49-year-old Carlo “Khali” Sweeney, the gym’s founder, brings the children in to the free after-school program. It’s education and the possibility of a better future that keeps them there.

Detroit gymOne of the other missions of the gym is to keep kids away from the streets and to help them make smart decisions. Inside the gym, the ring is one place where they often congregate. Rachel Woolf for ESPN

Former Arsenal ace hosts free camp for Islington youngsters
Van Bronckhorst said: “When I played for Arsenal, the fans made me and my family feel very welcome. This is my small way of saying “thank you” to the club and the fans. “When I was growing up I always knew I wanted to be a footballer. Having such a clear goal is hugely valuable, but it can also be a challenge. At FC GIO, like our flagship programme in Holland, we want to help young people build a great future for themselves – whatever it is they want to do in life. “We help them discover their own potential and nurture their confidence and sense of self-worth. We expand their view of the world, and teach them to set their own goals in life so they have something to aim for. “I’ve been very fortunate to have won some of the biggest competitions in football. It’s the stuff dreams are made of. But I find the work I do with my Foundation equally rewarding. I would invite any other sportsmen and women who want to help their community to come and visit FC GIO and see what an amazing difference we, as professional athletes, can make to people’s lives. It’s a legacy of which I’m extremely proud.” Kat Craig, CEO of Athlead and project manager for FC GIO, added: “Islington is a borough where London’s richest and poorest residents live side-by-side. It is shocking that it hosts such affluence while also having one of the highest child poverty rates in London.

BronckhorstFormer Arsenal star Gio Van Bronckhorst with youngsters at a previous camp (pic Arie Kievit)

Soldiers to Sidelines Gives Antwan Sorrells Opportunity to Shadow Football Coaching Staff
The Georgetown University football team had an additional coach on the field over the past two weeks of its preseason camps. Antwan Sorrells, a high school coach from West Virginia and army veteran, was shadowing the Hoya coaching staff as part of the Soldiers to Sidelines program. Founded in 2014 by former Georgetown Assistant Coach Harrison Bernstein, Soldiers to Sidelines works to develop military veterans to become excellent coaches and integrate them into youth sports so they may inspire, motivate and encourage young athletes to succeed in sports and life. The program has an expert staff of coaches with experience at the professional, NCAA, high school and youth levels. Military personnel enrolled in Soldiers to Sidelines learn the most cutting edge coaching strategies and techniques to thrive as a service member turned football coach. “It is an honor to works with Soldiers to Sidelines,” said Georgetown Head Coach Rob Sgarlata. “The soldier coaches from this program bring a tremendous perspective and collective experience to our staff and our players. Coach Sorrells has and will continue to make a lasting impact on our student-athletes.”

Georgetown football

Surfer, New Mom, And Philanthropist Alana Blanchard Wants To Help Young Female Surfers Realize Their Dreams
And the surfer-model from the Hawaiian island of Kauai has added yet another role to her life: philanthropist. In an effort to help young female surfers achieve their dreams of competing professionally, Blanchard started the Alana Blanchard Foundation in May last year, launching it with a special contest called the ABF Challenge at last year’s event in Los Cabos. The contest was held again this year with four budding surfers competing: Maya Larripa, Tiare Thompson, Gabriela Bryan, and Zoe McDougall. The athletes were handpicked by Blanchard and organizers of the Los Cabos Open. “I’ve been competing and traveling my whole life and see how lucky I was,” says Blanchard, who has been sponsored by Rip Curl since she was 14 years old. “I used to travel with a bunch of girls who didn’t have sponsors, and they never got to fulfill their dreams. I just wanted to give back to some of the girls who should be getting that [support] but aren’t.” The cost for young surfers to compete can be daunting without major sponsors and brands to help with travel and contest fees, Blanchard says. In addition to equipment costs, amateur and junior contests are held year-round all over the world, meaning that those aspiring to join the championship tour must compete on the QS — or qualifying series, which is a developmental league — and climb in rank.

BlanchardPhoto by Trent Mitchell/Rip Curl.

The Men Who Have Taken Wiffle Ball to a Crazy, Competitive Place
By now the major leaguers were arriving, some from considerably farther away. “We have a couple guys from Boston,” Bevelacqua said. “A guy from Connecticut. Five or six from Long Island. Two from Pennsylvania. A kid from Delaware, but he doesn’t come that often, so I don’t really count him.” Collectively, the big leaguers make up eleven teams, of five or six players apiece, with names like the Royals, the Dodgers, the Pirates, and the Expos. Some players, not yet in uniform, wore T-shirts with printed messages such as “A backyard game taken way too far” and “The 8th Annual Greenwich Wiffle Ball Tournament.” A couple of others, I gathered, responded not to their given names but to Wiffman and Johnny Wiffs, respectively. Bevelacqua mentioned that his fields used to be stalked by “con artists” who would promise big cash payouts for their upcoming regional and national tournaments, only to stiff the eventual winners—Palisades players, often—with mere fractions of the touted rewards. “I’ve never handed out money,” he said. “It’s all pride here.”

Wiffle ballPhotograph by Timothy O’Connell for The New Yorker

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: what sports have taught me about race in America
Here’s how I feel: At the time I set those records – most points scored, most blocked shots, most MVP awards, blah, blah, blah – I celebrated them because they confirmed that all my hard work and discipline since childhood was effective in me achieving my goal of becoming the best possible athlete. But that wasn’t my only goal. The even greater significance those records had to me then, and has to me even more now, is in providing a platform to keep the discussion of social inequalities – whether racial, gender-related, or economic – alive and vibrant so that we may come together as a nation and fix them. Historically, that has been the greatness of the American spirit: we don’t flinch at identifying our own faults and using our moral fortitude and ingenuity to become a better nation. In honoring that spirit, I pay tribute to two of my most important mentors, UCLA coach John Wooden and Muhammad Ali. It is Ali’s voice I often hear in my head: “When you saw me in the boxing ring fighting, it wasn’t just so I could beat my opponent. My fighting had a purpose. I had to be successful in order to get people to listen to the things I had to say.” All sports records will inevitably be broken, but the day after they are, the world won’t have changed. But every day you speak up about injustice, the next day the world may be just a little better for someone.

KAJKareem Abdul-Jabbar (front right) attends the Cleveland Summit alongside other prominent black athletes, such as Muhammad Ali, in 1967. Photograph: Bettmann/Bettmann Archive

W.N.B.A. Frenemies Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi Save the Trash Talk for Bowling
Now Taurasi and Bird get another opportunity to secure bragging rights, this time in a playoff series between Taurasi’s Phoenix Mercury and Bird’s Seattle Storm, which kicked off Sunday with Seattle’s 91-87 win in the first game of the best-of-five contest. For the two greatest ever to play their positions, 2018 represented both an improbable return to peak form, even as their longevity — Bird, a point guard now in her sixteenth season, Taurasi, a shooting guard in her fourteenth — helped them secure W.N.B.A. records. Bird’s player efficiency rating of 19.1 was her best since 2011. Her true shooting percentage of .604 was her highest since 2004, the first of her two title-winning campaigns. And her 40.7 assist percentage was the best mark of her career, all just shy of her 38th birthday this October. Taurasi, at 36, put up the best true shooting percentage of her career, along with the most defensive win shares since her first two seasons. All of which meant, given the talent around them, that the franchise icons were on a collision course in the 2018 playoffs, something they had experienced more than once but weren’t certain they’d ever see again.

Bird TaurasiSue Bird, left, and Diana Taurasi have been friends since their days playing together at the University of Connecticut. Credit Matt York/Associated Press

Inside the MLS’s strategy to become the ‘sport of the new North America’
The MLS had to improve its storytelling, and video distribution (especially on social media) has played a key role. Stevenson reveals that in the last five years, the MLS has gone from producing around 2,000 videos a season to 20,000 – and it is always on the lookout for new avenues of distribution. “Our fanbase requires us to be the most innovative league because of the way they consume media and so we work hard at finding new ways to serve our fans. We have players from more than 70 countries around the world [and] it is important to tell fans where these players are from. Global fans must also have an opportunity to watch live games and highlights. This is why we spend so much time innovating.” Among its innovations, the MLS this year inked a three-year partnership with Twitter. The social network approached the league with a plan for attracting more viewers and increasing interactivity and fan engagement. Most recently, Twitter set up a camera at the corner flag during a fixture. Users who tweeted the bespoke hashtag were sent pictures live from the game, a personalised effort that brought fans closer to the action.

LA Galaxy

Runs in the Family
A few months before making the move to southern California, he and his wife, Darnell, welcomed their fourth son into the world. For the fourth time, the couple provided doctors with Darnell’s medical history but couldn’t do the same for Deland’s side of the family. At 44 years old, McCullough knew nothing about where he came from. Growing up in Youngstown, his adoptive mother, Adelle Comer, could tell him only that he was adopted at a very young age and that she had no information about his birth parents. For a long time, that was enough. McCullough wasn’t interested in finding them anyway. There was enough trouble in Youngstown those days, and he didn’t want to burden anyone who might have bigger things to worry about. Things changed when he had his first child, and as his family grew, so too did his desire to know of his past. He wanted to know who gave him his deep voice and his muscular build and to whom he owed his pensive nature and quiet intensity. He wondered where son Dason got his height and which grandfather or uncle his bespectacled son, Daeh, might favor. He was so hungry for information that he never questioned whether the search might lead him to answers he couldn’t handle. “I didn’t know what was going to happen,” McCullough says. “I didn’t know how people would receive things one way or another. I didn’t have a plan. I just knew I wanted to find out.”

McCulloughAdelle Comer raised her sons as a single mother, teaching them the value of education and faith. Ruddy Roye for ESPN


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