Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #173

July 19 – July 25, 2015

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

  1. How Sports Can Show You that Peace is Possible
  2. In search for unity – South Sudan looks to sport
  3. The Inspiring People in Sport for Development
  4. WNBA superstar Elena Delle Donne talks youth sports, and more
  5. Becky Hammon Becomes The First Female Coach To Win NBA Summer League Title
  6. Why an AAU team chose to name itself the Motor City Muslims
  7. Cleveland Brown Joe Haden – ‘Open up your vocabulary, people’
  8. To Push a Runner, Friends Give a Tough-to-Beat Gift
  9. Special Olympics: A new lease of life for those with intellectual disabilities
  10. Hilarious NBA mimic reveals some of his next impressions

Normally, when we reach mid to late June, there is a palpable emptiness – okay, relative emptiness – when it comes to professional sports on TV. The NBA and NHL playoffs end and this year, we also had to say goodbye to the awesome Women’s World Cup. Sure, baseball is still around but there is no doubt some exhaustion that sets in considering the almost intolerable length of the season. But this year, there has been something that has helped fill in the gap when it comes to sports activity. It began last week with ESPN’s Sports Humanitarian Awards and the ESPYS the next night. And it continued with Beyond Sports’ excellent Beyond Sport United this week in New Jersey.

The Humanitarian Awards and Beyond Sport are combining with several other events around the world, e.g. the Peace and Sport International Forum in Monaco, to help make the issues of sport and social change, social responsibility, peace, and development, not an infrequent topic of discussion, but regular ones. These industry leaders, along with others like the International Platform on Sport & Development, are providing the necessary expertise to ensure the right questions are being asked and the proper answers are being presented. Some of the issues under consideration – sportsmanship, gender equality, poverty, education, health and wellness – are difficult ones that require the input of a host of stakeholders. What the events of last week and this week show is that many are regularly taking on the responsibility to affect positive change. At Sports Doing Good we know this is true as we are always able to find stories of such effort in putting together each week’s newsletter. We applaud the work being done and look forward to featuring it every week.

For the ten stories this week, we start off with a piece we wrote for our friends at Peace is Sexy, an organization that actively engages individuals, organizations, and governments in discussion and work regarding advancements in peace and diplomatic matters. Our message? That “peace is possible” and sport can play an important role in making that happen. In a related piece, our friends at Peace and Sport offer an insightful perspective on how sport can be a powerful took in the development of one of the world’s newest nations, South Sudan. And in a third look at this area, Beth Eisen from Laureus gives us a personal look at what has inspired and motivated her in the world of sport and development.

Other stories we are happy to feature include: WNBA superstar Elena Delle Donne; former WNBA superstar and current NBA assistant coach Becky Hammon; a groundbreaking AAU basketball team from Detroit; Cleveland Brown Joe Haden and the love he has for his brother; a creative gift from a group of friends for their fellow runner; a look at the power of the Special Olympics in India; and a guy with a knack for nailing imitations of some of the NBA’s best players.

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

How Sports Can Show You that Peace is Possible
Taken together, an overriding idea that I have become aware of and now fully embrace is that “peace is possible.” For someone who grew up during the Cold War, only to see the Berlin Wall fall, but who also has seen non-stop conflict in parts of the Middle East for more than 40 years, I wavered when it came to accepting that idea of real peace. However, due to the sheer number of stories that I have seen over the past 3.5 years, and the variety of examples of individuals, athletes, teams, leagues, companies, and non-profits doing good, I am now firmly in the “peace is possible” camp. I understand that peace is not inevitable, but that is the way it should be. If it is something we really want – and peace certainly qualifies – then we must work hard for it. And there are plenty of examples of folks doing just that. What we try to do at Sports Doing Good and what we are starting to see others also do, is promote these positive acts. They serve as models for behavior and inspiration to work towards whatever type of peace is most meaningful to each of us.

In search for unity – South Sudan looks to sport
Indeed, participation at the Olympics and sports in general could help bridge ethnic divides. Last weekend, the South Sudanese capital of Juba celebrated the four-year anniversary of independence from Sudan with hundreds competing in a half marathon. The race brought together many from different tribes. Sport can be a great tool to unite the nation; however, it should not be the only agenda to IOC recognition. An agenda to bring together the leader of the government together with the leader of the rebel group should be encouraged in order to answer the citizens’ call to end hostilities as summarized by the UN Secretary-General. It is important to recognize the nation within the sport family so that we can foster, through sport, a much-needed dialogue. It is through this dialogue that we would have a direct impact on the local community and bring about change.

The Inspiring People in Sport for Development
Every member of Fight Back, a Laureus USA-supported program in the Bronx (picture below), has inspired me with the way they treat the other program participants as family. The program’s Senseis organized the program so that the same class has participants spanning from 4 years to 34 years of age. Some of the instructors have grown up practically their whole lives in the program. One of the instructors told me recently that he moved over an hour away to Queens but he comes every day to the program because it is his family. One instructor told me the program changed his life because he learned to become a good father to his new daughter from the discipline skills he’d learned in the program. One participant told me she intended to bring her child to the program but was challenged to join the class as well and has since been healthier than she’d been in a long time. While every individual in the program has encountered some hardship in their life which may be attributed to issues in the community, every individual has become more resilient and as a group they’ve created a safe place for their family in a tumultuous community. You can see the family has come together and succeeded, as the dojo is lined with trophies, like wallpaper in their family room. superstar Elena Delle Donne talks youth sports, and more
It’s been an impressive journey for the 25-year-old Chicago Sky forward, whose love for the game was forged early on the youth basketball courts growing up in Wilmington, Delaware, where she played for caring coaches – volunteers whose impact she hasn’t forgotten during her rise to stardom. “I think coaches, especially when you are younger, have way more of an impact personally than even on the court,” she says. “They teach you how to be a good teammate; they teach you how to act; and they teach you what’s important. So I was fortunate to have some really incredible role models as my coaches. They taught me way more about life than the game of basketball.” Delle Donne, who ranks fifth on the NCAA’s all-time women’s scoring list, spoke with SportingKid Live following a recent practice in Chicago. Here’s what the third-year pro had to say.

Becky Hammon Becomes the First Female Coach to Win NBA Summer League Title
If there’s any debate remaining as to whether Hammon can provide insight into the men’s game, allow this performance to silence all of that. Many of Hammon’s players emphasized that they see her as a valuable voice on the bench. “She gives another perspective on the sidelines for us. She see some things that we don’t see,” Danny Green told NBA TV in an interview during Monday night’s game. He continued, “She’s obviously a player, everybody respects her, she’s well-respected. She knows the game. She understands the game. She sees it from a point guard perspective, but a female perspective [too], which is very different for us. She’s one of my favorites … She’s doing very well. I’m happy for her.”

Becky Hammon celebrates after the Spurs’ NBA Las Vegas Summer League championship victory. (AP)

Why an AAU team chose to name itself the Motor City Muslims
One priority was helping the players develop the fundamentals they would need to someday make the jump to the varsity team in high school, anything from ball handling, to boxing out, to maintaining a low defensive stance. Another priority was eliminating the cliques that had formed among players of Indian or Pakistani descent and those with Middle Eastern roots. Once that was done, there was still the vital task of preparing the team for the challenge of wearing “Muslims” on their chest at a time when that word still can inspire fear and distrust. “What I told them was that they were representing Islam,” Altimimy said. “If we can show people that we’re ballers and we can hoop but that we’re also regular young people, that would be big.” The importance of debunking the negative image of Islam isn’t lost on the Motor City Muslims, but many of them were more eager to discredit another unflattering stereotype. They wanted to show that an all-Muslim team could be more formidable on the basketball floor than many opponents expected.–144044430.html

Cleveland Brown Joe Haden – ‘Open up your vocabulary, people’
Haden is the first NFL player to be named a Special Olympics Global Ambassador, and the 26-year-old worked Radio Row at the Super Bowl this year to help the movement called Spread The Word To End The Word. Created in February 2009 in conjunction with the World Winter Games, Spread The Word can now count more than 500,000 online pledges to end the use of the slur and its variants. Millions more have signed the pledge on banners and petitions around the world. Haden’s involvement in the Special Olympics began because of his relationship with his brother Jacob, who is five years younger and has a cognitive disorder that limits his language and speech. “He’s just a really cool kid, a blessing to me and my family,” says Haden. “I play for him, and I would do anything for him.”

Cleveland Browns Joe Haden (right) and his younger brother Jacob, who has a cognitive disorder, talk every day, either by text or phone. ESPN

To Push a Runner, Friends Give a Tough-to-Beat Gift
It was unusual, as birthday presents go: When their Ironman competitor pal turned 30, a group of friends in New York City hired an elite distance runner to take him on a workout, flying her in from Arizona for a showdown on a Manhattan track. Standing near the starting line of the East River Park track on a recent wiltingly hot Saturday morning, Dan Goldberg, the mastermind behind the gift for his friend Rob Brink, beamed in anticipation. “It kind of feels like a present to ourselves, after all these years of having him beat us,” Goldberg said as Brink, a business school student at Cornell, tentatively toed the line with Sara Slattery, 33, a national champion distance runner. Looking on approvingly, Goldberg indulged in the playful ribbing that characterized the occasion, deadpanning, “Happy birthday, Rob.”

On hand to watch were, from left, Jeanna Composti, Lesley Higgins, Dan Goldberg, the mastermind of the birthday gift, and Shanna Burnette. Credit Hilary Swift/The New York Times

Special Olympics: A new lease of life for those with intellectual disabilities
What began as a social integration initiative for individuals with intellectual disabilities has now snowballed into a programme that empowers them to be a celebrated group. The programme provides basic physical education by the Rural Development Trust’s (RDT) Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) team for RDT’s special schools in and around Anantapur, India. The programme began in July 2010 when Special Olympics Bharat approached RDT with the aim to introduce competitive sport to children with intellectual disabilities. They encouraged these children to come out to play sport and receive basic education, so as to give them an opportunity to interact with other youth. RDT’s teachers also received specialised training in educating intellectually disabled children. To encourage these kids to take up competitive sport, RDT initially found three talented athletes; this number then went up to 10 athletes in 2011, and now as many as 34 athletes have joined the programme because of the success and interest the initial athletes generated.

RDT Co-founder Anne Ferrer with Fakrunnisha and Revathi after Athens 2011

Hilarious NBA mimic reveals some of his next impressions
If you didn’t know Brandon Armstrong from his obscure basketball career, there’s a good chance you know him now. Better known by his Twitter handle, @BdotAdot5, the social media comedian has made rounds on the Internet for his hilarious impersonations of NBA stars. “I’ve always done funny videos to make the people laugh, and one night I had an idea to do a basketball player because I played basketball,” Armstrong told The Post by telephone on Thursday. “Then it just took off.” His first video was of Russell Westbrook, and if you’ve ever watched Westbrook play, you’ll appreciate the accuracy of Armstrong’s impersonations.

Brandon Armstrong as Russell Westbrook in one his YouTube-famous NBA impressions. Photo: Screengrab via YouTube

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Our goal is to have Sports Doing Good be a portal housing original content and excerpts from and links to the increasing number of articles, websites, video, and other media that showcase the good in sports and society. We aim to celebrate those concepts, activities, events, and individuals by highlighting them for a wider audience. Much of the news today, whether sports- related or not, is incredibly negative and increasingly polarizing, biased, and quite annoying. We are trying to refocus some of the discussion on the good, with a focus on sports.

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