Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #189

Nov. 15 – Nov. 21, 2015

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

  1. Zen and the Art of Making the Perfect Player: Meet Kentucky’s Jamal Murray
  2. France, England Soccer Teams Unite in Defiance, Respect
  3. Taekwondo Champ Caroline Maher Is Changing the Way the World Views Athletes
  4. International Charter of Physical Education revised to ensure more inclusive access to physical activity
  5. San Francisco Giants receive philanthropy award from MLB
  6. Croatian ex-footballer wins plaudits by helping Ukrainian kids
  7. Topping Studies with a Dollop of Athletics at the Culinary Institute of America
  8. Riding the storm: Chemo ‘like having petrol pumped into you’
  9. Grow kids’ brains through sport
  10. $200,000 donation by Dick’s Sporting Goods will keep girls hockey alive in Anchorage high schools

There are times when we watch sports and the players are so talented and perform at such a high level that we can think of them as artists. This is true of every sport but may be most evident when dealing with football (soccer). The “beautiful game,” with its large field serving as a canvas or stage for the players lets the 22 players involved display individual skills that when viewed alone are wondrous, but when combined with the skills of their teammates, exhibit a coordinated performance that is sometimes hard to believe.

In a rivalry aptly named, “El Clasico,” two of the biggest and best football teams in the world, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, got together again yesterday to fight for supremacy in their league but also to earn another notch in their long-standing rivalry. While it was not the result Madrid fans wanted, there was no denying by them or anyone who saw the game that Barcelona put on a virtuoso performance. Gifted with some of the top players in the world, Barcelona worked their “team” magic to come away with a very convincing 4-0 win. Watching the game gave us another opportunity to love sport, to see the good in brilliant play and amazing teamwork. There are, of course, problems in sport as there are in every area of life. However, we should never forget to take advantage of a chance to see such artists perform as they surely will make us feel good about sport and the world we live in.

The stories that we are proud to include this week in the Sports Doing Good newsletter include: a look at the wondrously talented college basketball player Jamal Murray; France and England’s national soccer teams standing together in the face of terrorism; a taekwondo champion shining light on her talents and those of her fellow athletes; an agreement to do a better job of making sport more inclusive worldwide; the award-winning community efforts of the San Francisco Giants; a Croatian soccer star reaching out to help children defenseless in a war-torn country; the surprising presence of competitive athletics at one of the most elite culinary schools in the country; a British equestrian’s fight against cancer; research into the connection between participation in sport and the development of one’s brain; and an amazing financial gift by Dick’s Sporting Goods to support an emerging support for girls in Alaska.

In addition to the stories, we want to make you aware of a contest being hosted by UNESCO that seeks to promote sport values worldwide. Participants are invited to send one photo (by email to: which captures the power of sport values and their impact on young people within their community, along with a testimony (150-200 words). Selected photos will be published in a UNESCO photo book on sport values and exhibited at the Organization’s Headquarters. Contest winners will also win a DSLR Camera. The deadline for submission is Thursday 3 December 2015. For more information please visit

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.

Zen and the Art of Making the Perfect Player: Meet Kentucky’s Jamal Murray
Before he ever reached high school, Jamal had been taught by his dad how to draw strength from kung fu. He says he began a routine of showering before every game to “refresh his body” then finding a quiet space in the locker room to meditate and visualize things that would happen over the next few hours on the court. The ritual, which he still practices today, has such a calming effect that Murray says it lowers his in-game heart rate to 34 beats per minute. A normal, resting heart rate is about 40-60 beats per minute, according the American Heart Association. Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that Murray’s most impressive trait is his ability to stay calm and even-keeled during the most intense moments of a game. “When you meditate,” Murray says, “you go deeper into your thinking and explore parts of your mind that you never would’ve explored.” When you’re calm, you’re more focused and you make better choices. The game is moving fast, but to you it still seems slow.”

Murray scored 19 points, handed out eight assists, grabbed three rebounds and made three steals in his Kentucky debut vs. Albany Friday night. Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

France, England Soccer Teams Unite in Defiance, Respect
“This will be shown round the world and will show unity,” said England captain Wayne Rooney, one of the team’s goal-scorers. “Football is a global game and it is not about religion or race. We need to stand tall together in these tough times.” France striker Olivier Giroud said it was an emotionally charged occasion, “illustrated by the minute’s silence and ‘La Marseillaise (France’s national anthem).'” “We wanted to play this match for all the people who have stayed in Paris, to pay homage and to honor the victims and their families,” Giroud said. “Everyone who played the match is a professional player. Even if it wasn’t easy, we had to do our job on the pitch.” Prince William, who helped lay floral tributes beside the field, and British Prime Minister David Cameron were among the 71,223 spectators at Wembley, where there was an increased police presence and enhanced security measures that included compulsory bag searches.

Armed police patrol outside Wembley Stadium, in London, prior to the international friendly soccer match between England and France which takes place at Wembley Stadium, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015. The two teams decided the match should go ahead despite the deadly attacks in Paris last Friday night which killed scores of people. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Taekwondo Champ Caroline Maher Is Changing the Way the World Views Athletes
And while there are still strides to be made—here and all over the world—imagine growing up somewhere where this kind of female athleticism wasn’t encouraged. That was the case for Caroline Maher, one of the world’s toughest taekwondo champs. These days, she’s got an arsenal of awards under her belt—including being named a Woman of Achievement by the UN Women—but Maher grew up in Egypt, where many people still believe women shouldn’t be engaging in professional sports at all. “My parents have always been so supportive,” she says. “Other people were sometimes skeptical and shocked as to why I would want to play such an aggressive sport.” In spite of her skeptics, she kicked her way to the top of a seriously male-dominated sport. Actually, she kicked so much butt that in 2013, she became the first Arab-African female to be inducted into the Taekwondo Hall of Fame—the highest honor you can receive in the sport. Girl’s got skills.

International Charter of Physical Education revised to ensure more inclusive access to physical activity
“The adoption of the revised Charter should mark a shift away from words towards action, from policy intent to implementation. It sets the tone for a new international sport policy debate, which should now focus on the exchange of good practice, education and training programmes, capacity development, and advocacy. This is also a strong recognition of physical education as a driver for promoting gender equality, social inclusion, non-discrimination and sustained dialogue in our societies” said UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova. Based on the universal spirit of the original Charter adopted in 1978, and integrating the significant evolutions in the field of sport over the last 37 years, the revised Charter highlights the health benefits of physical activity, the inclusion of persons with disabilities, the protection of children, the role of sport for development and peace, as well as the need to protect the integrity of sport from doping, violence, manipulation and corruption.© WFSGI. International Charter of Physical Education revised to ensure more inclusive access to physical activity.

San Francisco Giants receive philanthropy award from MLB
The Giants were acknowledged for their Junior Giants program, a free, noncompetitive initiative for boys and girls, ages 5 to 18, which provides character development and baseball instruction. In partnership with community-based organizations, Junior Giants provides a safe environment in which children challenge themselves, connect with mentors and learn life skills. The Giants Community Fund will receive a $10,000 grant from Major League Baseball Charities as part of this recognition. Commissioner Manfred said: “I congratulate Larry Baer, the Giants Community Fund and the entire Giants organization for the continued success of the Junior Giants program, which is a perfect example of our commitment to reaching young people both inside and outside the game. For many years, the program has used the popularity of our sport to help change thousands of young lives. The program teaches healthy habits, improves literacy and prevents bullying. I thank the Giants and all of our Clubs for their year-round efforts to reach out to their respective communities.”

Major League Baseball and Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. have named the San Francisco Giants as the 2015 recipient of the Commissioner’s Award for Philanthropic Excellence

Croatian ex-footballer wins plaudits by helping Ukrainian kids
Croatian ex-footballer Ivica Piric spent some five years of his career playing in Ukraine. Now the retired international has returned to help the conflict-wracked country he calls a “second home”…For Piric there is a deeper reason why he felt drawn to help — the plight of the children stirred memories of the war that rocked his own homeland in the early 1990s. He was 13 when the fighting broke out with neighbouring Serbia following the break-up of socialist Yugoslavia in 1991 and he remembers how many countries cared for children who were left orphaned or homeless. “Now I would like to help Ukrainian kids to forget their troubles at least for a while. Most of them are in a difficult situation, some lost their fathers,” he said. The UN children fund (UNICEF) says several hundred children have been killed and wounded and almost 184,000 uprooted from their homes during the fighting in Ukraine. Piric’s work has garnered praise for the former player, who was hailed by first lady Maryna Poroshenko during a meeting in October.

Topping Studies with a Dollop of Athletics at the Culinary Institute of America
The basketball team’s starting center missed the home opener because he had to work at Bocuse, the on-campus French restaurant. A 19-year-old woman was a frequent starter at striker for the men’s soccer team. And two years ago, the star of the women’s cross-country team missed out on a fourth straight conference championship because the school’s rolling enrollment schedule meant she graduated two weeks before her final meet. All of these quirks and challenges, unheard-of at colleges like Alabama, Notre Dame and Stanford, are common at an unlikely athletic department: the one at the Culinary Institute of America, one of the country’s most prestigious cooking schools. In its zeal to remake itself into a true four-year college in recent years, the institute, in the Hudson Valley, has done more than expand its menu of bachelor’s degrees. It has also gotten serious about a longtime staple of campus life: intercollegiate sports.

The Culinary Institute of America hosted the Word of Life Bible Institute at its recreation center in Hyde Park, N.Y., on Sunday. Seating for basketball games is limited. Credit Damon Winter/The New York Times

Riding the storm: Chemo ‘like having petrol pumped into you’
From the age of four, the horse world is all he has known and what has driven him every day. A former British national under-21 champion, Hobday also boasts team gold and individual bronze from the 2008 young rider European Championships. In addition, he has achieved clear rounds at some of the most prestigious venues in the world, notably at the UK’s Badminton and Burghley Horse Trials. Hobday is an inspiration to talk to, his positivity wavering just once in half an hour of conversation as briefly the emotional roller coaster of the past five months momentarily takes his toll. He says the recovery has been helped by those around him including his parents, Lisa and Steve, and girlfriend Emma as well as the wider equine world. Even now he is surprised that “people seem to give a s***,” and he has been sure to keep his 14,000 Twitter followers up to date with his progress virtually from the start. The day after being diagnosed, he posted an extended message on Twitter: “I am sorry I’ve been quiet recently. But the last few weeks have been very difficult, I have been in hospital for lots of test and I’ve been diagnosed with cancer. “My head is all over the show at the moment but all your support really helps, thank you. I will never give up and I will beat this. Ben.”

Ben Hobday riding Mulrys Error at the UK’s Badminton Horse Trials in May. The following month, the British eventer was diagnosed with cancer.

Grow kids’ brains through sport
In addition to being a professor at the university’s School of Psychoeducation, Pagani is also a researcher at Montreal’s CHU Sainte-Justine Children’s hospital. Her work focuses on childhood development and the identification of factors that impact on kids as they grow up, with a view to helping parents, teachers and organizations to prioritize positive activities and behaviours. Some of her most recent research looks specifically at the impact of team sports. “We worked with information provided by parents and teachers to compare kindergarteners’ activities with their classroom engagement as they grew up,” Pagani said. “By time they reached the fourth grade, kids who played structured sports were identifiably better at following instructions and remaining focused in the classroom. There is something specific to the sporting environment — perhaps the unique sense of belonging to a team to a special group with a common goal — that appears to help kids understand the importance of respecting the rules and honoring responsibilities.”

Organized extracurricular sport activities for children help them develop and improve cognitive skills, such as greater concentration capacity, that can in term greatly help them in the classroom, suggests a researcher.

$200,000 donation by Dick’s Sporting Goods will keep girls hockey alive in Anchorage high schools
Players were elated by the news – and by what awaited them in a Ben Boeke locker room. Besides the $200,000, the Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation donated 100 helmets, 100 sticks, practice jerseys for all six of Alaska’s high school teams – three in Anchorage, two in Fairbanks, one in the Valley – and a complete set of goalie gear for all six teams. “This shows the girls they matter to people other than their moms and dads. They have value,” Reale said. “It definitely shocked a lot of the girls.” Dick’s Sporting Goods doesn’t have any stores in Alaska, nor does it have a connection to Anchorage’s Scott Gomez, a two-time Stanley Cup winner. But it has an interest in ensuring that budget cuts don’t rob kids of athletic opportunities, Reale said. “They see that all over the U.S. sports programs are getting cut, and they want to be the good sport who steps in and says ‘We don’t want to see this go away,’ ’’ she said.

Players react to the announcement that the Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation has donated $200,000 and hockey gear to extend girls high school hockey through the 2018 season during a presentation on the ice at Ben Boeke Arena during the opening of the girls high school hockey season on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015. Bill Roth / ADN

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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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