Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #201

Feb. 7 – Feb. 13, 2016

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

  1. The UCLA gymnast who became a viral sensation by just being herself
  2. For the Love of the Game: Meet David Beckham’s teammates in Nepal
  3. A First Minister, a Movie Star, and a Football Squad Visit Team Scotland
  4. Stanford Athletics is showing its ‘greener’ side
  5. Texans lineman Brandon Brooks spends his off-seasons securing his financial future
  6. Steph Curry is in God Mode right now
  7. Cleveland Brown Andrew Hawkins flies toward a Master’s Degree from Columbia University
  8. What My Father’s Escape From Cuba Taught Me About Being An Athlete
  9. Guatemalan Athletes Are Dribbling, and Not Only With Their Feet
  10. U.S. Soccer Fans Invited on an Adventure to Change the World Through the Power of ‘The Beautiful Game’

Q&A with Sam Sommers: Co-Author of This is Your Brain on Sports (Up2Us)
Bayern Munich exhibit on its Holocaust victims opens (Beyond Sport)
Core values: Make them a part of your coaching to impact your players (NAYS)
Chauncey Billups: Letter to My Younger Self (The Players Tribune)
Olympics give Rio slum kids hope – for survival (Peace and Sport)

This past week the sports world was again full of a number of highs, and a few lows. Of course the Super Bowl captured much of the country’s attention as the Denver Broncos topped the Carolina Panthers. And while there were good things across professional sports in the U.S. and around the world, a story that captured the attention of millions involved a sport that is usually quiet on the sports landscape, i.e. women’s college gymnastics.

What got so many people interested was that the “typical” was nudged aside when it came to one athlete’s performance. Sophina DeJesus of the UCLA Bruins brought the full extent of her talent and personality onto the floor exercise mat and wowed the fans in the audience. She brought excitement, creativity, and flair to an activity that is often characterized by very rigid standards. Her performance was not an affront to those standards. Rather, it was a gift to her sport and to all of those who seek to strive for success without having to compromise what is important to them. That is why more than 10,000,000 views of Sophina’s performance have taken place on YouTube. People were pleasantly surprised. They were also moved by the pure joy on Sophina’s face and the great reactions by her teammates and fans in the arena. Kudos to Sophina. By doing your thing, she encouraged a lot of people, young and old, to do theirs.

The other stories we are happy to feature this week include a look at: some of David Beckham’s special teammates in Nepal; the great effort shown and support received by Team Scotland in the Homeless World Cup; Stanford Athletics’ major effort to be a leader in the “green” movement; NFL player Brandon Brooks’ focused efforts on prepping for his post-career life; the “everything is going right” roll that the NBA’s Steph Curry is enjoying; Cleveland Brown player Andrew Hawkins taking substantive steps towards his post-career goals; the powerful story about the motivation that has made Allie Burdick an elite athlete for the U.S.; the rise of basketball across Guatemala; and a wonderful new program called the third half which could improve the way that non-profits can fund their projects while giving everyday individuals the opportunity to give back.

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

The UCLA gymnast who became a viral sensation by just being herself
As she healed from that injury, she took more hip-hop classes and spent winter break working with her sister Savannah, now a computer science and engineering student at UC Merced, on her new routine. First, there was the music. She spliced together three songs but had to make sure the beats would still sync up once the words were removed, a competition requirement. Then, they collaborated on choreography, borrowing from the classes. Savannah would propose a risky hip-hop move, and Sophina would tailor it to the world of gymnastics. “Remember, I have to open my legs in a leotard!” Savannah recalls her sister saying in response to one proposal. They saw the routine as an expression of themselves. “It’s more culturally black, but it wasn’t aimed to be that way,” Savannah says when asked about it. “This is us, this is what we’ve been doing since we were little. It definitely shows Sophina as a person, her crazy and happy self.” Sophina says she expresses both sides of her identity in her floor routine, and that there are Latina hints in her hip-hop…Sophina says she hasn’t seen the pieces about her ethnicity. When people ask, she tells them that she’s half Puerto Rican, half black, and that she loves it. She revels in the diversity of her team. “It’s not mainly about one ethnicity doing this sport,” she says. “I do embrace my ethnicities for sure, and I hope to inspire others that are my ethnicity and aren’t and everyone in general, because we are all equal.”

For the Love of the Game: Meet David Beckham’s teammates in Nepal
This year, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and football legend David Beckham took on a unique challenge: to play seven football matches across seven continents for a new BBC documentary, For the Love of the Game. In Kathmandu, Nepal, he played in a match with school children whose lives had been turned upside down by the devastating earthquakes that the country hit in April and May 2015. Here, we meet two of his young teammates from that Kathmandu game, and find out what football means to them. “Football makes us happy. When we are playing football we are focusing on how to play. Our concentration is in that moment, defeating the other team and scoring that goal. I’m not a great player, I don’t know all the rules, but I always play with full power. I give 100% and I convince my friends to give 100%. I love Nemar, he is the captain of the football team for Brazil. I think he’s a great player. We all watched the World Cup 2014 on TV. It was on really late here and we all fell asleep at half time! ”

Some of the players from Shree Padma School who played football with David Beckham. From left to right: Bibhuti Lamichhane, 13, Astha Lamichhane, 13, (Bibhuti’s cousin), Soaru Dahal, 13, Rasna Budhathoki, 14, and Raijita Kaaki, 15.

A First Minister, a Movie Star, and a Football Squad Visit Team Scotland
This year’s men’s Scottish squad reached 8th place in the Salvation Army Cup – the second tier of the tournament – and 16th place in the overall competition. The women’s squad achieved 7th place in the Women’s Homeless World Cup. The squads enjoyed a huge send-off prior to the tournament by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, and that was the only famous face they got to share a jersey with. During their time in Amsterdam they also had a chance to meet Colin Farrell, who after visiting the Irish squad, spent some time with the Scottish teams. They also had a chance to hang out with Celtic FC, who were in Amsterdam for their Europa League match against Ajax. David Duke, founder of Street Soccer Scotland said before the event: “Street Soccer Scotland works with thousands of socially disadvantaged adults and young people across Scotland throughout the year with the Homeless World Cup being a highlight. I know that everyone representing Scotland is determined to win but I can’t stress enough the positive influence the experience will have on the lives of everyone taking part.”

Stanford Athletics is showing its ‘greener’ side
At Stanford, sustainability is a core value. How does Stanford Athletics approach sustainability? Every time we host an event, whether it is a practice, a contest, a clinic or a camp, we have the opportunity to demonstrate our department’s commitment to sustainability. Last year, we hosted nearly 500 events on campus. We have an “audience” of millions, including students, athletes, alumni, fans, participants and visitors from around the world. Collaboration with university partners is key for us. We collaborate with Stanford Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE), which runs our concessions and has expertise in sustainable dining practices. To have R&DE as a partner is pretty special and allows us to be very creative in how we approach sustainability issues. We give each other feedback – what worked, what didn’t work, what concerns were raised – and solve problems together. We also collaborate with Sustainable Stanford, a university-wide effort to reduce our environmental impact, preserve resources and show sustainability in action. Together, we created a Stanford Athletics & Sustainability webpage to highlight our achievements and encourage people to take specific steps to reduce their environmental impact. The Office of Sustainability recently hired an intern, a former student athlete, who is working closely with our events and facilities staff and providing feedback on how we can improve.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports Images

Texans lineman Brandon Brooks spends his off-seasons securing his financial future
In a football meeting room, Brooks innately understands the material. He has been playing football since he was 12. The words make sense. The concepts are familiar. In these classes, he takes copious notes and regularly visits his professors during office hours with questions. Last Monday, his finance class reviewed formulas for determining the value of money over time. His professor, a Brazilian woman named Natalia Pequeira, apologized for the technical nature of the class, but noted students needed to know it for future exams. Brooks wrote down the formulas next to the PowerPoint presentation he printed before coming to class as a woman a few seats away began to fall asleep. Tuesday was Organizational Behavior and Management, where his group determined strategies a mob-affiliated waste management company could use. He sits in the back of this class, not to avoid participation, but because he’s too big to be comfortable in the seats below, and here the air conditioning blows right on him.

Brandon Brooks, who’s working toward earning an MBA, discusses a group project with classmates. Tania Ganguli/

Steph Curry is in God Mode right now
“[Shots] might be a little contested,” said Curry about what 51 points felt like. “But nothing’s bothering you. It’s a fun feeling, and you want to ride it until you can’t anymore.” I have a couple different theories about Steph Curry. The first is that the quote above probably describes his whole life right now, and certainly this Warriors team. The second theory is that even in 2016, 45 wins into this season and eight months removed from a title, he’s still not quite appreciated the right way, the way LeBron was a few years ago. We’re all watching history, and yet half the time basketball people gawk at Golden State, they’re calling Draymond Green the true MVP of that team. Maybe he’s too nice, or too small, but the same underdog qualities that make his success such a spectacle on a nightly basis keeps us from talking about him in the Jordan conversations that were earmarked for LeBron at 18 years old. The final theory is that anyone not giving Curry that kind of respect can be forgiven, solely because he keeps getting better. He wasn’t this good last year and he won MVP and an NBA title. Most Improved Player is a stupid award with nebulous criteria, but Steph should win it. He’s on a completely different level here.


Cleveland Brown Andrew Hawkins flies toward a Master’s Degree from Columbia University
A great college indeed, and just part of the grand plan for the product of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. “It was always my dream to be a General Manager in sports, so I am now acting on that by seeking my Masters in Sports Management,” the Toledo University graduate said. “I know that doing this now will help me transition well when my playing days are over.” That transition plan started last September when Hawkins started at Columbia by taking two classes online, and then stepped up his schedule in January to a full-time course load with his weekly round-trip to the Ivy League institution that will continue through the summer. “It’s still my dream to be a GM, as well as potentially seeking some entrepreneurial aspirations, so I knew now was the time to take this step in laying the groundwork to help myself get there,” he said. It was the right time to maximize the present while preparing for his future. “Being an active player in the NFL provides us the opportunity to meet many people who have been successful, and between that and now being in school, I am constantly learning from people outside the game who have a vast variety of backgrounds,” Hawkins said.

Allie Burdick: What My Father’s Escape From Cuba Taught Me About Being An Athlete
Throughout my athletic journey there have been tremendous highs and lows. It’s easy for a competitive athlete to be consumed with being better, faster, stronger, or the notion that anything less than winning is losing. I learned the real significance of athletic competition at a very early age, when my father would tell me about the challenges he faced — being forced from his home, hiding inside a trunk to escape to freedom, accepting his limitations as an immigrant on an elementary school playground. It helped me see that what I do in the water, on the bike and on the road is all fun and games. Racing and training are gifts, no matter the outcome. After hearing my father’s stories, of a struggling child in a foreign country who became a successful, happy adult while never taking anything for granted, I can finish a race and feel nothing but gratitude.

“I often thought about how much my father sacrificed to become an American citizen,” says Allie Burdick, here cooking with her dad, “and what it meant to him to now have his daughter representing this country in athletic competition.”

Guatemalan Athletes Are Dribbling, and Not Only With Their Feet
Yet in a country where soccer is king and growing to six feet ensures you will tower over most crowds, basketball’s increasingly global appeal has helped the sport secure a foothold, particularly in indigenous communities in the central highlands. The sport’s popularity in this region can be traced to several factors: The arrival of cable television in the late 1980s brought the N.B.A. into people’s homes; carving out enough flat land for a basketball court is far easier than creating a soccer field in a region rife with hills, mountain ridges and volcanoes; and the art of putting a ball through a hoop can be traced to an ancient Mayan game…So it is, also, for the Tz’utujils, who live here on the south shore of Lake Atitlán. Many recognize the connection to el juego de pelota (ballgame), a Mayan sport in which players had to use their shoulders and thighs to put a ball through a vertical hoop.

It is as common to see girls playing basketball in San Pedro la Laguna as it is to see their male counterparts. Daniele Volpe for The New York Times

U.S. Soccer Fans Invited on an Adventure to Change the World Through the Power of ‘The Beautiful Game’
The brainchild of an innovative new collaboration between one of the USA’s most successful soccer travel companies and the world’s leading network of ‘Soccer for Good’ organizations, the third half uses the medium of the global game to create a ‘level playing field’ between the visitors and their hosts. “In disadvantaged communities all over the world, local organizations have figured out how to use soccer to address issues like gender inequality, homelessness, gang violence, HIV and Aids, you name it’ said Mike Geddes, COO of the third half. “But most of them rely on charity donations and handouts just to survive. With the third half we’re creating a path towards sustainable revenue using the tools they know best, as well as educating a new generation of soccer fans on global development issues”.

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