Dec. 20 – Dec. 26, 2015
Welcome to week one hundred ninety-four of the Sports Doing Good newsletter. This week’s 10 stories include:
1. How a house became home for Clemson’s Deshaun Watson
2. Top 15 Sportsmanship Moments of 2015 (from TrueSport)
3. Why I’ll never ‘stick to sports’: The reason I embrace my role as an athlete who stands up for social change
4. Meet the artist who’s on the cusp of being a major league pitcher
5. Atlanta teen is youngest U.S. track athlete to turn pro
6. Wrestlers aiming for Rio Olympics spread cheer to sick children
7. Refugee kids find hope on the soccer field and in the classroom
8. Cam Newton’s passion for helping kids is real
9. ‘Help, Is There a Goalie in the House?’ (The Players’ Tribune)
10. At 6 Feet 1, He’s Raising the Art of the Dunk to Another Level
Two of the stories we feature this week highlight young men at a critical junction in their lives. They are in college, preparing themselves for the period of time that is their entire future. Both guys are top-level athletes, in addition to being dedicated college students. Both show that they have learned a lot in their limited years. Their life experiences before college and the special times they have had on their respective campuses have made them leaders on their teams and very likely, leaders in whatever they do in the future (likely a few years in the NFL).
It is more than encouraging to read of young people who are displaying traits that we hope to see in those much older. Society helps to raise these young people – unfortunately, some grow up with limited means and resources and guidance – and then is dependent on how well these young people develop. The better we do with these young people, the better the future for all of us. When you read about Clemson University’s Deshaun Watson and the University of Oklahoma’s Eric Striker, you will feel a lot better about that future.
The other stories we are happy to feature this week include: a review of some of the best acts of sportsmanship from across all of sports; the emergence of MLB player, and artist, Blake McFarland; Candace Hill, a track wunderkind from the U.S.; the kind work of Olympic wrestling hopefuls with young children; the Fugees Family, a diverse group of student-athletes that show what positive results we can achieve when we accept and encourage those from different backgrounds; NFL superstar and friend to kids, Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers; a first-person account of being a professional hockey player…sort of; and a look into the life and profession of Jordan Kilganon, a performance artist whose mode of expression is dunking a basketball.
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How a house became home for Clemson’s Deshaun Watson
In the midst of clacking hammers and whirring power tools, a young boy spots Watson. He has ripped half a page from a pink-and-purple notepad labeled “Leadership Notebook” that his older sister carries, hoping to gather autographs from Clemson players. This would be the prize. He stands paralyzed, pen in hand, waiting to catch eyes with the star quarterback. Eventually his sister slaps him on the back and takes command of the situation. “Mr. Watson,” she yells. Clemson’s biggest star looks up and grins. He stoops for a picture and scribbles his name on the scrap of paper. The boy beams, scampering back to show his father. Watson stretches the gloves over his hands again and goes back to work. A house can change a life, of course, but it doesn’t always take that much. That’s the thing about Habitat, Watson says. It’s not just the house that set him on this path. It’s the hope that came with it, the chance to dream a little bigger. That’s what he wants to share.
Deshaun Watson, pictured with Senior Vice President of Habitat International Larry Gluth and Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity in Greenville Monroe Free, was given Habitat for Humanity’s first Next Generation award at a ceremony Sept. 20. David M. Hale/ESPN.com
Top 15 Sportsmanship Moments of 2015 (from TrueSport)
With the start of a new year just around the corner, we wanted to reminisce on some of the more positive sports highlights from 2015. There comes a time when athletes have to choose between crossing the finish line or scoring that final goal and the right thing to do. From professional sports to little league, we’ve compiled our favorite moments from the past year that showcase TrueSport values – courage, respect, teamwork, integrity and responsibility…There you have it: a complete re-cap of true sports heroes who set aside their competitive spirits in the name of humanity. It’s an important time to reflect on your own morals and values: would you or your child do the same thing if put in their shoes? We all love winning the right way which can take us a lot farther in sports and in life. We encourage you to do something kind for someone else not just during this holiday season or 2016, but always.
(Video, http://ht.ly/VJwWw) Caption: And finally, when Uganda player, Olara, slid into 2nd base AND his opponent at the Little League World Series, he didn’t think twice before assisting the injured player, Shu Wei Lin of Chinese Taipai, back to his bench:
Why I’ll never ‘stick to sports’: The reason I embrace my role as an athlete who stands up for social change
I thought about Ali last spring when I spoke out about the racial tension in this country, and on my campus, after the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity video with members chanting, “There will never be a n—– in SAE,” went viral. When I did that, I heard from people all around the world who thanked me, telling me we need to talk more about these issues. Some people reacted by saying I should “stick to sports.” To those people I say: You need to understand that I’m more than just an athlete. When you see No. 19 on the field for Oklahoma, when you see STRIKER printed on the back of my jersey, how would you describe me to people? Most people would probably say that I’m 6-feet, 220 pounds, and a linebacker who has good speed off the edge. Most would probably talk about what I do on Saturdays. But I don’t want to be described that way. I want people to say I’m a humorous, energetic, thoughtful guy. I want people to know me for who I am, not for what I do.
Icon Sportswire via AP Images
Meet the artist who’s on the cusp of being a major league pitcher
All of it started because of an ugly painting. Blake McFarland was going to junior college, living at his parents’ house in San Jose, and every day he walked by the rendering of a koi fish he thought particularly awful. McFarland told his mom, Terryl, he could do better, even though he never had painted. “I kind of just wanted to see what it was like,” McFarland said, and that inherent blend of curiosity and competition happens to have served him well beyond the acrylic-on-canvas ocean scene he created and sold to one of Terryl’s friends for $50. It guided McFarland from football to baseball, from painting to prize-winning art made of recycled tires and, he hopes, from the depths of the minor leagues to Toronto, where he could find himself this season after one of the unlikeliest ascents in recent years.
Blake McFarland with his award-winning full-sized cougar. (Courtesy of Blake McFarland)
Atlanta teen is youngest U.S. track athlete to turn pro
Now, instead of running high school races she will enter the international professional racing circuit, competing for financial prizes against the world’s fastest runners. She is still very much a high school junior, switching easily between talking about her wanting to win every race she runs to taking trackside selfies with Usain Bolt, discussing her gown for when she was voted to the homecoming court this year and lamenting the missing A in her report card. (“Chemistry. …”) For breakfast on race days, she eats Froot Loops. “Turning professional now was a hard decision because I can’t keep running high school track with my team or run in college,” she said. “But I want to get faster, and it seems time for the next step.” Asics and her development team have said they are committed to letting Hill develop at her own pace — ensured by a contract that lasts through her peak athletic years, until she is 26.
Candace Hill, 16, who won the girls’ 100 meters at the 2015 world youth championships, trains at Piedmont Park in Atlanta, Dec. 13, 2015. Hill, who is good enough not only to qualify for next summer’s Rio Olympics, but to potentially win a medal there, has become the youngest track athlete in the United States to turn professional. (Melissa Golden/The New York Times)
Wrestlers aiming for Rio Olympics spread cheer to sick children
Both enjoy their roles as ambassadors for their sport. “Parents, coaches, different clubs, organizations, schools – it really does take an entire village,” Maroulis said of having a support system when you’re growing up. “I think you can’t put a value on an experience or what positive words might do for someone because there’s been times when it’s like, that’s just what I needed to hear or meeting this person was so inspiring. I would love to make myself available for that if I can serve in that way.” Patricia King brought her three children to the event, postponing her family’s car trip to Jacksonville, Fla., for a day so they could meet the world champions. King’s oldest daughter, Brianna, 10, had gone through treatments for leukemia and the chemotherapy caused damage to her heart. King wanted her daughter to hear about working out and healthy living from the Olympic hopefuls, and her son, Isaac, is a wrestler. “Working out is even more important,” for Brianna, her mother said. “We want to make sure her heart stays healthy.”
Kyle Snyder leads children through stretching during an event with the Casey Cares Foundation on Dec. 23, 2015. (Photo: Tommy Gilligan, USA TODAY Sports)
Refugee kids find hope on the soccer field and in the classroom
Mufleh created the Fugees Family, a nonprofit organization, and then opened a privately funded school for refugees called the Fugees Academy in 2007. “When this started, I was a little overwhelmed. I was like, ‘How am I going to do this?’ I’m not a principal. I’m not an educator, but I am a coach,” she said. “I’m good at building teams, and I’m good at getting groups of people to work together and find a goal that we all want to reach.” She reached her goal and turned the school into reality. “Typically our students have been in this country less than three or four months when they first come in. Most of them have fled war and unimaginable horrors. They’ve never been in a school before. They’ve been in refugee camps,” she said. The academy has small class sizes so the students can get more individualized attention and learn the fundamentals of reading, writing and math. “We have kids that come here who can’t read when they enter school. And in four years, they are handing in five-page essays that are very well written,” she said. The students come from various countries including Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Cam Newton’s passion for helping kids is real
Newton has been volunteering at elementary schools since his college days, once he realized the power conferred by his status and the importance of second chances, said his agent Carlos Fleming, a senior vice president in Sports Talent Marketing at WME-IMG. His parents taught Newton that, and actually accompanied him last week on the day he went to four schools while wearing his red Christmas sweater with the image of a dabbing Santa. “You give credit to his parents for making him aware of that, but it’s just him,” Cotchery said. “From the outside looking in, people want to know if it’s genuine or not everything that he’s doing. It is; it’s him smiling all the time, it’s him interacting with everyone all the time, celebrating with his teammates. Yeah, he celebrates on his own sometimes, but when he comes back he’s always encouraging his teammates. It’s a good thing to be around.” Kimberly Beal, the director of the Cam Newton Foundation, said he is the first athlete she has worked with who will spend a few days at the office each week during the offseason. A lot of the foundation’s programs spring from ideas Newton generated.
Newton’s surprise appearance at Dick’s Sporting Goods brought shock, then excitement to the assembled children. Andreas Seibold/Goodstuff Creative
‘Help, Is There a Goalie in the House?’ (The Players’ Tribune)
From the time I hung up with Kirk to the time I got into the locker room, everything was so hectic. Grabbing my stuff, rushing to the rink, running up the tunnel. And it suddenly all came to a halt, and I was just sitting there in the locker room, alone, half-dressed, watching the game on TV, just waiting for somebody to come in and say, “Okay, kid, you’re on.” My phone started blowing up. A bunch of people texted me when they heard I got the call and had to go to the rink — thinking it was a joke. A couple of buddies of mine were actually at the game, and they texted me: “Are you really here?” So I sent them snapchats of me in the locker room as proof. I was like, “Dude, it’s real … I’m here.” After the second period, the Rangers came in for the intermission. The door to my locker room was open, and I could see the guys walking by. But when Derek Stepan — who wasn’t playing because he’s been out with broken ribs — walked by, he did a double-take. He poked his head in and just started chuckling. “You’re the emergency goalie?”
At 6 Feet 1, He’s Raising the Art of the Dunk to Another Level
Even among this group, Kilganon’s inventiveness sets him apart. “He’s relatively new to professional dunking, but in that short time he’s already done so many dunks that nobody else has done,” said Billy Doran, 28, the founder of Dunkademics, a website that began in 2011 and posts dunk clips. “He works harder than anybody. He’s the epitome of dunking.” Many of his competitors, almost all of whom consider themselves the best in the world, appreciate that Kilganon is unique. “Jordan will probably end up the best dunker ever in terms of creativity,” said Porter Maberry, a 5-5 professional who can be seen dunking in a 2012 Samsung commercial featuring LeBron James. Maberry, 25, is one of the six members of Dunk Elite, a team of professionals that Kilganon joined in September 2014. The London-based founder and chief executive, Simon Piechowski, formed the team in 2013 and estimates that the group’s members perform at nearly 100 shows and contests annually.
Kilganon rising at a dunking training camp in Rabat, Morocco. “I have this crazy obsession for dunking, just the way dunking feels,” Kilganon said. Credit Christian Trojan