Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #148

Jan. 25 – Jan. 31, 2015

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

  1. His Heart and a Coach’s Advice Take a World Cup Star Abroad
  2. How Landon Cohen went from parking cars to making Super Bowl roster in less than a month
  3. Skateboarding Makes Afghan Girls Feel Free
  4. The Best Football Prospect Nobody Has Ever Heard Of
  5. The Orlando Magic Celebrates India Day
  6. Sox reliever Dan Jennings delivers cheer to Bourbonnais cancer patient
  7. Marcin Gortat is a star for the Wizards, but he’s much more in his native Poland
  8. Darfur United Soccer Academy Expanding with Beyond Sport Support
  9. Stanford freshman freestyle swimmer Manuel making a splash
  10. A New York Icon Who Shone Just Outside the Bright Lights

One of the most exciting things in sports is to see the emergence of young athletes, whether we are talking about 10-year olds who have mastered a new skill or a professional athlete elevating his game to an elite level. It is wonderful in all cases to see effort be rewarded with progress.

This week we have several stories that feature such emerging athletes. From 21-year old U.S. World Cup star DeAndre Yedlin to high school senior quarterback Easton Bruere, from NBA big man Marcin Gortat to Stanford University freshman swimmer Simone Manuel, we are seeing the results of countless hours of practice, the impact of valuable coaching, and the drive that each of these athletes have to be better. No matter what our profession or sport or activity of choice, we all can learn from what these young athletes have and are continuing to achieve.

In addition to those stories, we are happy to feature: Seattle Seahawk Landon Cohen; the wonderful organization Skateistan; the NBA’s Orlando Magic; Chicago White Sox pitcher Dan Jennings; the great work of the Darfur United Soccer Academy; and the just-retired Martin Brodeur, one of professional hockey’s greatest ever players.

Finally, like 100 million other Americans today, we will be taking a look at the Super Bowl and all the programming associated with the game. Probably the most anticipated content? The commercials, of course. Here is a look at the 50 best Super Bowl ads as selected by the Huffington Post. Enjoy!

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

His Heart and a Coach’s Advice Take a World Cup Star Abroad
That meal was the nominal kickoff to a year that Yedlin, the young defender who was a breakout star of the World Cup for the United States, is hoping will be transformative. While the recent transfers of Jozy Altidore and Mix Diskerud added two more names to the list of high-profile Americans who have left Europe to return to Major League Soccer, Yedlin, 21, who played for the Seattle Sounders for two seasons, has gone the other way. In fact, he said, he never seriously considered staying put.

DeAndre Yedlin, 21, at Tottenham Hotspur’s training ground. He played two seasons for the Seattle Sounders of M.L.S. Credit Luke Wolagiewicz for The New York Times

How Landon Cohen went from parking cars to making Super Bowl roster in less than a month
Cohen has learned to try to keep his emotions grounded. This is what happens when you get drafted out of Ohio (University, not State) in the seventh round by the Detroit Lions in 2008 and go through your rookie season on the first 0-16 team in NFL history. Or when you get signed and released by eight different teams in seven years – a career that has included stops with both the New England Patriots (2010 and 2011) and Seahawks (2011 and now). Or when you live your mornings in the YMCA, alternating between weight training and yoga and boxing. And after all that? Then you spend the larger part of the past three years parking cars.

Landon Cohen was signed by the Seahawks on Jan. 5. (Courtesy of the Seattle Seahawks)

Skateboarding Makes Afghan Girls Feel Free
“Before I came to Skateistan, life was so boring for me,” she says. “Every day I went to work, selling chewing gum. Then an idea came to my mind: Only working cannot build my future.” Like Nelofar, Mursal says skateboarding makes her “feel happy,” although that happiness comes at a price. I have to remind myself that this is a girl yet to hit puberty when she says, “To build my future I have to study hard.” But it does feel like perceptions are slowly changing. For starters, Nelofar’s father and brothers are fully in support of her skateboarding. “They like my skateboarding,” she grins. “They encourage me. They know everybody has rights.” Mursal is also fortunate enough to have a supportive family background. “They think it is good for me,” she says. “That’s why they are sending me to Skateistan.”

The Best Football Prospect Nobody Has Ever Heard Of
“It’s funny, because he’s amazing in how he’s handling all of this,” Carl said. “All he says is, ‘Dad, I want to go where someone wants me.’ That’s all he cares about. ‘I don’t care where it is, as long as they want me and I can help them win.’ He just wants to go to a place that wants him there. I don’t know how he does it. Because it’s killing his father.” Only a handful of prep football players are fortunate enough to earn scholarship offers to continue their careers in college. There’s nothing in Easton Bruere’s resume that suggests he shouldn’t be one of them.

The Orlando Magic Celebrates India Day
In appreciation of the Orlando Magic’s diverse fan base, for the third consecutive year the team will partner with the Indian-American Chamber of Commerce to host India Day presented by Chase on Saturday, January 31 when the Magic host the Dallas Mavericks with tip off set for 7 p.m. The night will feature a postgame concert with Jay Sean, international star capturing the unique combination of R&B and Indian music. There will also be a street festival at Fan Fest presented by Fan Duel (outside on Church Street) that will include Henna tattoo artists and Indian dances. The in-arena activities will include traditional Indian music, food, dance and more. In addition, the Indian-American Chamber will donate more than 2,000 tickets to nonprofit organizations throughout Central Florida.

Sox reliever Dan Jennings delivers cheer to Bourbonnais cancer patient
New Chicago White Sox reliever Dan Jennings joined manager Robin Ventura and outfielder Avisail Garcia for a visit to the University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital. And then he took the club’s annual fanfest excursion a little bit further. “After the others were gone, he came back to Mya’s room,” said Michelle Jarrett, of Bourbonnais. Her 12-year-old daughter Mya was there for her third round of chemotherapy, and must have made an impression on the former Florida Marlin. “He sat and talked with her some more. And he gave her his jersey,” she said. “Maybe Mya isn’t a big [baseball fan] but she plays softball. And he’s going to be her favorite after this.”

Twelve-year-old Mya Jarrett who is battling cancer and White Sox relief pitcher Dan Jennings paint their handprints on paper at Comers Children’s Hospital during a visit to the hospital by White Sox players.

Marcin Gortat is a star for the Wizards, but he’s much more in his native Poland
Gortat has established himself as a Wizards fan favorite, a productive NBA center with a gregarious personality and a $60 million contract. He speaks his mind. He wears a Mohawk. He calls himself the Polish Machine. His popularity prompted the Wizards to schedule a Gortat action figure giveaway to the first 19,000 fans at Saturday’s game against the Toronto Raptors, which is part of the reason the team is selling standing-room tickets for just the fourth time this season. But in Poland, a nation of 38 million people, the spotlight is exponentially amplified. His career and life are tracked every day in the media. To Poland, he is more than just an athlete. He is the humble inspiration who picked up his sport late and happened to develop into the best basketball player the country has ever produced. Marcin Gortat is Polish basketball.

“We are extremely proud of him,” a member of a Polish television crew said of Marcin Gortat, above. “.?.?. He’s like a normal Polish guy that made the perfect international success story.” (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Darfur United Soccer Academy Expanding with Beyond Sport Support
Words from Coach Rachael: “It never ceases to amaze me how universal football truly is. Everyone knows the game, it’s beloved in almost every country on this earth, and the majority of the people in the world want to play it. Being able to coach in this game is truly an honor, especially to those who need the inspiration.” Darfuri women are not typically encouraged to play football in their culture. They’re allowed to play hand ball or volleyball. Darfuri women are also not encouraged to be coaches, especially football coaches. We’re pretty much defying a lot of odds out here in eastern Chad by not only encouraging women to play football alongside the men, but also training them to be women football coaches. Not only am I loving every second of the DUSA Coaches Training, but the women are too.

Stanford freshman freestyle swimmer Manuel making a splash
The little girl is now a muscular 5-foot-11 Stanford freshman swimmer who’s already dominating the pool. It took Simone Manuel only a couple of months on campus before she rewrote the record book at a school that has won nine national championships and 19 conference titles. Could she someday be the first African American woman to win a gold medal in Olympic swimming? Stay tuned. In the meantime, you’ll find her happily singing during the Cardinal’s team stretches. “It’s something that calms me down at practice and keeps the atmosphere light,” she said. “I know I’m not good at singing. It gives people a good laugh.”

IRVINE, CA – AUGUST 10: Simone Manuel reacts to her victory in the Women’s 50 Meter Freestyle Final during the 2014 Phillips 66 National Championships at the Woollett Aquatic Center on August 10, 2014 in Irvine, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

A New York Icon Who Shone Just Outside the Bright Lights
Martin Brodeur is a New York icon who belongs in the same company as Jeter and Seaver, Clyde and Broadway Joe, L. T. and Jackie Robinson and the Babe. It doesn’t matter that he played the fourth team sport of the region, and it doesn’t matter that he played across the Hudson River for the New Jersey Devils, his team for 21 seasons… Brodeur won three Stanley Cups, glittering in the mental New York landscape, like the Statue of Liberty, raising her torch in her right hand the way Brodeur raised his left glove while catching a screamer in front of the net. Records turn athletes into icons: Brodeur won 691 games, more than any other N.H.L. goalie.

Martin Brodeur after the Devils won the Stanley Cup in 2000. Brodeur retired Thursday with the Blues. Credit Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

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Contact InformationSarbjit “Sab” Singh