Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #161

April 26 – May 2, 2015

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

  1. Basketball diplomacy: Former NBA greats teach Cuban players basketball in post-detente visit
  2. Danny Shelton celebrates Samoan heritage with draft night attire
  3. 9-Man – A Streetball Battle in the Heart of Chinatown
  4. U.S. Navy vet makes college debut as pitcher … at age 34
  5. Could a soccer ball break barriers in the Middle East?
  6. New advocacy toolkit on sport for development and peace
  7. NBA Player Will Barton Promotes Positive Solutions In Baltimore
  8. Q&A with Pau Gasol: The NBA All-Star’s Health Advocacy Off-the-Court
  9. Scott Darling – The hardest save was himself
  10. College Football Player to Be Bone Marrow Donor for Infant

The idea of “sport as culture” might seem off-putting to some. However, we are not referring to culture involving excessive drinking, hooliganism, and overturned cars. At Sports Doing Good, we, of course, have different ideas in mind. Those ideas include: learning about different people and their way of life, working to break down preexisting barriers to friendship and respect, and reaching out to those who don’t have the same opportunities in life that we may have. We are happy to feature this week several stories that capture these ideas, including: basketball diplomacy between the U.S. and Cuba (led by a native of Canada and another from the Congo); a display of pride of one’s heritage on one of the NFL’s biggest days; a volleyball variant known as 9-Man popular in metropolitan Chinatowns in the U.S.; and two examples of sport as a tool for peace for those young and old.

Other wonderful stories this week include: a U.S. Navy vet getting to fulfill a long-held dream; NBA player Will Barton taking swift action to impact what is going on in Baltimore; the great work being done by NBA All-Stars, and brothers, Pau and Marc Gasol; NHL goalie Scott Darling overcoming personal challenges to excel in his dream job; and a young college football player giving the gift a life to someone just starting out in life.

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

Basketball diplomacy: Former NBA greats teach Cuban players basketball in post-detente visit
The flags of Cuba and the United States flew at the Havana university where the four-day camp began Thursday. Nash, a former MVP, and Mutombo, a Hall of Fame inductee, were joined by ex-WNBA player Ticha Penicheiro and NBA coaches in teaching the more than 100 athletes. “Basketball is a bridge that can unite people and cultures so I am happy to be here,” Mutombo said. The NBA is the first U.S. professional league to visit Cuba since the detente announcement. Basketball is Cuba’s fourth most-popular sport, after baseball, boxing and soccer.

Former Los Angeles Lakers’ Steve Nash, left, former NBA player Dikembe Mutombo, center, and former WNBA player Ticha Penicheiro acknowledge applause during the inauguration of the first NBA basketball training camp for Cuban players in Havana, Cuba, Thursday, April 23, 2015. Nash and Mutombo were joined by ex-WNBA player Ticha Penicheiro and NBA coaches in teaching more than 100 Cuban basketball athletes, hoping to boost the game’s popularity on the island. (AP Photo/Desmond Boyland) (The Associated Press)

Danny Shelton celebrates Samoan heritage with draft night attire
Danny Shelton is one of the safest best in the 2015 NFL Draft, a powerful defensive tackle out of Washington. While almost every elite player invited to a professional sports draft chooses to wear some derivation of Western business attire, Shelton opted to dress in traditional Samoan garb. He’s wearing a lava-lava — the skirt-like sarong around his lower body — and an ula fala — his necklace, made from the fruit of the pandanus tree, typically worn by chiefs for important events. He had also worn a lava-lava at the Senior Bowl media night.

Most NFL Draft prospects wear a suit, but Washington product Danny Shelton did something different — and awesome.

9-Man – A Streetball Battle in the Heart of Chinatown
“9-Man” is an incredible exploration of the virtually unknown volleyball variant known as 9-Man, which has its roots in Toisan and which was popularized among Chinese Americans in the early twentieth century as a reaction to life in a forced bachelor society. 9-Man continues to be a streetball tradition in the Chinese American community, yet this fascinating and frenetic sport remained largely overlooked until Liang’s film. In my review last year, I described Liang’s documentary as complex and thought-provoking, and a vehicle for exploring many aspects of Asian American masculine identity today.

U.S. Navy vet makes college debut as pitcher … at age 34
Nearly two decades before he made his first collegiate appearance, Holcomb was a star at Mason High School in Michigan, not far from the campus of Michigan State University. Holcomb went 4-1 with a 1.90 ERA in 67 1/3 innings as a senior, but after graduation, he chose not to pursue baseball, but a career in the military instead. During his time in the Navy — a career that, to this point, has taken him on tours of duty from Iraq to Asia to Africa — Holcomb enrolled in the Navy Nurse Corps Association, and after 17 years, he began pursuing a nursing degree at Jacksonville with the intention of returning to the Navy. One might think that Holcomb would have reservations about approaching Montez to discuss a spot on the team. After all, what business did a guy in his mid-30s have playing with a bunch of kids who were in diapers when he last pitched? But Holcomb didn’t want to spend the rest of his life wondering what could’ve been and had no trouble convincing himself it was worth a shot.

Skip Tapp/Courtesy Jacksonville University

Could a soccer ball break barriers in the Middle East?
During a recent trip to the region, Fusion’s America With Jorge Ramos watched a girls-only subgroup of TPSS in action. Young as they were, players came with their own preconceived notions of what the games would bring. At first, said Israeli coach Roy Senderovich, the girls were scared. “It’s like, ‘What will we do if the Arabs try to kill us?’” An Arab coach, Said Barhoon, described a similar fear on his team. “They have the feeling that this people is different.” But when the girls played together their apprehension fell away. “Once they have the opportunity to meet and to break these barriers they, even without knowing, become ambassadors with this message of peace,” said Henderson. She added that girls are especially good at this. “Something we noticed with the girls is that they are…the true ambassadors.” She explained: “Girls do have… less pride. They come much more open than the boys.”

New advocacy toolkit on sport for development and peace
The advice and resources provided in this toolkit have been developed through extensive research since 2013 as well as the experience and expertise of the CYSDP members, involving many edits, drafts and trial workshops. We ensured the toolkit was trialled with young people involved in sport and/or participating in and coordinating SDP programmes. CYSDP members delivered pilot sessions to more than 50 young people ranging from 16-21 years old from India, Kenya, Trinidad and Tobago and Australia, including high school and university students, volunteers, athletes, coaches, administrators and referees…The toolkit can be downloaded and used by any young person and the CYSDP also aims to deliver workshops on the advocacy toolkit at various events and platforms to build the capacity of youth working in SDP, and to promote SDP to the wider community.

The toolkit was launched at Marlborough House, London, on 7 April during celebrations for the International day of Sport for Development and Peace.

NBA Player Will Barton Promotes Positive Solutions in Baltimore
Amid the protests and demonstrations following the death of Freddie Gray, Will Barton of the Denver Nuggets organized a block party at a basketball court in Baltimore, Maryland, on Tuesday. Barton, a 24-year-old Baltimore native, organized the event with the purpose of planning “a positive strategy on how to protect and proactively save our children and our communities,” he wrote on Instagram. “Leadership matters and I can’t think of a better time to call on our local celebrities whether it be an athlete, musician, actor or your personal hero,” he wrote. “The love we have for our kids [has] to be shown now or their future will be determined in part by our actions or lack [thereof].”

Portland Trail Blazers guard Will Barton, left, and guard Damian Lillard, right, wore “I Can’t Breathe” shirts before an NBA basketball game in December 2014. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

Q&A with Pau Gasol: The NBA All-Star’s Health Advocacy Off-the-Court
Since moving to the Chicago Bulls last summer, NBA star Pau Gasol has been having one of the most sensational seasons of his basketball career. A two-time champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, the new Bulls starting center is entering the playoffs as the league leader in double doubles, averaging about 18 points and 12 rebounds per game. In February, he and his younger brother Marc Gasol (of the Memphis Grizzlies) made NBA history as the first siblings to start in the annual All-Star Game: Pau for the East team, Marc for the West. The two have been equally active off the court. In 2013, after years of work with various philanthropic associations, Pau and Marc formed the Gasol Foundation. It focuses on child health and works towards “a world where all children will enter adulthood physically and mentally equipped to live successful, healthy and productive lives.”

Scott Darling – The hardest save was himself
Somewhere in her suburban Chicago home, Cindy still has the paper her son wrote in second grade — the one where he swore to someday play goalie for the Blackhawks. The boy grew up wanting to be just like his dad, a goalie in an area men’s league. His father had no problem pointing him in the right direction. By four Darling had his own gear (he slept in it). By the eighth grade, he was safely ensconced in the Althol Murray College of Notre Dame, an equally hockey-crazed boarding school in Saskatchewan. It is at Althol Murray where Darling first wrestled with his social anxiety disorder. He had always been hyper-aware of people in his orbit and fretted over what they thought of him. It caused a paralyzing fear he struggled to control. Away from the safety and familiarity of home it got worse.

College Football Player to Be Bone Marrow Donor for Infant
School officials said Sophomore Jordan Veloz, 20, signed up last year during a bone marrow registry drive on campus. The “Get in the Game” drive, a national initiative that was began in 2008 by Villanova Coach Andrew Talley, is designed to build the National Bone Marrow Donor Registry. The player was informed last month he might be a match. It was confirmed this month he is a match. “It hasn’t really hit me yet, but I feel like I am just doing what I should do,” Veloz said. “But there are times I stop and think, ‘Wow, it is all in my hands.'” Veloz said he hopes when people hear about his donation they will feel inspired to go out to get registered. He said that registering takes just about 15-20 minutes, followed by swabs taken from the donor’s mouth. The DNA goes into the national bone marrow registry.

JJ Veloz will travel to Wisconsin later this year to donate bone marrow to a child. Western Illinois Athletics

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Contact InformationSarbjit “Sab” Singh