Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #177

Aug. 16 – Aug. 22, 2015

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

  1. Chiefs’ Laurent Duvernay-Tardif manages balance between football, med school
  2. Racing a Clock While Scoffing at Time
  3. 11 Student-Athletes On What They Learned From Playing College Sports
  4. NFL’s Charles James likes beating the odds, hopes to do it again
  5. Boston nonprofit that uses sports, therapy, to help kids up for national award
  6. Ugandan Boarding School Reaches Softball, Baseball Little League World Series
  7. The long game: time is on New York Cosmos chairman Seamus O’Brien’s side
  8. Ole Miss CB Tee Shepard not slowed by hearing impairment
  9. NBA rookie photo shoot: writer lives out his basketball card dreams
  10. It’s more than a workout. This group’s 5:15 a.m. runs are changing lives.

The importance of sports is often discussed in the context of having a full or at least, a fuller life. The idea being that participating in sports as an athlete or even as a coach or an official, rounds us out as people, gives us insights that we would not have solely going to school or doing our day-to-day jobs.

This week there are several stories that involve individuals becoming “better people” through sports – NFL player and medical student Laurent Duvernay-Tardif; college student-athletes who speak to their experiences; and the non-profit Back on My Feet. In the stories we also learn about how much of a commitment some of these individuals make to be successful at their chosen sport. That is another lesson for them and all of us to learn, i.e. that to reach our goals in sports we must show the same type of commitment, determination, and effort that we do in the other important parts of our lives. And that if we do that, the benefits we seek will ultimately be earned.

Other stories we are proud to feature include: a wonderful photo essay on elite “senior” athletes who show there is no age ceiling when it comes to being a superior athlete; NFL player Charles James; our friends at the non-profit Doc Wayne and their selection along with other wonderful organizations as finalists for a new prestigious award; the amazing teams from Ugandan making history at the Little League World Series for baseball and softball; the strategy of the legendary New York Cosmos when it comes to reestablishing its prominence in the world of soccer; college student-athlete Tee Shepard and his inspirational fight to overcome a hearing impairment and serve as a role-model for others; and a fun look at one of the perks that come with being an NBA rookies, as experienced by a writer who otherwise would never know.

Finally, we wanted to let you know of a new event taking place in Brooklyn, NY in a couple of months. The first-ever two day expos and conference Hashtag Sports Sportsfest will be held October 20-21 and  will explore how digital media & technology are shaping the future of sports with speakers from Facebook, Twitter, Whistle Sports, Brooklyn Nets, Golden State Warriors, ESPN, NBA, NFL, MLS, Red Bull, AMEX, FanDuel, and more. Initial details are at

Please continue to send along your stories. You are both our audience and our best source of stories. Our Twitter handle is @sportsdoinggood, and you can find us at

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

Chiefs’ Laurent Duvernay-Tardif manages balance between football, med school
If he stays as a starter when the regular season begins, that would be validation for the Chiefs, who saw Duvernay-Tardif’s football ability and were willing to work around his medical school commitments, despite the fact he played in college at Canada’s McGill University. It would also be a validation for Duvernay-Tardif; proof that he can live in two very demanding worlds. Training camp is the one time of year, he said, when it’s all about football for him. “Nothing but football, for sure,’’ he said after Monday’s practice session. “During the season last year, on the day off, it’s always good to put yourself in the library and read three hours or so about medical stuff. That helps me stay focused on football because it gives me a break. It also helps me a lot when I’m going back to medical school during the offseason to stay on top of things. There are things you can forget quickly if you don’t stay on top of them.”

Laurent Duvernay-Tardif has moved into the role of starting right guard and figures to be there at least through Friday’s game against the Seahawks. Steve Sanders/Kansas City Chiefs

Racing a Clock While Scoffing at Time
Meiler joined more than 8,000 athletes from 99 countries who registered to compete this month in track and field events (as well as racewalking, marathon, cross–country, half–marathon and combined events) at the world championships, which take place every two years. I decided to spend the week of my 40th birthday (Aug. 5) photographing women and men over 60 competing in the heptathlon and decathlon, watching them reset my expectations of age. “You see?” Meiler said. “It’s never too late. I’m 81 years old, and look what I did. I didn’t sit in my rocking chair and say, ‘I got a pain here and a pain there, and I can’t do anything.’ I get out there, and I work out the pain.” Pengxue Su, 88, of Beijing, the oldest decathlete at the world meet, was competing in his first decathlon, completing a series of what he called “iron man” events. He had already done a triathlon and many marathons and wanted to cross the decathlon off the list.

Janis Mankovskis, 75, of Latvia competing in the pole vault on Aug. 6 during the second day of the decathlon in the 75-79 age division at the World Masters Athletics Championships in Lyon, France. Credit Angela Jimenez for The New York Times

11 Student-Athletes on What They Learned From Playing College Sports
“I would love for a regular student to have a student-athlete’s schedule during the season for just one quarter or one semester and show me how you’ll balance that,” Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman quipped last January. Sherman, however, plays football professionally. He made it, but he’s in the minority — thousands of student-athletes will play their hearts out this year and never receive a dime for it. Moreover, with unemployment among recent college graduates still high, that time spent in athletics is becoming increasingly valuable to students in need of real-world job experience. Love of sport be damned, the question must be asked: Are college sports worth it for student-athletes who have no hope of going pro. The answer depends on the individual, and to gather perspectives I asked HuffPosters who played in college about their sporting days and what they learned from the experience.

Soccer at Valparaiso University. Bellware, far left, poses with her team. Kim Bellware

NFL’s Charles James likes beating the odds, hopes to do it again
Here was the guy who’d made a table full of college teammates laugh when he said he wanted to play in the NFL because they thought it was a joke. Here was a guy who couldn’t get any scholarship offers to play football, took out student loans like so many people looking for a path to their chosen professions, and is still paying off those loans. Here was a guy who, seven years ago, lay slumped in his friend’s Pontiac Sunfire presumed dead until he awoke, miraculously, without a scratch on him. “I like beating the odds,” James said. “The odds stacked against me, they may be stacked now. Beat the odds.”

Cornerback Charles James has gone from walk-on at Charleston Southern to turning heads at training camp for the Houston Texans. Amber Searls/USA TODAY Sports

Boston nonprofit that uses sports, therapy, to help kids up for national award
This is how the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation describes the organization in its release announcing the finalists: Doc Wayne Youth Services fuses sports and therapy to heal and strengthen youth who struggle with mental illness. The organization works primarily with low-income youth suffering from a variety of mental health challenges largely caused by complex trauma including neglect, abuse, violent crime and sexual trafficking. Doc Wayne’s sports-based intervention incorporates principles from trauma-informed care and positive youth development, drawing from a trauma-based components model … They reached 500 youth last year through two key programs that provide group therapy in low-income housing developments, schools, and residential programs, specifically in low-income Boston neighborhoods and other high-need communities in eastern Massachusetts … Doc Wayne Youth Services’ vision for engaging, high quality, evidence-based mental health interventions is transforming lives. The list of other finalists, which includes the Portland Trail Blazers and Tony Hawk Foundation, can be found by clicking here.

Ugandan Boarding School Reaches Softball, Baseball Little League World Series
Thousands of miles from their home, these players enjoyed an experience this week that would have seemed impossible in Uganda and neighboring African countries a decade ago. Instead, Uganda was the toast of Portland, and like the Ugandan LLWS team in 2012, AVRS will go home with at least one win against an American team in its pocket. (Lugazi’s win was against Gresham, Oregon, which is just east of Portland.) If finances line up, the AVRS girls can make a stop in Williamsport on the way home. The boys’ LLWS opener is 1 p.m. ET Thursday against Los Bravos de Pontezuela of the Dominican Republic. This connects to Stanley’s vision of baseball in Uganda. “I think Uganda can be the next Dominican Republic,” Stanley says. Uganda is far away from producing the next batch of players like David Ortiz and Albert Pujols, but this year’s softball and baseball performance are indicative of how fast the nation is improving at the youth level.

The long game: time is on New York Cosmos chairman Seamus O’Brien’s side
Some of the appeals of the decentralized NASL that O’Brien has mentioned in the past – lack of salary cap; low entry fees; the freedom to spend, should an owner wish – he thinks will continue to attract new investors, not necessarily from the biggest cities in the United States. (“I am a believer that you don’t have to be in a big city to run a great soccer team, and to run a financially successful one that plays a key part in the league.”) With the number of teams and the quality on the field continuing to increase, O’Brien believes will lead to a lucrative TV deal – or deals – down the line, as are enjoyed by the major soccer leagues of the world. The league’s decentralized model, he added, will allow clubs to negotiate their own deals. “If a country of England is 50m people with 12m homes, and Sky can produce the Premier League,” he said. “I don’t need to be a genius to work out what a country of this size and 110m homes can produce with a clear love of soccer today. It’s not going to happen tomorrow, but it will happen over a period of years.”

New York Cosmos chairman Seamus O’Brien is charged with restoring a legacy first established by Pele during the 70s. Photograph: Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Ole Miss CB Tee Shepard not slowed by hearing impairment
Ole Miss opens at home against UT-Martin in two weeks. That will be the first time Shepard gets to run out of the tunnel with his teammates, but he’s already impacting lives. He’s a role model to his younger brother, who has the same hearing impairment he does. And he’s a role model to the kids at Memphis Oral School for the Deaf, the school he visited this summer to share his story. “That was one of the best days in my life,” Shepard said. “It humbled me. And it not only humbled me, but it just gave me chills.” He’s a role model for kids all over the country who are growing up with challenges. “I’m pretty sure there are a lot of kids out there that are scared,” Shepard said. “They’re probably talented, but they’re afraid because everybody has pretty much been bullied in their life. There’s always that one bully that we don’t come home and tell our parents about. “I held it in. I didn’t ever tell my parents. I held it in and just fought through it all my life. It was hard, but I’m here.”
Tee Shepard is a role model for kids all over the country who are growing up with challenges. Joshua McCoy/Ole Miss Athletics

NBA rookie photo shoot: writer lives out his basketball card dreams
When the NBA asked if wanted to take part in the 2015 Panini NBA rookie photo shoot—complete with jersey, rookie card and everything—it took me all of five seconds to say yes. This was my long sought-after chance to experience a day in the life of a blossoming NBA star. Fast-forward to the first day of the event itself, and it took me all of five seconds to realize this was a lot different than what I had envisioned. Absent were the rows of fresh sushi and all-you-can-drink Gatorade I had conjured up in my head. In their place were some chips, cookies, and a bunch of bleary-eyed rookies who had flown in from all over the country to have their photos taken in New Jersey. The visions of grand excess were replaced by perhaps something much more meaningful: an important milestone. Each rookie would be wearing his NBA jersey for the first time. And the very next day, the players would receive their first basketball card.

It’s more than a workout. This group’s 5:15 a.m. runs are changing lives.
“We’re a primary service in which the wellness of the individual is our long-term pursuit,” Victor Acosta, executive director of the Boston chapter of Back on My Feet, told Upworthy. “So while the primary objective is the 5:15 a.m. runs and walks, we also provide wellness programming such as nutrition and yoga, and self-advocacy programming to help the individual.” The result? A monumental shift in attitude, confidence, and self-worth. Through the Next Steps phase of the program, Back on My Feet assists members in their transition to independence. Once members run with the team for 30 days and achieve 90% attendance, they’re eligible for the Next Steps phase of the program. Next Steps offers members job training, skills workshops, and access to employment opportunities. Back on My Feet “helps me physically, mentally, and spiritually,” said member Lee, in a testimonial for Back on My Feet Chicago. “And the financial courses have even helped me budget my money. Basically, Back on My Feet has just helped me grow.”

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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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