Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #171

July 5 – July 11, 2015

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

  1. U.S. women were multi-sport athletes before focusing on soccer
  2. #LOVEFUTBOL Interview with Documentary Filmmaker Megan Shutzer
  3. Benefits of Sports to A Child’s Mind and Heart All Part of the Game (NPR)
  4. Dave Zirin – Why I’m Done Defending Women’s Sports
  5. The Equity Call: Why we need authentic, measurable and accountable gender mainstreaming in sport for development
  6. Kentucky QB Towles takes Harry Potter fandom to new level
  7. ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” celebrates 25 years of hard-hitting journalism
  8. What Globally Ambitious Brands Can Learn From Manchester United’s Marketing Playbook
  9. NHL’s first Chinese draft pick Andong Song represents hope for growth
  10. U.S. Olympic Champion Natalie Coughlin dives in, again

This was a big week for the beautiful game, aka “the world’s game,” as the United States captured the 2015 Women’s World Cup over Japan, a rematch of the 2011 championship in which the Japanese emerged victorious. It was a tremendous tournament that took place over the past month, with a record number of countries participating in this world championship. The U.S.’s first title since 1999 certainly captured the attention of fans in the U.S., as a record number of folks caught the game on television. And the celebrations for the team got a good start as the team was feted in Los Angeles and treated to a ticker tape parade in New York City.

A lot was made of the potential impact this championship run will have on soccer in the U.S., especially for young girls. While we recognize that impact, we also put forth the idea that this was a victory for sports doing good, as the team played at a high level and with a strong sense of sportsmanship that should be admired by boys and girls, men and women. We are excited by the achievements of this team and look forward to their road to defending this championship at the 2019 World Cup in France.

Several of the stories featured this week relate directly or indirectly to the champion US team, including a look at several of the players who starred in other sports in addition to soccer when they were younger; an interview with documentary filmmaker Megan Shutzer and her upcoming film on the New Generation Queens soccer team in Zanzibar; a commentary by leading journalist Dave Zirin about why women’s sports does not need “defending,” that it has great value on its own; and a piece by Maria Bobenrieth, Executive Director of Women Win about the need to analyze sport and development efforts more critically, understanding the differences there are between boys and girls.

Other stories we are happy to feature this week involve: the joys for parents and kids from participation in youth sports; the extreme Harry Potter fandom for a particular Division 1 football quarterback; a celebration of one of the most important news programs, especially when it comes to sports-related issues, ESPN’s “Outside the Lines”; one of the, if not the, most popular soccer teams in the world, Manchester United, and its marketing approach to becoming an iconic brand; the NHL’s first Chinese draft pick Andong Song and what it means for hockey here and in China; and Olympic champion swimmer Natalie Coughlin and her quest to continue her stellar career on the Olympic stage.

There are two final items we would like to highlight. First the good folks at The Giving Back Fund are hosting their 6th Annual Sports and Entertainment Philanthropy Summit on Saturday, July 25th at LA Live.  They are offering subscribers to Sports Doing Good a $100 discount.  You can attend the Summit for $399 using discount code:  GBFDISCOUNT.  You can register and learn more about this terrific event at:

Second, George Washington University is now accepting applications for its industry-leading program in sports and philanthropy. This is a program with a stellar curriculum and equally impressive faculty. The early bird registration period ends August 26, while the overall enrollment deadline is October 21. You can find more information at

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

U.S. women were multi-sport athletes before focusing on soccer
While specialization is a booming and concerning trend in youth sports, with athletes as young as 10 years old focusing solely on one discipline as competition for college scholarships and professional careers reaches extreme levels, the U.S. women’s team can be seen as proof that such an approach is not the only route to success. A quick survey of members of the squad found that collectively they played at least 14 different sports competitively while growing up, as well as soccer. And significantly, all believe the other disciplines enhanced rather than hindered their soccer careers. Wambach lettered in basketball at Our Lady of Mercy High School in Rochester, N.Y., and could have played at the collegiate level. Midfielder Morgan Brian played basketball all four years of high school and says it is “the same game as soccer, in terms of vision.” Forward Amy Rodriguez swam, played softball and ran track. Lauren Holiday also competed in track, played basketball and baseball and “would have played football if they had let me.”

United States team members wave to the crowd after the Germany game. Jean-Yves Ahern, USA TODAY Sports

#LOVEFUTBOL Interview with Documentary Filmmaker Megan Shutzer
I met the New Generation Queens when I was working in Zanzibar. I came to Zanzibar in 2011 to set up a study abroad program for college students – and whenever I travel, I try to play a little bit of soccer. The two most prevalent things in local Zanzibari culture are soccer and Islam, so it was easy to find a game, but it was not easy to find a women’s game. I started to ask if women played soccer in Zanzibar and eventually someone knew about the New Generation Queens. When I finally found them (they practice on the corner of a field at the Zanzibar prison complex, not an easy find) it was love at first sight. I connected with the team in a way that rarely happens across culture (especially with the power dynamics that come with being an American abroad in sub-Saharan Africa). I developed some real friendships with players on the team and their stories were compelling, as was the visual transformation that I saw every day when they would show up to practice covered (some, not all) and take off their hijabs to show colorful jerseys and personalities that I wasn’t seeing/experiencing elsewhere in Zanzibar.

Megan and NGQ team and managers waiting to head to a game. (Zanzibar)

Benefits of Sports to A Child’s Mind and Heart All Part of the Game (NPR)
Moreover, 76 percent of adults who have children in high school or middle school today say they encourage their children to play sports. Engaging in sports isn’t just an important physical and social activity, these parents say. It also builds skills that can make a difference later. “Parents think that the organized way you participate in sports — the leadership and fellowship — is actually preparing people not only for the next game but for much broader roles in life,” says Harvard professor and health policy analyst Robert Blendon, who co-directed our poll. Like the Herreras, the parents in our poll talk about sports teaching their children about discipline, dedication and how to get along with others — all skills to help in future schooling and beyond. Octavio Herrera also played baseball when he was Jake’s age, and well remembers how it felt.

Dave Zirin – Why I’m Done Defending Women’s Sports
It’s like any verbal dispute where fact and opinion are used interchangeably by troglodytic axe grinders who seem to get an erectile boost from the frustrated outrage of others. Every damn Women’s World Cup, every NCAA women’s finals, every Olympics, women’s sports again go on a media trial that would make the old judges of Salem blush. This last e-mail was merely the latest. I have done too many radio shows in the past week where the question was not about the chances of the US Women’s national team or which teams could potentially topple them. They were about why “no one cares,” or whether women’s sports are as good as men’s sports. It’s tired…So I’m done “defending” women’s sports. Frankly, it’s insulting to the athletes involved to even conceive of it as if they need defending. It’s time to go on offense. It’s time to write more about women’s sports and be part of the grassroots struggle to do what the sports networks and sports-radio talking potatoes won’t do, and that’s tell the stories of what is happening in women’s sports. It’s not broccoli. It’s what we saw when Carli Lloyd lifted that shot over Japan’s goaltender Ayumi Kaihori from midfield: pure fucking joy.

The Equity Call: Why we need authentic, measurable and accountable gender mainstreaming in sport for development
Gender mainstreaming is not simply allowing girls to participate in programmes or putting a girl’s picture on a web site, or request for funding. It means designing a girl specific curriculum and safe space with their unique needs in mind, and having that curriculum delivered by an appropriate and equitable gender balance of role models. What might it look like if we considered the different life experiences, responsibilities and needs of girls and compensating for their historical discrimination in sport? Gender mainstreaming means ensuring that women are visible across organisations, in equal numbers and in an equitable manner as men. And, yes this includes management teams, executives and boards. This does not however mean that only women-led organisations do good work in this area – we know and applaud many organisations run by men who are doing exceptional work. And, conversely, simply having women in leadership positions is not enough to build an effective and impactful organisation. How might things change if we all set organisational goals against these aims and reported on them?

Kentucky QB Towles takes Harry Potter fandom to new level
While the idea for the photo shoot came from the Cats’ Pause staff, it was inspired by Towles’ previous confessions about his love for all things Harry Potter. And the 6-foot-5, 245-pound senior quarterback was more than happy to play along. “It’s a chance to show people that I’m a real person who likes what you guys like, who eats what you guys eat and does what you all do,” Towles told Cats Pause. “It helps develop a sense of common ground. ‘Hey, he’s not really that far away,’ or, ‘He’s not really that different. He’s just one of us who happens to play football.'” Towles has said that he’s read each book in the series at least seven times and can “quote the whole thing,” referring to the movies. And to take his fandom a step further, he annually celebrates Harry Potter’s mythical birthday on July 31. Towles explained his obsession as follows: “I love the magic part about it and how it’s really just kind of like a whole different world and stuff. Granted, I know it’s not reality and it’s never going to happen, but it’s a fun thing to play around with.”

Image Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” celebrates 25 years of hard-hitting journalism
OTL initially was conceived by former ESPN executive John Walsh as a periodic special to allow the network to take what Ley calls “a deep dive” into subjects that go beyond the playing field. The first show examined the obstacles athletes face in adjusting to life after retirement. In 2000, OTL became a regular staple on Sunday mornings and now also airs Monday through Friday at 5:30 p.m. on ESPN2. Quite simply, it is consistently the best program on ESPN. There are numerous days when other outlets are required to react to a story “first reported by ‘Outside The Lines.’” In lauding OTL’s anniversary, ESPN president John Skipper called Ley, “The Walter Cronkite of sports journalism.” Ley found that platitude to be “extremely humbling.” However, a more apt comparison for Ley and OTL might be to the vintage heyday of Ted Koppel on ABC’s “Nightline.”

Vietnam: March, 1998 – Bob Ley in Vietnam for Outside The Lines show “Made in Vietnam: The American Sneaker Controversy.” (Photo courtesy of ESPN)

What Globally Ambitious Brands Can Learn From Manchester United’s Marketing Playbook
International matchups are just one tactic from the Man U marketing playbook. Through its storied history, the franchise has tried out numerous promotional techniques, offering lucrative lessons for others. More than a few pro teams and leagues have adopted its strategies. That makes sense, experts say, as Man U’s marketing prowess has been a key factor in its success, helping it become the first soccer club to achieve a value of $1 billion. And as a money-generating juggernaut, the Red Devils show no sign of dropping the ball. Whether at home or abroad, it all boils down to connecting with fans, and keeping them on board over the long haul. That is no easy task given today’s media makeup. “The earlier you get introduced to a spectator sport, the more you’ll engage and the more value you’ll create over time,” says Howard Handler, CMO of MLS and a Clio Sports juror. For an established team like Man U, of course, its following grows organically across generations. But as the Red Devils have devised innovative ways to build engagement beyond the walls of Old Trafford Stadium, they have strengthened their ties with existing fans and attracted new ones, making the club an even more valuable partner for brands.

Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney will lead the club onto the field in four U.S. cities this month.

NHL’s first Chinese draft pick Andong Song represents hope for growth
But a Chinese symbol may be just what hockey needs as it reaches a pivotal moment in China. Teams such as the Toronto Maple Leafs see the country’s swelling middle class as their best shot at international growth, and are already minting millions from relationships with Chinese companies. China itself stands poised for a bigger hockey appetite, with a bid for a 2022 Winter Olympics that stands to direct new national attention to the building of winter sports. Some are even hopeful Mr. Song’s drafting will prove helpful to China in winning the Games. “Andong’s success has proven one thing to the International Olympic Committee and to the world: that Chinese do have the desire to play hockey well,” said Feng Fei, a Beijing rink owner and vice-president of the Beijing Ice Hockey Association. Perhaps more important is the boost Mr. Song provides a country that holds some promise as a lucrative hockey frontier. In cities as distant as Chengdu – where average January temperatures are 9 degrees – developers are building rinks as mall entertainment and providing skating opportunities to a generation seeking new thrills. Mr. Song’s success legitimizes their ambitions.

Liu Qian, 15 practices shooting during a training session with Chinese coach Fu Lei at an ice rink in Beijing, China on July 1st, 2015. (Adam Dean)

U.S. Olympic Champion Natalie Coughlin dives in, again
“I’m a different competitor than I used to be,” she says. “When I was younger, I would get so angry at the stupidest things. If a competitor looked at me funny. Or, if I lost a race, it was the end of the world. Now I know it’s not the end of the world. In some ways, I don’t take swimming so seriously, and in other ways, I take it more seriously. I let the little things go when it’s important to let it go. I enjoy the process much more.” Many accomplished athletes keep competing because they’re hooked on adrenaline and attention, or have no other passion. Some have frittered away their winnings or failed to lay the groundwork to move on. Coughlin seems to fit into none of these categories. In a sport that skews toward youth and tunnel vision, she comes across as a grown-up who sees beyond the lane lines. Much about Coughlin has remained consistent since she was a teenage phenom, including her direct, blue-eyed gaze, her intriguing blend of self-deprecation and self-assurance and her throaty, infectious laugh.

Natalie Coughlin: “Even if I wasn’t training for an Olympics, I would still be running 10 miles a day, or I’d be getting in the pool, or I’d be lifting weights.” Tyler Gourley for ESPN.

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