Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #184

Oct. 4 – Oct. 10, 2015

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

  1. Migrant crisis: All I have is my football shirt
  2. FIFA host first-ever grassroots football course in Gaza to provide training for coaches
  3. Meet China’s ‘Basketball Girl’: An incredible story of how a young woman who lost her legs in a traffic accident fought against the odds to become champion swimmer
  4. and ESPN Team Up To Donate Sports Equipment to Those in Need
  5. Former Softball Star Jessica Mendoza Defies Boundaries and Critics
  6. LSU band to learn Gamecocks’ fight song, ticket profits will go to South Carolina
  7. NWHL players tweet inspiring #TBT posts ahead of inaugural season
  8. The islands’ next great QB: Tua Tagovailoa, and the story of the man who inspired him to soar
  9. 10 Things You Should Know About Rugby’s Fight Against Hunger
  10. Rugby Legend Phaidra Knight on the World Cup, the Olympics, and the Growth of the Sport in America

In the same week that FIFA president Sepp Blatter was suspended and a different corrupt FIFA official took his place, we are proud to feature stories that are counter to that negative press. The first story deals with the ongoing refugee crisis in Africa and the Middle East. This remains an issue deserving of the world’s attention and support. In the midst of such challenging circumstances, a journalist was able to find a glimmer of joy in the form of soccer jerseys being worn by some of the refugees and discussions about favorite players and teams. Soccer for these young men inspire them and motivates them to get to a point where they can once again enjoy watching their favorites. The second story involves FIFA’s efforts to develop young players and coaches in the Gaza area. Dedicating resources to bring instructors to the region sends the message that the soccer community cares and wants to see them succeed at the individual and community-levels.

Our remaining stories represent a cross section of amateur, college and professional sports, as well as individual, league, corporate, and non-profit efforts. Those stories include: a young girl from China overcoming major trauma in her life to find success in the area of sports; DoSomething and ESPN partnering up to fill in the gaps that exist when it comes to the provision of sports equipment around the country; star athlete turned-announcer Jessica Mendoza; Louisiana State University supporting its football opponent this week, South Carolina, in the face of the disaster it faced last week; images from future stars of the NWHL; rising high school football player Tua Tagovailoa and his inspirations; the great effort by the rugby community in the face of hunger around the world; and rugby star Phaidra Knight.

Finally, we want to remind you that the good folks at Beyond Sport will be holding their annual summit and awards program this month. Beyond Sport highlights the work of a number of wonderful organizations and also is constantly finding ways to bring influencers and decision-makers together to discover ways to elevate support on a local and global level.

Beyond Sport 2015 –

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

Migrant crisis: All I have is my football shirt
“What about Liverpool v Man U, what was the score?” Not one of the questions we were expecting as people were plucked from a grey rubber dinghy floating helplessly in strong Mediterranean waves. Yet there we were, talking football to several of the 239 people saved by refugee rescue ship Dignity I. Their tired, terrified faces from just a few hours before, now beaming at the very mention of a name like Steven Gerrard or Cristiano Ronaldo. One 18-year-old from Mali told us he dreams of playing for Chelsea and wants to get a trial in Italy when the boat arrives there. While some dream of playing, others on board Dignity I are just happy to have their favourite team’s shirt with them…”I like Cristiano Ronaldo” … a pattern is emerging. The 28-year-old from Mali explains his journey has been “tough”. “I thank God that I am alive, I’ve travelled from Mali to Niger and then onto Libya to get a chance to flee the crisis in Africa.” “I’m glad I have my football shirt.” For some on board Dignity I, it is all they have right now.

FIFA host first-ever grassroots football course in Gaza to provide training for coaches
Funding was approved in January to help the PFA to build 20 mini pitches in different municipalities of the Gaza Strip, while grassroots football courses and sending instructors to the region was also agreed to help support the development of players in the country. PFA deputy secretary general Mohammad Ammassi believes the activities run in association with FIFA will prove vital to producing talented coaches and players. “This activity represents a major step in our efforts to promote football at grassroots level and develop a new generation of talented players,” he said. Palestine made their debut at the Asian Cup earlier this year, having won the 2014 Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup, however they were unable to make it past the group stage in Australia, with the hosts eventually winning the tournament.

The Palestinian Football Association hope to develop coaches and talented players with FIFA’s support ©Getty Images

Meet China’s ‘Basketball Girl’: An incredible story of how a young woman who lost her legs in a traffic accident fought against the odds to become champion swimmer
A four-year-old Qian Hongyan had both of her legs amputated after getting into an accident in 2000 where she nearly lost her life. Her family were extremely impoverished. They farmed and produced silk for a meager living. Accord to People’s Daily Online, with little resources available, her grandfather resorted to cutting up an old basketball to replace of her lower body. The little girl learnt to ‘walk’ on her hands by supporting her entire upper body using wooden pads with handles. The basketball helped her to balance and provided a platform to rest on when she got tired. She spent many years of her childhood being dubbed the ‘Basketball Girl’ by locals as a result. In 2005, Qian Hongyan’s incredible hardship caught the widespread attention of Chinese, and later, international media. For China, where disability is almost never discussed, this became a talking point. It also became a turning point in the then ten-year-old girl’s life. With the help and support of donations, she was given the chance to travel more than 1,600 miles to Beijing and be fitted with her first pair of legs. Every step of her journey became a newsworthy story that not only revealed a little of Qian Hongyan’s life but also highlighted the plight of living with disability in China.

She started learning to swim in 2007 after realising she had no future in education but was good at the sport. People’s Daily Online and ESPN Team Up To Donate Sports Equipment to Those in Need
More than fifty percent of kids stop playing sports by age twelve, even though participation in sports is linked to higher school achievement, lower dropout rates, improved health, and enhanced self-confidence.  Too many children aren’t able to participate in sports due to the high cost of equipment. That’s why ESPN, who strives to provide greater access to sports to youth across America, is sponsoring the Level Playing Field campaign with, the largest organization for young people and social change. The campaign will bring much-needed sports equipment to the hands of those who need it. Beginning today through October 31, young people across the country will collect gently-used sports equipment in their local communities to donate to underserved out-of-school sports programs in need. Young people will be able to sign up here for tips on how to run their drive and will be able to find local organizations, such as Boys & Girls Clubs, local parks departments, among others, to drop off their equipment. Young people who upload a photo of the sports equipment they collect will have the chance to qualify for a $5,000 scholarship.

Powered by ESPN

Former Softball Star Jessica Mendoza Defies Boundaries and Critics
The past six weeks have transformed Jessica Mendoza from someone largely regarded as a softball analyst to one of the lead baseball voices at ESPN. She has performed so well in place of Curt Schilling on Sunday night games and during the Houston Astros’ 3-0 victory over the Yankees in the American League wild-card playoff game Tuesday night that ESPN has no option but to give her a high-profile slot. “Six weeks? No, it’s hasn’t been that long,” she said on Wednesday in a telephone interview. “It’s felt like one long day because I never wanted it to stop. I never wanted to let off the gas.” On Tuesday night, she showed her primary expertise in batting analysis, most notably on how the Astros’ George Springer was able to hit a double over Brett Gardner’s head: by standing far back in the batter’s box to react to Masahiro Tanaka’s splitter. But she also did good — and quick — work on pitch selection and outfield positioning. “I find that as far as my first step in, I talk to hitters, coaches and managers, and that’s the insight I want to share with viewers,” she said. “I’m hoping to build up to defensive strategy and pitching.”

Jessica Mendoza served as a lead voice for ESPN during the Astros’ 3-0 wild-card victory over the Yankees on Tuesday. Credit Phil Ellsworth/ESPN Images

LSU band to learn Gamecocks’ fight song, ticket profits will go to South Carolina
The catastrophic flooding in the greater Columbia area has forced South Carolina to move its game versus LSU to Baton Rouge. Although it will technically be a home game for the Gamecocks, it will be played in front of an LSU crowd in Tiger Stadium. With the lack of a home-field advantage, the LSU marching band is doing everything it can to establish this feel for Steve Spurrier’s team. ‘The Golden Band from Tigerland’ will learn the South Carolina alma mater and fight song. These will be played during the pregame festivities within the stadium. In addition, all proceeds from ticket sales will be sent to South Carolina.

‘The Golden Band from Tigerland’ will support South Carolina with musical tribute. Troy Taormina / USA TODAY Sports

NWHL players tweet inspiring #TBT posts ahead of inaugural season
Members of the new National Women’s Hockey League? tweeted inspiring #TBT posts on Thursday ahead of the league’s inaugural season. In an effort to garner attention for the new league, several players took to Twitter to post pictures of themselves in their younger years, along with the line, “To when playing professional hockey was just a dream. #HistoryBegins October 11.” The NWHL, which is the first-ever women’s professional hockey league to pay its players, formed in March and consists of four teams—the Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale and New York Riveters. Prior to the existence of the NWHL, the only professional option for elite women’s hockey players in North America was the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, which did not pay its players. According to league founder Dani Rylan, the NWHL will pay an average salary of $15,000 to its players in the inaugural season. Each of the league’s four teams will play nine home and nine away regular season games between October and February. The puck will first drop for the NWHL on October 11, as the Riveters and Whale face-off at Chelsea Piers in Stamford, Conn.

The islands’ next great QB: Tua Tagovailoa, and the story of the man who inspired him to soar
The story goes that Tagovailoa “came out of my mom tossing a football.” He jokes, of course, but his parents, Diane and Galu (pronounced Na-loo), say it isn’t far from the truth. Most kids get attached to a blanket or a teddy bear. Tua, the oldest of four, slept with a football tucked in the crook of his arm. At his grandparents’ home in Ewa Beach, family members scolded Tua for playing catch when he should have been paying attention during prayers. His father recounts warily that Tua broke his share of window and door screens trying to increase his arm strength and perfect his accuracy. There were no broken windows, though; cousins and uncles knew when to dive and snag an errant pass before it shattered glass. This group breeds good receivers, too. In the Tagovailoa family it was Tua’s paternal grandfather, Seu—”Papa” to his grandchildren—who predicted Tua would grow into a football star. At Seu’s home, which the family considers “headquarters,” he requested Tua come over after every game, no matter how late, and detail how he played. Tua once went at 3 a.m. because he knew he’d get in trouble the next morning if he didn’t. Seu shared with Tua his favorite Bible verse—1 Cor. 2:9 “No eyes have seen, no ears have heard, no mind has imagined what God has prepared”—and told Tua that God had destined him to be extraordinary. Seu believed something great awaited each of his 28 grandchildren.

Kent Nishimura/SI

10 Things You Should Know About Rugby’s Fight Against Hunger
For Rugby World Cup 2015, fans from all over the world are putting their weight behind a challenge off the pitch: raising awareness and funds for the World Food Programme (WFP)’s school meals and emergency response work around the world. Over 10 years on since the WFP and World Rugby Tackle Hunger partnership was first launched, the global rugby family is teaming up once again to support WFP’s work around the world. With Rugby World Cup 2015 on track to be the biggest Rugby World Cup to date, World Rugby and WFP are calling on all fans and supporters to back this campaign. There is a powerful connection between good nutrition and sporting excellence and the Tackle Hunger partnership is instrumental in ensuring that children get the food they need to reach their full physical and intellectual potential. For many children, a WFP school meal will be their only meal each day, providing an incentive to attend school and obtain an education. In the build up to RWC2015, the Tackle Hunger Million Meal Challenge saw fans raise more than £175,000 through voluntary donations during ticket sales – enough for up to one million school meals for children in Senegal!

Pitch-side LED boards like those at the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2014-15 in Amsterdam help promote the Tackle Hunger partnership in stadia, on television and online. Copyright: World Rugby

Rugby Legend Phaidra Knight on the World Cup, the Olympics, and the Growth of the Sport in America
Phaidra Knight wears many hats as a professional athlete, brand ambassador, sports agent, and motivational speaker – but one she doesn’t yet wear is that of an Olympian. She hopes to change that soon. Named USA Rugby’s Player of the Decade in 2010, the two-time All World honoree is currently training for the chance to compete in Rio next summer as part of the first-ever U.S. Olympic women’s rugby team. Up2Us Sports recently caught up with Phaidra to talk everything rugby, including her passion to make sure youth all over the world have a chance to play the game she loves…Developing youth through rugby is an integral part of the foundation and future of rugby in America. I believe is goes without saying that it means a great deal to me. I believe that it’s equally important for children in both urban and rural environments to be involved in sports. Having grown up in a very rural area in Georgia, I witnessed then and continue to see the need for young people to develop positive connections with themselves and others through sport. It also offers them the discipline, work ethic, and interpersonal skills that can transcend and enhance other areas of their lives. Sport helps children confronted with aggressive emotions, such as anger, to channel them in positively, keeping them out of harm’s way. The health benefits of being physically active through sport are numerous.

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