Aug. 2 – Aug. 8, 2015
Welcome to week one hundred seventy-five of the Sports Doing Good newsletter. This week’s 10 stories include:
- How NBA champ Festus Ezeli fell into basketball after emigrating from Nigeria at 14
- How Finns Make Sports Part of Everyday Life
- NBA stars, legends shine as Team World rallies to beat Team Africa
- Adrian Coxson: The Road (The Players Tribune)
- Kajikawa using power of sport to improve society
- Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball and U.S. Conference of Mayors Announce 2015 PLAY BALL Cities for PLAY BALL Month
- Faith in Sport – opening the road to dialogue and reconciliation
- One World Play Project Extends Partnership with Chevrolet
- DoSomething & WWE Take On Bullying For Second Straight Year, “The Bully Text Campaign” Announced Featuring WWE Stars
- Taking On the Staggering Decline of Youth Sports Programs
- Anwar Smaka’s World Games adventure with his Syrian team
- Mutombo, Hamilton share mission through Special Olympics
- Meet the Special Olympic ‘Unified’ soccer team that epitomizes togetherness in sports
- Teen with Cerebral Palsy Advocates for Children Around the World: ‘I Just Don’t Think About My Disability’
- Special Olympics evolve with different approach to competition
This week we again have a special section for a group of stories connected to the just-completed 2015 Special Olympics World Games. Two of the stories provide insight into a new format when it comes to competition in the Special Olympics, that of the “unified” or “united” team. This involves bringing athletes with and without disabilities together to play on the same team. While there was some resistance to this idea of pairing the athletes, the results over this past year and at the most recent Games seem to show that there is a tremendous upside (teamwork, understanding, empathy) to this effort for both sets of athletes. The stories dealing with the effort during the 2015 Games include the USA unified soccer team and the Kenyan unified volleyball team.
A story from our first batch of 10 stories also has to do with the idea of inclusion and opportunity but it is meant to serve as a warning to a worsening situation. Across America there is a noticeable decline in the number and quality of youth sports opportunities. As we have seen numerous times in stories previously highlighted at Sports Doing Good, there are a plethora of benefits for a host of individuals, groups, and society overall when young people are able to partake in sports. Despite the strong research-based and anecdotal evidence, programs are being squeezed by tightening budgets and frankly, short-sightedness in many situations. As the stories from the Special Olympics point out, and the other stories featured this week, there is unquestioned need to change the course of this trend and to not only maintain sports, but to build a more inclusive and active society. If we need some guidance, maybe we should look over to Finland and its remarkable efforts (another story featured this week.)
Other stories we are proud to present include: Festus Ezeli from the NBA champion Golden State Warriors; the NBA’s first game in Africa with a host of star players; Adrian Coxson of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers; sport and development leader Mie Kajikawa of Japan; a partnership promoting the playing of baseball in August across the U.S.; commentary from Peace and Sport about using sport to open the road to dialogue and reconciliation; One World Project’s ongoing partnership with Chevrolet; and the second iteration of the powerful “Bully Text Campaign” by the WWE and DoSomething.org.
Finally, we want to mention that our friends at Magic Bus will be hosting a fundraising gala in New York City on September 30, 2015. (Founded in 1999 in Mumbai, India, Magic Bus (www.magicbususa.org) is one of the world’s largest sport for development NGOs committed to breaking the poverty cycle, one child at a time. Today, Magic Bus delivers programs to more than 300,000 children around the world.) Join them for an evening of cocktails and dinner with over 250 influential leaders from sports, entertainment, and business. Magic Bus ambassadors and hosts for the evening include Julie Foudy (former US Women’s Soccer Team) and Kevin Negandhi (ESPN anchor). Over the past 16 years, Magic Bus has worked with Nike, Premier League, FIFA, NBA, KNVB, ESPN, and other sport organizations around the world. Magic Bus is currently seeking presenting, major, and corporate sponsors. For sponsorship information or to reserve a table, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. To purchase tickets, please visit https://magicbususa.givezooks.com/events/magic-bus-new-york-benefit-gala-2015)
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How NBA champ Festus Ezeli fell into basketball after emigrating from Nigeria at 14
Ezeli was in the Warriors’ playing rotation as they progressed to the NBA Finals. And with center Andrew Bogut having injury issues, Ezeli played a pivotal role in the Warriors winning a championship. He celebrated by having his family on the float with him during the Warriors’ championship parade in Oakland, Calif. “Being on the parade with him was like going to heaven…,” Patricia Ada Ezeli said. “I cried. But those were tears of joy because I was happy. I’m proud of him.” And while Nigeria is a ways from Oakland, Ezeli’s family members and friends back home paid close attention to the Warriors’ title run. “I get messages all the time on LinkedIn, e-mail, What’s App, Facebook and Instagram every day,” Ezeli said. “People are excited about what I am doing and have congratulated me. It lets me know that what I’m doing is bigger than myself and people are supporting and watching me.”
How Finns Make Sports Part of Everyday Life
Though they hardly need it, there’s a national plan in Finland to get people to sit less. It reminds them, in fact, that, “Under the Constitution … physical activity is a basic cultural right.” “It’s been kind of a social right to provide citizens with sporting possibilities,” says Hanna Vehmas, a sports scientist at the University of Jyväskylä. She says it’s a Nordic thing to consider sports a social right. That thinking started in the 1970s, when governments started subsidizing sports gyms in even the smallest towns. Now, she says, “there’s an estimate of some close to 30,000 sports facilities in this country, which is said to be more per capita than in any other country in the world.” Those facilities are one reason why Finland and its Nordic neighbors always make the top-five list of most physically active European countries, according to surveys by the European Commission. These days, municipalities spend about $700 million a year subsidizing sports facilities and clubs. A portion of lottery funds also goes toward funding sports facilities and research.
NBA stars, legends shine as Team World rallies to beat Team Africa
The South African exhibition was the NBA’s biggest step into Africa so far, and could be the precursor to a preseason and maybe even a regular-season game on the continent, according to Commissioner Adam Silver. “For me, as a kid, [I wanted] to play basketball and never had the access to meet NBA players, or watch NBA,” said Deng, who was born in South Sudan. “Now to be part of a team coming back to play for Africa. I can’t describe it.”
Adrian Coxson: The Road (The Players Tribune)
I had a great senior season, but my name didn’t get called on draft night. It didn’t bother me that much, because I was used to things not going quite as planned. I talked to 10 teams on the last day of the draft, so I could feel the interest level. All I wanted was an opportunity, and I had a good feeling I would get that chance as an undrafted free agent. And I did. After visiting with a couple of teams, I chose to sign with the Packers. And today, as training camp begins — and after five years, three schools and all the battles I watched my father face — I’m on the field with a chance to compete for a spot on an NFL roster. I think about my father every time I step on the field. This is what he wanted, and as long as I have the opportunity to play this game, I won’t take one second of it for granted. I still have work to do, and I know my father is in a better place, pulling for me. Still saying, don’t give up on your dream. Don’t worry, Dad. I won’t. I’ll make you proud. I just wish you could be here to see it.
Kajikawa using power of sport to improve society
Kajikawa’s group hosted its first event, “Sport For Smile Lounge” back in September 2011 when she brought together more than 80 people to see how they could bring about social change through sport. An official from the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace spoke to the group via Skype and she began an association with that body that is ongoing. Since then Kajikawa has organized events like “Sport For Smile Square” which unites volunteers with those that have disabilities or are from disadvantaged backgrounds to mutually enjoy sports. “We are serving as a platform to partner with NGOs and isolated communities,” Kajikawa said. “We are trying to help. We ask them to implement sports and provide access to them.”
Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball and U.S. Conference of Mayors Announce 2015 PLAY BALL Cities for PLAY BALL Month
During this month, mayors across the country will host activities to engage children, citizens, families and city departments to organize individual and community-based, baseball and softball-related events, such as playing catch, running bases and more. The activities will be focused on strengthening bonds between families, communities and the game. PlayBall.org serves as the initiative’s online home and is accessible via MLB.com, USABaseball.com and other partner websites. Coaching tips and parent resources are prominent components of the site. PlayBall.org also gives parents, coaches and kids information on how to participate in PLAY BALL activities, links to youth-related news and events, and searchable maps to help find local community leagues. Health and safety information, including the Pitch Smart and Play Sun Smart programs, also are available. “The Conference of Mayors is honored to have joined Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball in helping to inspire a renewed enthusiasm for the game,” said USCM CEO and Executive Director Tom Cochran. “We are pleased with the number of mayors who have made commitments to sponsor a Play Ball activity, and look to involving more mayors in the future.”
Faith in Sport – opening the road to dialogue and reconciliation
This example has been seen to apply to many marginalized groups who have found sport to offer a space of relief and justice in that they exist and are subject to the rules of sport which apply to everyone without discrimination. In Australia for example, the Australian Sikh Games are an annual event which attracts thousands of athletes. The Islamic Cooperation also organised in 2005 and 2013 the Islamic Solidarity Games, a multi-sport event for which the next event is expected to take place in 2017 in Baku. We are living in a complex period in terms of identity, with a growing access to mobility and communication across the globe, our personal beliefs are constantly being challenged and structures put in place do not always correspond to the fast pace of this plurality. In addition we have inherited much violence and pain that needs to be transformed. The combination of a growing refugee crisis, increased terrorism and extremism has reinforced my conviction that one of the global priorities for education is the respect of the other which includes that person’s differences. The games in Berlin serve as a powerful reminder of the tough reality that is reconciliation. For this reason, we have to act in prevention and we must act now.
One World Play Project Extends Partnership with Chevrolet
One World Play Project and official sponsor Chevrolet today announced their continued commitment to providing play opportunities to youth worldwide. Chevrolet has pledged to continue supporting One World Play Project’s donation and distribution of Chevrolet-branded One World Futbols—a breakthrough in technology, as the world’s first and only ultra-durable soccer ball that never needs a pump or goes flat, even when punctured. Together, the partners will donate 2 million Chevrolet-branded One World Futbols by the end of 2018. Chevrolet is an official sponsor of One World Play Project. To date, the partners have donated 1.5 million One World Futbols worldwide—impacting an estimated 45 million lives in 94 countries. The balls are being used in programs that provide education, teach essential life skills and encourage conflict resolution to youth living in disadvantaged areas.
DoSomething & WWE Take On Bullying For Second Straight Year, “The Bully Text Campaign” Announced Featuring WWE Stars
WWE’s massive reach and stellar talent have helped us activate thousands of young people around anti-bullying,” said Naomi Hirabayashi, chief marketing officer at DoSomething.org. “We’re excited to rally WWE fans around this issue for year two to make it bigger and better than ever!” “We are proud to once again partner with DoSomething.org and provide thousands with resources to help put an end to bullying in their communities,” said Stephanie McMahon, WWE Chief Brand Officer. “Utilizing our global assets and larger than life WWE Superstars and Divas, we are confident that this campaign will help educate young people on the dangers of bullying and encourage them to stand up for themselves and others.” In 2014, nearly 100,000 young people played the Bully Text game.
Taking On the Staggering Decline of Youth Sports Programs
Per figures provided, the U.S. Department of Education found that student athletes are four times as more likely to attend college and are 50 percent less absent in school than their peers who do not play a sport. “It isn’t a sport program, it’s an intervention program,” Towns said, adding that playing basketball after school kept him out of making possibly poorer choices or getting into trouble around town. Harlem Lacrosse and Leadership, which is currently in five schools — four in New York City and one in Baltimore — has been a focus of Bissinger, who wrote that it is already having an impact on the lives of its players through both the game of lacrosse and its mandatory study halls.
“It’s almost like a civil rights movement,” Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall told The Huffington Post, following the Dick’s Sporting Goods Sports Matter panel at NASDAQ MarketSite in New York City last Tuesday. “Millions of kids are going to be stripped away of their only opportunity of having a healthy, effective life.”
Anwar Smaka’s World Games adventure with his Syrian team
As Anwar Smaka, 13, stood on the podium to receive his first of two gold medals in roller-skating at the Special Olympic World Games, he said it was the first time in his life that he felt valuable. “When everyone clapped for me, I felt like the champion of the world,” Smaka said. Life has not been easy for Smaka and his family. He lives in a southern suburb of Damascus, Syria, with his parents, two younger sisters and an older brother. In May, his father was inside the family home when it was destroyed by a rocket. His father survived, but is still hospitalized. While Smaka was fleeing with his mother and his siblings, he tripped and fell and suffered a black eye that required medical attention…None of that dampened the young Syrian’s enthusiasm and spirit. We followed Smaka, his coach and teacher Dana Shubat and the Syrian team as they competed in the World Games.
The athlete and coach have developed a special bond, and she says that he is like a brother to her. Smaka replied, “She’s my coach and my sister. She inspires me, and when I grow up, I want to be a coach just like her.” Mike Stocker for ESPN
Mutombo, Hamilton share mission through Special Olympics
More than likely, however, it was what Hamilton and his wife, Tracie, parents to two adopted children from Haiti, simply called “doing the right thing” in funding the 26-member Haitian team’s trip to the World Games. And for Mutombo, whose charity foundation brought a four-member team from his native Congo to L.A., it was about “feeling good that I’m contributing to the world we live in.” The two Special Olympics ambassadors greeted each other warmly Monday as they crossed paths, and the sight of the 5-foot-3 Olympic gold medal-winning figure skater and 7-foot-2 soon-to-be Basketball Hall of Famer making small talk was a striking contrast, only highlighted by the dropped jaws of Hamilton’s children, Jean Paul, 14; Evelyne, 11; and Maxx, 7 (brother Aidan was back home in Nashville).
Meet the Special Olympic ‘Unified’ soccer team that epitomizes togetherness in sports
It tells the story of togetherness. These aren’t just teammates. They’re best friends. More than that, they’re “friends for life.” Smith has intellectual disabilities. Some of teammates, however, do not. They are called “partners” and when united together, they’re all the same. Smith is a member of Team USA’s ‘Unified’ Soccer team. In total, there are 1,500 Unified sports participants from 104 delegations competing in 13 different sports at the World Games. Teams are assembled based on age range and ability. The athletes on this particular team all hail from the same high school in smalltown Land O’ Lakes, Fla. It’s hot here in California, but as several of the athletes point out, “there’s no humidity here compared to Florida.”
Teen with Cerebral Palsy Advocates for Children Around the World: ‘I Just Don’t Think About My Disability’
Sixteen-year-old Lucy Meyer was born with cerebral palsy, but that has never once stopped her from pursuing – and achieving – her dreams. The Los Angeles, California, native won two gold medals for swimming in the Special Olympics and served as vice president of her 8th grade class. And last week, Meyer was named the first official spokesperson for a partnership between the Special Olympics and the U.S. Fund for UNICEF which aims to help children with disabilities around the world. In this role, she will travel across the country spreading awareness and raising funds for the two organizations’ projects with children with disabilities. It’s a new title but a familiar role for Meyer, who has been speaking in front of world leaders – from the United Nations to President Barack Obama – on behalf of UNICEF’s fund for children with disabilities since 2013.
Special Olympics evolve with different approach to competition
The skeptics voiced concerns that the athletes without disabilities would divert attention from athletes with disabilities and dilute the organization’s mission. But Shriver committed to experimenting with the idea and Unified Sports was added to the Special Olympics competition in 1991. The traditional model remains the dominant model at the World Games. But as government pressure on school districts to accommodate special-needs students mounts, Unified Sports are gaining a foothold across the U.S. The Special Olympics has helped spur the movement’s growth and reported that more than 850,000 athletes participated in Unified Sports sponsored by the Special Olympics in 2014. “I think this is our future, this is our great teaching tool today,” said Tim Shriver, chairman of the Special Olympics and son of the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver. “I think the more we can get children, starting very young, playing with their peers with intellectual differences and continue and sustain that play throughout childhood and into adulthood, the more powerful our contribution will be. Not just for people with disabilities, but for all people because I think the message ultimately is about the needs and value and gifts of all people, not just the gifts of people with intellectual disabilities.”