Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #153

March 1 – March 7, 2015

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

  1. NBA Teams With Sheryl Sandberg to ‘Lean In’ for Women and Equality
  2. Yale football staff produces 3 bone marrow donors, defying odds
  3. Georgetown’s Tyler Adams, his career cut short by heart ailment, gets one last start
  4. Daniel Norris, The Man in the Van
  5. Stuart High School Students Use Traditional Karate to Help With Conflict Resolution
  6. Meet the man trying to be 1st Navy grad to pitch in MLB in almost 100 years
  7. Success Runs Deeper Than All the 3-Pointers
  8. Baylor’s Rico Gathers a Man Among Boys in Basketball, May Face NFL Dilemma
  9. Style to see: Twins’ Graham sports stirrups for vision-impaired mom
  10. 7 Women Changing the World Through Sports (Global Sports Mentoring Program)

Today is International Women’s Day. Like many other days of recognition and celebration, we recognize the occasion but take time to point out that whatever is being celebrated is very likely an issue that must be addressed the other 364 days of the year as well. The rights of, and opportunities of, women and girls around the world is always important.

Two stories that speak directly to the influence of women start and end the list of 10 stories we feature this week. First, the NBA and its players have joined with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to promote equality for women in a “Lean In” campaign. These male star athletes surely understand the impact of women in their lives and the need to recognize their efforts and rights on a daily basis. The other story presents 7 women from around the world leveraging sport to improve the lives of others, often in very difficult circumstances. Both stories clearly underscore the need for, and the value of, promotion of the rights of girls and women worldwide.

Other stories we are proud to feature include: the stunning coincidence of three marrow donors on Yale football’s coaching staff; the powerful story on the perseverance and perspective of Georgetown senior basketball player Tyler Adams; the unusual life and habits of star baseball prospect Daniel Norris; the use of karate at Stuart High School to help with conflict resolution; former Navy officer Mitch Harris who is aiming to be the first Navy grad in 100 years to make the Major Leagues; the great success of the FGCU women’s basketball team; star student-athlete Rico Gathers of Baylor University; and aspiring Major League Baseball player J.R. Graham and his nod to his mom every time he plays.

Finally, we want to highlight the effort by our friends at All Sports United to find 2015’s Most Valuable Philanthropist in Sports. Please vote for your choice at

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

NBA Teams With Sheryl Sandberg to ‘Lean In’ for Women and Equality
The NBA produced a PSA highlighting her campaign, ”#LeanInTogether,” featuring stars from the NBA and WNBA. Sandberg says she’s thrilled with the partnership and lauded the NBA for recognizing that “men should not just be the center of the court, but they should be the center of the fight for equality.” Sandberg hopes the NBA’s PSA will have a profound impact on its followers. In the spot, the Miami Heat’s Dwayne Wade says: “I’m leaning in for my wife, my mother, my grandmother.” Elena Delle Donne, who plays for the WNBA’s Chicago Sky, added: “My brother would always pick me above of his friends to be on his basketball teams.” Sue Bird of the WNBA’s Seattle Storm affirmed that “it’s moments like that that you carry with you forever.”

Yale football staff produces 3 bone marrow donors, defying odds
Ramsey says colleges are the ideal spot for registration drives, because of the youth and diversity of the population. Yale is one of the more active campuses for bone marrow registration. Rice first took part as a player in a 2009 registration drive for Mandi Schwartz, a women’s hockey player who never found a match. She died of acute myeloid leukemia in 2011. ”She and her family made such and impact on the Yale community,” said head football coach Tony Reno, whose entire team has become part of the registry. ”And people who come to Yale want to be involved in something much bigger than themselves. That is really part of the fabric of Yale.”

Doctors were floored when Yale football coaches Chris Gennaro, left, Paul Rice, center, and Zach Wigmore were found as bone marrow matches for needy patients.

Georgetown’s Tyler Adams, his career cut short by heart ailment, gets one last start
Adams remained part of the team through a medical hardship waiver, which allowed him to attend Georgetown while not counting against the team’s scholarship limit. Georgetown obtained an NCAA waiver for him to appear Saturday, a process Thompson began 16 months ago to honor a player who turned from teammate to assistant coach, who remained a positive influence even through cruel fate. “Coming in, he was going to be the next Georgetown center,” Thompson said. “It hurt him. It hurt us. But he’s someone that has not pouted. He’s someone that has found a way to help this team, to make his teammates better in a totally different way than what any of us envisioned. We just wanted to give him a chance to get back out there.”

Tyler Adams, left, consoles Georgetown forward Aaron Bowen near the end of the second half of the Hoyas’ loss to Villanova. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Daniel Norris, The Man in the Van
The truth is even stranger: The Van Man has a consistent 92-mile-an-hour fastball, a $2 million signing bonus, a deal with Nike and a growing fan club, yet he has decided the best way to prepare for the grind of a 162-game season is to live here, in the back of a 1978 Westfalia camper he purchased for $10,000. The van is his escape from the pressures of the major leagues, his way of dropping off the grid before a season in which his every movement will be measured, catalogued and analyzed. If a baseball life requires notoriety, the van offers seclusion. If pitching demands repetition and exactitude, the van promises freedom.

Norris started last year in Class A, led the organization in strikeouts and climbed into the majors by September. Nathaniel Wood

Stuart High School Students Use Traditional Karate to Help With Conflict Resolution
In addition to a practice curriculum, Traditional Karate practitioners at Stuart High are also provided with opportunities to give back to society through meeting with and participating in dialogues with athletes from various sports and cultural backgrounds. In collaboration with SportsUnited (part of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs) and other partners such as the World Learning Organization, University of Tennessee, GMU, and the Japanese Shotokan Karate Association International, athletes have made several visits to Stuart to work with students. Most notably, groups of sports administrators from Colombia and female martial artists from Tajikistan have watched the Traditional Karate class in action and participated in discussions focusing on teaching, empowerment, leadership, teamwork, emotions, and gender.

Meet the man trying to be 1st Navy grad to pitch in MLB in almost 100 years
“That was a tough time,” Harris said. “I just realized I’m probably going to get drafted next year, but over these last two years I’ve really come to understand what it means to serve and really be part of something bigger than myself. From that stemmed the pride of knowing this is something I committed to and this is something that was much bigger than me. I had to stick to it. And everything else would just work itself out.” Baseball lingered in Harris’ mind, the itch occasionally scratched with impromptu sessions of catch on his first vessel, the U.S.S. Ponce, or through a Navy team that barnstormed every so often. Harris was in charge of up to 40 men and women at a time, and he often would remind them that the Navy wasn’t just a lifetime career but a launching pad to prepare them for what’s next.

Harris pitches in the Arizona Fall League in October 2014. (Getty)

Success Runs Deeper Than All the 3-Pointers
As the architect of one of the country’s winningest programs this side of Connecticut, Smesko lets little escape his notice. He crunches statistics, shunning midrange shots in favor of layups and 3-pointers. He devours game film. He studies shooting technique and defensive positioning. He also exercises his vocal cords, going so far as to carry an electronic whistle. He simply presses a button on the hand-held device, and all the action stops. “I think he does it so he can yell and blow his whistle at the same time,” said Jamie Church, an assistant director of communications for the athletic department.

Florida Gulf Coast guard Jenna Cobb, No. 22, danced with her teammates before taking on Jacksonville last weekend in Fort Myers, Fla. Corey Perrine for The New York Times

Baylor’s Rico Gathers a Man Among Boys in Basketball, May Face NFL Dilemma
Children who attend Baylor games flock to Gathers for autographs and pictures. A life-size picture of him hangs in the Ferrell Center concourse so fans can place their hands on top of his in the photo to get a true feel for just how mammoth he is. Baylor coach Scott Drew said Gathers often spends extra time with disabled fans who get introduced to the team after practices and games. Perhaps his most moving gesture occurred in January, when he learned of a 92-year-old fan named Petronella Furgeson who had fallen at her home while watching the Bears’ Jan. 14 game against Iowa State on television.

Gathers unleashed some of his eye-opening athletic gifts in a win over West Virginia recently. Rod Aydelotte/Associated Press/Associated Press

Style to see: Twins’ Graham sports stirrups for vision-impaired mom
J.R. Graham doesn’t wear stirrups as a fashion statement. He’s not wearing them to look cool. He wears them so his mom can watch him play baseball. Graham, a right-handed pitcher who was taken by the Twins in the December Rule 5 draft after spending four years in the Atlanta Braves organization, has worn the stirrups since his Little League days. He also used to wear white cleats in high school — all so his mother, Julie, could spot him on the field. Julie Graham is legally blind. She was born with Best Disease, a rare retina disorder that has caused her vision to deteriorate through the years.

J.R. Graham (far right) wears stirrups to help himself stick out from the crowd so his vision-impaired mother can spot him more easily. Tyler Mason / FOX Sports North

7 Women Changing the World Through Sports (Global Sports Mentoring Program)
Our yearlong series of stories focuses on the women of the Global Sports Mentoring Program. The GSMP was started by the U.S. Department of State and espnW to pair emerging leaders from around the world with American female executives in the sports industry. Its goal is to create a network of women and girls who strive to create positive change in their home communities through the power of sports.

Educate-Me founder Yasmin Helal plays basketball with girls in a program run by a fellow Global Sports Mentorship Program participant. Hayam Essam/Girl Power — Egypt

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Contact InformationSarbjit “Sab” Singh