Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #181

Sept. 13 – Sept. 19, 2015

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

  1. High School Football Player With One Hand Breaks Receiving Record
  2. Canadiens star P.K. Subban pledges $10 million to Montreal Children’s Hospital
  3. Dolphins aim to prevent injuries with futuristic performance program
  4. Jessica’s Journey: Playing many youth sports sparked golden career
  5. ‘American Ninja Warrior’ Crowns First Ever Winner After 7 Seasons
  6. Chelsea FC chooses Plan International as its global charity partner
  7. How South Africa’s 1995 World Cup triumph turned Bryan Habana’s sporting destiny on its head
  8. What the World Got Wrong About Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  9. Kentucky wins Alumni Game over North Carolina; 17 charities to share $1.5 million
  10. New York Liberty star Tina Charles determined to help her community

A story topic that came up this summer with the U.S. women’s national soccer team has continued to appear since their magical run to the World Cup title. The idea is just how valuable it is for young people to experience the joys of trying out multiple sports, not specializing in any one sport too early. From the collection of national team stars who played 2 or 3 sports in addition to soccer to the countless high school, college, and pro athletes who have been featured at Sports Doing Good who have counted their diversity of physical and personal experiences as key to their success, it is pretty clear that much like in “regular” life, the more and varied experiences one has, the better off he/she will be. We have a couple of stories this week that speak to that as well.

First, Jessica Mendoza, an Olympic champion in softball who recently made history by becoming the first female analyst on an ESPN Major League Baseball telecast, speaks to how playing multiple sports kept her fresh and energized as she always had something else to look forward to, including playing with a different group of teammates. Running track, playing tennis and soccer ultimately made her a better softball player. The other story we have comes from a forum we rarely dip our toe into and that is reality TV. For the first time in seven seasons, America Ninja Warrior, a competition that pretty much is all about being multi-skilled and proficient in a variety of disciplines, crowned a winner. If you have gotten a chance to watch the show on NBC, it is a wonderful display of the great efforts of non-professional athletes, though many played sports and continue to do so, when challenging themselves.

Other stories we are happy to feature this week include: a high school football player with one hand who is excelling at the receiver position; Montreal Canadiens star P.K. Subban’s $10 million donation to a children’s hospital; the Miami Dolphins’ effort to better understand the health of their players to make sure their stay fitter, stronger, and healthier in the short and long-term; Premier league football champions Chelsea FC and its new partnership with Plan International; South African rugby star Bryan Habana; a special look at legendary basketball player, and author, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; legendary college basketball programs at the University of Kentucky and University of North Carolina whose alumni came together for a fun game that raised $1.5 million for charities; and WNBA star Tina Charles and her commitment to improving the community.

Finally, we want to acknowledge the United Nations’ Peace Day taking place on September 21. Peace is, of course, something that we wish for every day. But maybe on the 21st we can recommit ourselves to helping those in need and encouraging our leaders to find ways to work and live together. It won’t be easy but it is surely worth it.

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

High School Football Player With One Hand Breaks Receiving Record
So how the hell does he do it? “It was just some sort of birth defect. Nothing was wrong. It has never stopped me. I just don’t let it; never have,” Silbaugh told USA Today’s Jason Jordan. “I know that people will always be shocked at what I’m able to do because I only have one hand, but my goal is to be known as a dominant player, period,” he added. That “nothing was wrong” attitude has propelled Silbaugh throughout his football career. Given his physical attributes, it’s understandable he doesn’t believe his handicap hinders his football game. Sized up at 6’3″ with 4.41 40-yard dash speed, according to his player profile on Hudl, Silbaugh has the prototypical vitals for a big-time wide receiver. Those physical traits give him all the belief he needs to be a record-breaker, and perhaps, a college athlete. “I’ve been getting a few letters from colleges, but I’m just focusing on the season. I just want to help the team in any way that I can,” he said to USA Today.

Canadiens star P.K. Subban pledges $10 million to Montreal Children’s Hospital
“It is really an amazing feeling to be here,” Subban said. “I am proud to walk in the footsteps of my idol Jean Beliveau by giving back to the community and feel privileged to be able to help transform the lives of sick children and their families.” The partnership will also see the creation of P.K.’s Helping Hand, a fund dedicated to assisting vulnerable families financially hurt by a child’s illness. “A lot of people don’t realize that having a sick child often means one parent has to stop working, and it becomes tough to make ends meet,” he said. “P.K.’s Helping Hand is dedicated to making sure that these parents don’t have to worry about paying for necessities like food and medicine and can instead focus on what’s most important: helping their child get well.” Beliveau’s widow, Elise, attended the news conference as did Subban’s family. Subban was drafted by the Canadiens in 2007 and won the James Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenceman in 2013. He is entering his sixth full season with the team. Subban signed an eight-year deal worth $72 million before the start of last season.

Canadiens’ defenceman P.K. Subban and his foundation have pledged at least $10 million to the Montreal Children’s Hospital. Graham Hughes / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO

Dolphins aim to prevent injuries with futuristic performance program
This might sound like the way of the future when it comes to complete performance training … but the future is now for the Miami Dolphins. Wayne Diesel, the Dolphins’ new director of sports performance, brings years of experience as a physical therapist and researcher to the organization in an effort to create fitter, stronger and healthier athletes. Prior to joining the Dolphins, Diesel was the head of medical services for the Tottenham Hotspur Football Club of the English Premier League. In that role, he oversaw a diverse medical group including physicians, physical therapists, sports scientists and nutritionists, among others. Diesel credits his Premier League experience with shaping his focus on performance improvement. In that environment, the player represents an investment to the organization. “The emphasis therefore is on not just preventing injury but also improving that player so that when the club sells him, it’s an asset,” Diesel said. “We found by making them better athletes, they become less injured.” How did this revelation come about?

Before joining the Dolphins as director of sports performance, Wayne Diesel developed a program that helped prevent injuries for the Tottenham Hotspur Football Club of the English Premier League. Miami Dolphins

Jessica’s Journey: Playing many youth sports sparked golden career
She ran track and competed in the high jump; she played tennis, soccer, basketball and softball; and she participated in ballet, dance and gymnastics. “Pretty much everything you could think of my parents signed me up for,” says Mendoza, an outfielder on the 2004 U.S. Olympic softball team that captured the gold medal in Athens and won the silver medal at the ’08 Olympic Games in Beijing. “So many kids are being asked to play one sport these days and when I look back it was nice to be able to kind of just say, ‘Ok, softball season is over. Now I’m going to go to another sport and have fun with it and not think about my at-bats and what I need to do to improve, but instead think about a jump shot and maybe work on my lay-ups and my defense and something totally different.” In today’s youth sports world, where specialization and burnout monopolize the landscape, Mendoza never tired of softball because she was too busy competing in other sports, ultimately learning and developing all sorts of skills that would help her become one of the most feared hitters in the game.

‘American Ninja Warrior’ Crowns First Ever Winner After 7 Seasons
Since the series began in 2009, no athlete had ever progressed past the third stage of the competition, but in the season seven finale, both Geoff Britten and Isaac Caldiero finished the seemingly impossible course. Britten completed Stage 4 first, but Caldiero subsequently beat his time by 3.6 seconds, enabling him to win the challenge and the $1 million grand prize — meaning that Britten went home empty-handed… The series is based on Japanese competition series “Sasuke,” which has run for 31 seasons since 1997. Only four competitors have ever completed the course and achieved “total victory” in the Japanese version of the show. The “American Ninja Warrior” season finale was held in Las Vegas, and the course consisted of four stages and 23 total obstacles. The competitors had to successfully complete all three stages before tackling the ultimate Stage 4 obstacle, Mt. Midoriyama, which stands at 8-stories tall with a 75-foot rope climb. Britten and Caldiero had 30 seconds to scale the rope and hit the buzzer.

Chelsea FC chooses Plan International as its global charity partner
Chelsea Football Club is to work with children’s charity Plan International as its new global charity partner for an initial three-year deal. The partnership is designed to “use the power of football to help some of the world’s poorest children to fulfil their potential”. Plan’s logo will feature on Chelsea’s European shirts, introducing the charity to a global audience. The new shirts will be seen for the first time on Wednesday 16 September in the club’s first Champions League fixture of the season against Maccabi Tel Aviv at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea will support Plan’s work in Africa, Asia and South America, raising funds and awareness of its work. It will help the charity engage new supporters and work with groups of young people who are traditionally difficult to engage. In Colombia they will develop a football-themed programme ‘Champions of Change’ to engage young people. The organisations hope to establish more sport-based programmes around the world, reaching both boys and girls, in particular hard-to-reach marginalised teenagers.

How South Africa’s 1995 World Cup triumph turned Bryan Habana’s sporting destiny on its head
Habana is a symbol of hope, an electric winger who starred in their 2007 World Cup triumph. Of the five South Africans to break the 100-cap mark, he is the only black player to have done so. It was the 1995 Rugby World Cup that changed Habana’s focus in life, an experience that shifted his attention from other sports — Bryan Gary Habana is named after Manchester United’s Bryan Robson and Gary Bailey — and ignited his love for rugby. “1995 was a massive turning point in my life,” Habana says. “I grew up in a fairly new South Africa.” It is a South Africa that 20 years on is still wrestling with its own sense of nationhood. It is still struggling even to understand who should be wearing the Springboks jersey. Transformation remains a buzzword; quotas remain a source of ire. Yet Bryan Habana, perhaps the most famous black South African rugby player ever and certainly the most electrifying, is the shining light even when there are some who still believe South African rugby is a game preserved for the white man.

Bryan Habana helped South Africa win their second World Cup in 2007. Duif du Toit/Gallo Images/Getty Images

What the World Got Wrong About Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
I asked Abdul-Jabbar if he sometimes wished he had played in the era of social media, if Twitter and Instagram might have given him a more ideal way to communicate with fans. ‘‘That would have been great,’’ he said. ‘‘It would’ve been nice to really be able to explain myself in the way I wanted to explain myself.’’ He began to talk about Magic Johnson, who, despite the years and their divergent paths, is still cast as Abdul-Jabbar’s opposite. Where Kareem was dour, Magic was outgoing and friendly. Where Abdul-Jabbar was mechanical, Magic was creative. For better or worse, Abdul-Jabbar, basketball’s scarecrow, was uprooted and stored away, forever defined by how much like Magic he wasn’t. ‘‘I understood why people liked him,’’ Abdul-Jabbar told me. ‘‘He had that great smile, so white people thought his life was O.K. They thought that racism had not affected him. They were wrong, of course. But that’s what they saw when they saw him. Magic made white people feel comfortable. With themselves.’’ I asked Abdul-Jabbar if he regretted the way he had treated the press, if he ever wished that he had humored them a bit more in the hope that they might help the public get to know him. ‘‘Oh, yes,’’ he said. ‘‘I just didn’t realize back then how much it was hurting me.’’ He turned away. ‘‘But it cost me dearly.’’

Kentucky wins Alumni Game over North Carolina; 17 charities to share $1.5 million
From the beginning, it seemed predestined that Kentucky would win the ersatz game. UK had more players (10-8) and more NBA Draft picks (9-3). The North Carolina Pros had two 40-year-olds: Jerry Stackhouse and Shammond Williams. Plus there was the home crowd that filled most of the lower arena and middle sections of the upper levels. As if that weren’t enough, public address announcer Patrick Whitmer reminded fans again that Rupp Arena is the home of the “greatest tradition in the history of college basketball.” The former North Carolina players had to take one for the Kentucky team. North Carolina might have the home-court edge next season. UK Coach John Calipari said Barnes had suggested the charity game be played in Chapel Hill next year. “Which we may do,” Calipari said. The money raised for charity surpassed the totals from similar games in 2012 and 2013. The 2012 game raised $350,000, UK announced. In 2013, the total increased to more than $1 million.

Kentucky Alum DeMarcus Cousins grabs a rebound in the first half. The Kentucky Alumni Men’s Basketball team hosted the University of North Carolina Alumni in a charity game, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015 at Rupp Arena in Lexington. Photo by Jonathan Palmer HERALD-LEADER

New York Liberty star Tina Charles determined to help her community
Now they’ll sit next to each other on bus rides, as Charles reviews applications for AEDs and Swin fields phone calls for her community efforts. Charles reads every application the organization receives and even often calls recipients personally to notify them they’ll be receiving an AED. She decided on a gut instinct to donate half her WNBA salary. Although she makes much more money in Europe, she still doesn’t approach $1 million a year playing basketball, and each year she has far exceeded the $50,000 she plans to give away. Her accountant reminds her about retirement, but she doesn’t care. She concerns her coach sometimes, too, but he also appreciates how good her interests outside of the game are. “She’s very passionate—overly so at times,” says Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer. “She is always going to fundraisers and functions. As a coach you sometimes worry about players wearing themselves to thin, but you have to let that go—especially when you see the kind of work that she is doing.”

Photo: Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images

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