Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #183

Sept. 27 – Oct. 3, 2015

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

  1. The Beautiful Game and the Goal of Belonging
  2. Mets’ Psychologist Helps Players Catch Their Breath
  3. Scaling-up to maximise the impact of sport and development
  4. Wizards Star John Wall Donates $400,000 To Help Homeless Kids
  5. IOC teams up with UN Women to foster gender equality in Brazil targeting young women and sport
  6. Julio Jones Is Historically Ridiculous
  7. Oiselle, Women’s Athletic-Apparel Brand, Lines Up With Yale
  8. ECAC first to offer NCAA sports for adaptive athletes
  9. Can sports make sustainability mainstream?
  10. Southern thanks Georgia for showing ‘true nature of sportsmanship’

There are many terms used these days when it comes to the idea of sport making individuals and communities (and the world) better. We tend to have a preference of “sport for (fill in the blank).” We like it because using the word “for” implies the existence of a purpose. Sport for development, sport for social change, sport for peace, etc. Fueled by this sense of purpose, we are seeing individuals and organizations of all types doing good things. Hence, the ability to have this newsletter.

We see again that sense of purpose in many of the stories we feature this week. That includes: the use of soccer and other sports to bring the homeless back into the society in which they belong; calling on sport to help achieve macro-level development goals; a donation by an NBA All-Star to support the most vulnerable in the community in which he plays; the IOC and UN looking to foster gender equality via sport in Brazil; a new sports apparel brand supporting women and their desire to stay involved with running; the ECAC supporting varsity-level adaptive sports at the college level; the use of sport to drive real progress when it comes to sustainability; and one university’s football team and fans lending their support to a competing player who will be fighting a long-battle to full recovery.Finally, we want to make you aware of a very fun event taking place on Tuesday, October 6 in New York City for the purpose of supporting a great organization led by some great folks. Janne Kouri and the team at NextStep Fitness are holding a poker night/cocktail party fundraiser in support of the first state-of-the-art performance training center for people with paralysis in NY. To register to attend or become a sponsor, please click here. We also encourage you to learn more about NextStep Fitness by visiting its website.

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

The Beautiful Game and the Goal of Belonging
While the World Cup is the highest-profile event of its kind, it’s part of a much broader network of 74 partner organizations all over the world deploying the power of teamwork to overcome isolation and help these athletes get their lives back on track. For the men and women involved, playing “the beautiful game” is more than just headers and heroics. It’s a chance to escape from the harsh realities of life on the street, and an opportunity to embrace the inclusion and pride that come from being part of a team. If you want more of a sense of just how powerful the Homeless World Cup is, take a look at the documentary Kicking It. In fact, after producing the documentary, entrepreneur and philanthropist Sheila Johnson founded a branch of Street Soccer USA, called the Lady Salamanders, which has sent players to represent Team USA in every Homeless World Cup since 2011. (In my home country of Canada, this work is done through an organization called Street Soccer Canada.) When these homeless players are acknowledged as important, capable members of a team, the impact is enormous. Street Soccer USA reports that of the 3,000 players who have participated in their programs since the organization’s founding, over 75 percent have since gone back to school, found housing, landed jobs, or completed rehabilitation programs.

Mets’ Psychologist Helps Players Catch Their Breath
“He’s an enormously curious person, in the best sense of the term,” said Dr. Mary Larimer, who was Fader’s mentor at the University of Washington, where he received a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. “He truly seeks to understand people, and understand the best possible approach to take, off of his observations. He is just a naturally friendly person. He forms really strong relationships. I can imagine him being extremely effective in that environment.” After Wilmer Flores famously cried on the field in July, thinking he had been traded, Fader was among those on the Mets’ staff who met with him. Fader had first met Flores when he was a teenager. Just after Flores left Venezuela at 16 to sign with the Mets, he felt homesick. He was exhausted from the minor league schedule, frustrated with the language barrier and playing in Kingsport, Tenn. Fader traveled there to comfort him. “I’ll never forget that,” Flores said recently, “because I was really down.”

Illustration by Sam Manchester/The New York Times

Scaling-up to maximise the impact of sport and development
For the sport and development community the adoption of the post-2015 agenda presents an opportunity to consider what success will look like over the next 15 years. During the Millennium Development Goals era sport and development has grown substantially, primarily through the establishment of grassroots projects, many of which have been innovative and achieved a strong sense of community ownership. Earlier contributions in this series have highlighted important issues facing the sport and development community related to funding, communications, monitoring and evaluation and sustainability of impact. Scale of impact can be added to this list. Typically sport and development interventions are small scale, project based and impact on selected communities only. The SDGs aim to achieve development at a macro level, with a focus on systemic change. It is pertinent to consider how sport and development must evolve if it is to demonstrate relevance at this level.

The SDGs aim to achieve development at a macro level – it is important to consider how sport and development must evolve if it is to demonstrate its relevance at this level.

Wizards Star John Wall Donates $400,000 To Help Homeless Kids
Washington Wizards star John Wall is helping homeless children by donating $400,000 to a charity that serves kids whose families are in shelters or transitional housing. Bright Beginnings, which provides childcare and educational services for around 162 kids each day, made an announcement about the donation on its Facebook page Friday. “Support from individuals like Mr. Wall, gives Bright Beginnings the encouragement to continue to provide comprehensive services for homeless children in the District of Columbia,” Betty Jo Gaines, the organization’s executive director, said in the statement. “It is evident that John Wall is sensitive and concerned about the plight of homeless children in D.C. and he wants these children to succeed.” The center, which focuses on kids preschool-age and younger, hopes to open a second child development center that would serve an additional 100 children, according to the Washington City Paper. The donation, which Wall made via the John Wall Family Foundation, will help the center achieve that goal.

John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards speaks to the media after the game against the Atlanta Hawks in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2015 NBA Playoffs at the Verizon Center on May 15, 2015 in Washington, DC. Ned Dishman via Getty Images

IOC teams up with UN Women to foster gender equality in Brazil targeting young women and sport
In partnership with the National Olympic Committee of Brazil, the programme targets the National Youth School Games to spread the messages of non-discrimination, non-violence, girls’ empowerment and positive masculine traits among boys. This pilot project will be implemented initially in 50 schools across the state of Rio de Janeiro, and will serve as a model that can be rolled out nationally and internationally. “With the Olympic Games Rio 2016 less than a year away this programme will add to the many Olympic legacies already planned for the city, the region and the country,” said IOC President Thomas Bach. “Olympic Agenda 2020, our strategic roadmap for the future of the Olympic Movement, has targeted gender equality as a key goal and this project will deliver in a very concrete way working with young women through sport,” he added. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director said: ““Through sport, girls and women build skill, strength, unity and determination. These are powerful assets for life; sport helps build their social, economic and political empowerment beyond the arena. We value our strong partnership with the IOC and look forward with them to making a difference in the lives of young women and girls.”

Julio Jones Is Historically Ridiculous
In the context of his team, Jones has also been remarkable. With Roddy White not the option he once was and Devin Hester injured, Jones has dominated the Atlanta passing attack. (To be fair, he very well may have had an equally large share if those guys were healthy.) Through the first three weeks, Jones has been targeted on 40 percent of Matt Ryan’s passes. Again, with the limited target data available going back to the mid-’90s, I can’t find anyone who tops that figure. Jones has 44.1 percent of his team’s receptions through three games, having caught 34 of Ryan’s 77 completed passes. Nobody comes close to that figure, with Tim Brown catching 35.4 percent of Oakland’s passes to set the league mark during a dismal 1997 season for the Raiders. Ryan’s next 17 completions could go to other players, and Jones would still be setting a league mark. And Jones has an unreal 46.5 percent of his team’s receiving yards, a figure that tops Brandon Marshall’s 2012 campaign, when he picked up 1,508 of Chicago’s 3,298 receiving yards, good for 45.7 percent of its receiving output.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Oiselle, Women’s Athletic-Apparel Brand, Lines Up With Yale
The announcement sparked excitement throughout the online running community, particularly from other Ivy League universities, and other coaches have approached Oiselle with interest in similar arrangements. Lesko said he hoped that energy would transfer to more attention to Oiselle, and to road racing. “You have this sport that has millions of kids that run in high school and then 1 percent of them are able to run in college,” he said. “And the sport is befuddled by how did we lose those people from 18 to 26, until we find them when they sign up for a marathon. We’re trying to fill that gap in between.” That gap includes women who ran as children and returned to discover athletic success later in life, including Heather Lieberg, a Oiselle-sponsored 36-year-old elementary schoolteacher and mother of three in Montana who began running in her mid-20s and just represented the United States in the world marathon championships in Beijing.

The former Yale middle distance runner Kate Grace in Oiselle warm-ups. Credit Oiselle

ECAC first to offer NCAA sports for adaptive athletes
This fall, the ECAC becomes the first collegiate athletic conference to offer NCAA-sanctioned events and varsity-level competition in adaptive sports. During the current school year, the ECAC expects athletes with disabilities to vie for championships in swimming, track and field, and wheelchair basketball. In the near future, the conference plans to add championships in sled hockey, goalball (a team sport for the visually impaired, using a ball with bells in it), sitting volleyball, rowing, and tennis. Five years from now, ECAC leaders hope, roughly 1,000 athletes with disabilities will be competing in several sports. “For athletes, it means the opportunity to play for their school,” said Joe Walsh, president of Adaptive Sports New England, a Massachusetts nonprofit organization that aims to increase sports participation for children and young adults with visual or mobility impairments. “They identify themselves as athletes. That’s part of who they are.

Wheelchair basketball is played at the Paralympic level (above), and the ECAC is bringing it and other adaptive sports to the NCAA.

Can sports make sustainability mainstream?
With such a massive global audience, it’s no surprise that professional sports have also been major drivers of societal change. From desegregation to women’s rights to AIDS awareness to easing geopolitical conflict, teams and athletes have repeatedly played leading roles in some of humanity’s greatest moral debates. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that they’re already taking the lead on sustainability, too. This is seen, among other places, in the rapid growth of the Green Sports Alliance, a nonprofit for teams, venues, leagues and partners aiming to “enhance their environmental performance.” Since the alliance’s founding in 2010, membership has ballooned to over 250 organizations that share best practices and collaborate on numerous green initiatives. Many members are realizing dramatic cost savings while improving resource efficiency and reducing waste. But more importantly, the green sports movement offers a gateway to sustainable behavior change on the societal scale.

Illustration by Glen Lowry

Southern thanks Georgia for showing ‘true nature of sportsmanship’
The redshirt sophomore had multiple fractures in his neck that required surgery to repair, and thankfully the school announced after the operation that he had movement in his upper body. The lone good thing to come from all of this was how Georgia coach Mark Richt and many other UGA supporters responded. Richt and other Georgia staffers set aside Alabama prep on Sunday to visit Gales in the hospital. UGA wives and kids spent “family night” on Sunday preparing cards and posters to lift Devon’s spirits. Both of Georgia’s team chaplains spent time visiting with the Gales family at the hospital and offering support. “We’re trying to cover him up with as much love as we can and let him know that we care and let him know that we’re here to help,” Richt said Sunday. He also called on Georgia’s community to offer financial support for the Gales family. Richt probably doesn’t want any pats on the back for any of this, as he’d readily admit these are all gestures that any thoughtful and caring program would do as well. Still, that didn’t stop Southern University system president and chancellor Ray Belton from writing a letter to Richt and the Georgia community expressing extreme gratitude for exemplifying the “true nature of sportsmanship, caring and generosity.”

Southern receiver Devon Gales suffered a broken neck at Georgia last week. Dale Zanine

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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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