Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #179

Aug. 30 – Sept. 5, 2015

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

  1. Who Gets to Play Tennis? On the South Side of Chicago, a campaign to diversify the game.
  2. Helping your child appreciate adversity
  3. MLS players to wear special Soccer Kicks Cancer T-shirts for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
  4. In My Own Words: How a trip to South Africa changed my perspective
  5. A Nobel Prize in Sport? – A Worthy Conversation
  6. Cubs’ Hopes Rest on Former Linebacker, Cancer Survivor and ‘Out of Shape’ SS
  7. U.S. World Cup goalie thankful for positive coaches during her youth
  8. Eritrean wants to help refugees settle in Germany via cycling
  9. Mutombo: Protector of the paint and his homeland
  10. Chris Long rallies fellow NFL ‘Waterboys’ to provide clean water in East Africa

There is a very real humanitarian crisis taking place today. The plight of migrants has been an issue in one form or another for a long time but has come to the forefront due to front-page stories of horrible suffering and questionable responses by several countries. This is a very serious issue that requires our attention, empathy, effort, and energies in the short and long-term.

There have been stories about sports-related individuals and organizations bringing attention to the plight of these refugees, especially in Germany where the World Champion national football team has called on for the ethical treatment of the refugees. Bayern Munich, one of the most famous soccer clubs in the world, has stepped up with a financial commitment and a promise to do more directly with the refugees. And as we mentioned, while the issue has recently come to the forefront, it is not new. One of the stories featured this week takes a look at Zerai Kiron Abraham, who fled Eritrea in 1990 to settle in Germany and is using cycling to help those new to Germany assimilate via cycling, finding an activity that binds them and helps to restore their sense of being and belonging.
And there are other stories this week that speak to the situations of those who are in need and sport’s response to that need. We have a look at the opportunities some folks in one of the toughest areas in the U.S. are getting to play and experience the joys associated with tennis. We have a young student-athlete from Notre Dame who took a life-altering trip to South Africa where he witnessed first-hand the power of sport to impact the lives of many who are in need. We have a feature on soon-to-be-inducted basketball Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo and the array of his worldly efforts, including in his home continent of Africa. There is a story of NFL star Chris Long who joined with his football brethren to help attack a persistent problem in Africa, access to clean water, and their on-the-ground effort to help enact change. And finally, the idea of a Nobel Prize for Sport is introduced. We have seen a host of issues, including the plight of refugees that have been addressed and alleviated at least to some degree by great individuals and organizations from the world of sport. We wholeheartedly support the idea of recognition at the level of a Nobel Prize for work in sport that is having a very real impact on people around the world.
In addition to the 10 stories below, we want to make you aware of an effort by the good folks at Grupo Internacional de Paz which has launched a campaign for the month of peace, to help prevent child recruitment in Colombia. The campaign is: Hit a Home Run for Peace in Colombia, in which they need to achieve their goal of raising $5,000 between September 1 and 15. The fundraising will be done through the online platform Global Giving. Here is the link with details about the very worthy project:

Finally, to all the organizations out there, please let us know if you are looking for student interns for this semester and future semesters. We have a number of students who subscribe to the newsletter who are looking to work with your great organizations.

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.

Who Gets to Play Tennis? On the South Side of Chicago, a campaign to diversify the game.
‘‘The best thing we can do is make sure kids are exposed to rackets and courts at a very early age and from all walks of life,’’ Serena Williams told me by email. ‘‘You have to change the culture first, and the rest will follow.’’ Children learning to hit groundstrokes in schools and public parks is a start, but those showing promise need somewhere close by and affordable where they can congregate and continue playing year-round — even through a Midwestern winter. Recently, the United States Tennis Association started a Hispanic outreach initiative, Tenis para Todos, and it has begun investing more heavily in its extensive grass-roots National Junior Tennis & Learning programs, where youth in underserved communities are first inculcated into the sport. ‘‘We’ve got to make tennis much more accessible to nontraditional tennis families,’’ Martin Blackman, the U.S.T.A.’s new head of player development and a former touring pro, told me. ‘‘We have to identify and deepen the base of young athletes that are coming into the sport.’’

Tennis students at Lake Meadows Tennis Center. Credit Carolyn Drake/Magnum, for The New York Times

Helping your child appreciate adversity
For many children, their first dance with adversity takes place in a sports setting, whether it’s a field, rink or court. One lesson children will take with them through life is that hard work doesn’t guarantee a reward – at least not the reward they had in mind. They will come to this realization the first time their team doesn’t win a game despite giving an all-out effort. They will face this lesson again when they don’t make the team after the hours of practice and sweat. As adults, they will face this harsh truth when they don’t get a job they interviewed for, are passed over for a promotion, or face any other disappointment despite their hard work. What may seem to be a loss or unfair outcome is actually an opportunity to gain a new perspective in the face of difficult situations. “For a child, not getting the reward they think they deserve isn’t a fun lesson to learn. Sports are one of the first activities to teach us that things don’t always go as planned,” says Dr. Renee Mapes, a licensed psychologist and Certified Sport Psychology Consultant (CC-AASP) through the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. “There will be bumps in the road, and that’s ok. Parents are in a prime position to teach kids how to appreciate adversity, and that they can learn a lot from disappointments.” Kids need to learn how to navigate through disappointment. Mapes says one of the best ways to teach them how to do so is by seeing parents model the right behavior.

MLS players to wear special Soccer Kicks Cancer T-shirts for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
Major League Soccer announced on Thursday that players will wear special Soccer Kicks Cancer T-shirts during pregame festivities throughout the month of September, raising awareness and funds for children’s cancer research and treatment. MLS WORKS, the League’s community outreach initiative, has partnered with Children’s Oncology Group to focus efforts on Childhood Cancer Awareness during the month of September. MLS players will wear a commemorative Soccer Kicks Cancer patch on their jersey throughout September. Select player jerseys will be available through an online auction, starting September 7. Supporters will be able to bid on exclusive Soccer Kicks Cancer game-worn and autographed memorabilia. MLS clubs throughout the month of September will recognize and honor children battling cancer and organizations working to find a cure.

In My Own Words: How a trip to South Africa changed my perspective
Student-athletes typically don’t get the opportunity to study abroad due to athletic and academic requirements. But thanks to a flagship program offered by Notre Dame’s athletic department and international office, I went overseas with 15 other Fighting Irish student-athletes, including six of my teammates, to learn about how sport can affect change. South Africa was chosen as the location because of its divisive history involving race and sport. From May 18 to June 7, our group traveled to Johannesburg, Kruger National Park and Cape Town. The sport in South Africa that has created the most change is rugby, which for a long time was regarded as the white man’s game. Soccer was the black man’s game. For years black players such as the famed Chester Williams could play as a member of the Springboks—the country’s national rugby team—but only as a benchwarmer to fill a quota. Our student group had the chance to talk to Williams (South Africa’s equivalent of Jackie Robinson) when he visited us for dinner one evening. He explained that he didn’t play rugby because of politics or fame. He just wanted to be great.

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

A Nobel Prize in Sport? – A Worthy Conversation
The Nobel Prize currently recognizes significant international contributions in categories of Peace, Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature and Economics. The time has come to consider adding a new category – a Nobel Prize in Sport. Before dismissing the idea, consider this – sport is truly a universal language. One can go to any nation in the world and see sport in some form. Beyond the goals and gold medals, sport is also a platform for social change. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “Sport has the power to change the world.” A Nobel Prize in Sport would focus on how sport can be utilized in the context of peace, development, and human rights. When one thinks of sport, the first images that often come to mind are of professional footballers or Olympians. In fact and essence, sport is much broader than this. In 2003, the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Sport for Development and Peace defined sport, for the purposes of development, as “all forms of physical activity that contribute to physical fitness, mental well-being and social interaction, such as play, recreation, organized or competitive sport, and indigenous sports and games.” The authors of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development acknowledged the role and significance of sport, saying, « Sport is also an important enabler of sustainable development. We recognize the growing contribution of sport to the realization of development and peace in its promotion of tolerance and respect the contributions it makes to the empowerment of women and of young people, individuals and communities as well as to health, education and social inclusion objectives.”

Cubs’ Hopes Rest on Former Linebacker, Cancer Survivor and ‘Out of Shape’ SS
But as this current group of onesie-wearing Chicago Cubs blasts baseballs toward Belmont Heights and throws no-hitters in Hollywood, there now are noticeably fewer traffic cones. With the game’s fifth-best record and a core of young talent that is the envy of baseball, all roads continue to lead to Wrigley Field. Only, this time, with traffic beginning to move easily, they are not traversed by billy goats, black cats and Blues Brothers. Rather, the roads are traveled by a former second-team all-state linebacker who somehow escaped the clutches of football in Ohio for a life in baseball. They are covered by a sixth-round draft pick who, just 26 years old, already has been traded twice and beaten cancer. And by a silky-smooth rookie shortstop acquired from Oakland last summer after the Cubs passed on him in the 2012 draft because they thought he was out of shape. If this disparate bunch wasn’t so loaded with talent, why, you might even be tempted to call it a motley crew. “I didn’t really think of it in those terms,” manager Joe Maddon told B/R the other day, warming to the idea, about an hour before Jake Arrieta no-hit the Dodgers. “And then you’ve got KB from Vegas-slash-San Diego, Jorge Soler off the island.”

Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

U.S. World Cup goalie thankful for positive coaches during her youth
U.S. World Cup soccer goalie Alyssa Naeher was really lucky during her youth sports playing days. And she knows it. “I feel that I was really fortunate to get the different coaches that I had growing up and that as a kid I never got one of those crazy, psycho coaches that are just yelling and screaming at a 10-year-old the whole time,” Naeher told SportingKid Live. “I was always really lucky to have coaches, even at a young age, that were more concerned with teaching us about the game, teaching us about different things like teamwork and working hard, and focusing on enjoying it and having fun.” Naeher, the talented 27-year-old who backed up Hope Solo during the Red, White and Blue’s march to World Cup glory this summer and was the 2014 Goalkeeper of the Year in the National Women’s Soccer League, looks back on her youth sports experiences and is grateful for all the positive influences she encountered along the way. And who knows, maybe if she would have got one of those yellers and screamers that kids dread playing for she never would have stuck with the sport and would have missed out on being a part of World Cup history.

Eritrean wants to help refugees settle in Germany via cycling
For Zerai Kiron Abraham, who fled Eritrea in 1990 to settle in Germany, the refugees flooding Europe don’t need pity, but to be seen as real people with dreams and ambitions of their own. “I want to use positive images to draw attention to the situation of the refugees,” says the 38-year-old, who lives in Frankfurt and is brimming with ideas about how to help his countrymen integrate themselves into their new host country. One such project is Team AfriQa, a team of Eritrean racing cyclists based in Frankfurt. Cycling is a national sport in Eritrea, where countless thousands are fleeing a bloody and repressive dictatorship on long and perilous journeys across the Mediterranean. Abraham sees Team AfriQa as a place where exiled athletes can take up their sport again in Germany and win back their self-esteem. “Team AfriQa has helped me find hope again and make new friends with people who share my dream,” says Filmon Negasi, 17, who arrived in Germany last year after a dangerous 18-month odyssey through Sudan, Libya and Italy.

Team AfriQa, a team of Eritrean racing cyclists based in Frankfurt, aims to use positive images to draw attention to the plight of refugees.

Mutombo: Protector of the paint and his homeland
But the finger wag is the absolute wrong symbol to attach to Mutombo the humanitarian. He does not block, or reject, or shut out or discourage those in need. He was an eight-time NBA All-Star and a four-time Defensive Player of the Year and come September 11, a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. And yet none of that weighs more than his aid for the impoverished in Africa and elsewhere. To the starving children his money and fundraising has helped feed, to the patients his hospital in his homeland of The Democratic Republic of the Congo has cured, Mutombo raises an index finger and bends it back and forth. As if to say: Come to Mutombo. “I don’t think we’ve seen another great player do so many great things away from the game,” said Patrick Ewing, his friend and basketball mentor. “Dikembe Mutombo is not only a friend to his people, but to all people,” the South African leader Nelson Mandela once said. Mutombo visited the home of Mandela several times while conducting clinics in Africa; Mandela, a former boxer, was a big fan of sports and basketball. Mutombo is a chameleon, able to mingle with athletes and entertainers as well as politicians and businessmen with equal charm. Just in the last year, he sat courtside at a Brooklyn Nets game with Prince William and Kate Middleton, then at the NBA All-Star Game with former President Clinton. That ability to glide comfortably among all people is what you’d expect from someone who graduated from Georgetown with twin degrees in linguistics and diplomacy.

Chris Long rallies fellow NFL ‘Waterboys’ to provide clean water in East Africa
Long’s first move was to team up with WorldServe, an organization that he says has been building wells in Africa for more than a decade and has so far provided clean water wells to nearly 2 million people in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. From there, Long worked to enlist the help of players from around the NFL with an eye toward using the league platform to raise money and awareness for the cause. The result was the Waterboys, featuring 23 NFL players, each from a different team. The list includes big names such as Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, Philadelphia quarterback Sam Bradford, Kansas City defensive end Tamba Hali and Chicago offensive lineman Kyle Long, who is Chris Long’s younger brother.

Chris Long’s offseason visit to Tanzania spurred him to get involved with bringing clean water to Africa. Clay Cook Photography

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