Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #209

April 3 – April 9, 2016

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

  1. Good News, We Found the Bears
  2. Nurturing peace, unity and reconciliation among young Rwandans through sport
  3. No obstacles stand in the way for 9-year-old BattleFrog competitor
  4. Basketball activity in Kiribati at all-time high
  5. Sport for Peaceful Coexistence in Refugee Host Communities
  6. ESPN,, and A Ganar Team Up, Launch Safe Spaces for Youth in Argentina and Brazil
  7. Cubs make dream weekend come true for young Chicago ballplayers
  8. World Table Tennis Day: Making a Difference to Lives in Nepal
  9. Gabby Haugh – How Weightlifting Changed My Life
  10. Judgment Play – LA KISS Open Tryouts

MLB Clubs Raise Awareness for Autism in 2016 (Beyond Sport)
Dhani Jones – Pushing the Limits (The Players’ Tribune)
FIFA Extends Reach of Football for Hope Around the Globe
Dani Rylan – Hockey Heroine (NAYS)

One of the main attractions in putting out the Sports Doing Good newsletter each week is the variety of stories that we are bound to see. This week was another example of that. One of the best stories that we have come across is the first one featured. One of our favorite movies growing up involved a little league baseball team that seemed very real to us. The (Bad News) Bears, sponsored by Chico’s Bail Bonds in case you forgot, was a rag-tag group of kids coached by an even more rag-tag type coach. In addition to being highly entertaining, the movie also contained a surprising number of life lessons. We encourage you to read this story by the New York Daily News and then go ahead and watch the movie!

The diversity of the subjects we get to feature is also captured in the second story. We are taken to the very real matter of the incredible challenge of just surviving in the country of Rwanda and how sport is an important tool in carving out a life with hope for everyone in the country, especially young people.
The other stories we are happy to feature include: a 9-year old young lady who tackled the challenge of a very tough obstacle course race to help spread the message of physical fitness and the issue of bullying; the emerging presence of basketball on the island nation of Kiribati; the importance of sport in helping to create a supportive culture in refugee host communities around the world; a powerful partnership between ESPN, love.futobl, and A Ganar that will lead to several “safe spaces” for sports in needy communities in Argentina and Brazil; how MLB’s Chicago Cubs took the time during their preseason to welcome a host of young ballplayers from Chicago for an experience of a lifetime; a wonderful program in Nepal sponsored by the World Table Tennis Federation; a first-person account from a young athlete who found great joy, and success, as a weightlifter; and an inside look from an actor/writer who wanted to get an idea of what it meant to be a professional football player (it meant a lot of pain).

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So enjoy. And have a good week. Congratulations Farm and Happy Birthday JK!

Good News, We Found the Bears
What unfolds on the screen from there is a journey equal parts hilarious and profane, irreverent and shocking, heart-tugging and authentic — a film that never feels dated, even if Amanda Whurlitzer is seen wearing bell bottom jeans on the mound during a practice. The movie blows the lid on the prototypical Little League parents and their children, and delves into such diverse issues as bullying, racism, sexism, birth control, even the dangers of overusing an ace pitcher’s arm, all the while shifting seamlessly between comedy– the Bears’ team sponsor is Chico’s Bail Bonds — and drama. To peel back the layers behind the making of one of the great sports films, the Daily News talked with many of the “Bears” actors, as well as producer Stanley Jaffe, the film executive behind such classics as “Kramer vs. Kramer” and “Fatal Attraction.” “I love the movie. I loved working with Walter. I loved working with all the kids,” says O’Neal. “Great actors. Funny as hell. A tremendously wonderful film, and I was really honored to be a part of it. Still am.” years ago, a beer-guzzling, pool cleaner played by Walter Matthau as Coach Buttermaker led a rag-tag bunch of oddballs – including Tatum O’Neal as Amanda Whurlitzer and Jackie Earle Haley as bad-boy Kelly Leak – to within one run of the North Valley League title and into our hearts.

Nurturing peace, unity and reconciliation among young Rwandans through sport
If it was not for the courage and sportsmanship of his team mates, Eric Murangwa would not have survived the genocide that rocked his country in 1994. Football saved the young man’s life when his team mates from the Rayon Sports football club hid him in their houses for several weeks – differences in ethnic origins being of no matter to them. However, this act of camaraderie would cost some of them their lives. Today, the former sportsman runs his own organisation, collaborates with a number of others and has developed a strong belief that sport, and football in particular, has the power to impact society in a way that little else does. He founded the organisation Football for Hope, Peace and Unity, also known as FHPU, in 2010, and which uses sport and football as a tool for social change and reconciliation in the Rwandan community.
(Video,  Caption: Ahead of the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace on 6 April, former Rwanda footballer Eric Murangwa shares his incredible story and takes us on a journey in his home country to show how sport has become there a “special pillar” to help foster peace, reconcile communities and empower young Rwandans to build a positive future.

No obstacles stand in the way for 9-year-old BattleFrog competitor
“This will be a once-in-a lifetime memory that she and her father will share together,” said Ramiro Ortiz, CEO of BattleFrog. “No physical activity is without risk, which is something all our participants understand. In this case, both Milla and her father have trained for the race.’’ Since June, Milla, who attends North Beach Elementary in the gifted program, has trained five days a week, three hours at a time. She wakes up early in the morning to do homework and brings assignments with her in the car. “She’s mentioned the race to me a few times,” said Isabel Burns, Milla’s primary teacher. “She’s a really bubbly girl and seems to be very grounded.” But, Milla said, she has been bullied by other classmates, something that started in second grade and carried through this year. She said that’s what inspired her to compete. “People would call me names and say I wasn’t a good player,” she said. “I didn’t want anyone else to go through what I did. I want to set an example and show other kids that they can do or be anything they want.”

Milla Star Bizzotto, 9, trains at her father’s gym, Focus Movement Academy, in Miami Shores. She competed in a BattleFrog 24- hour obstacle race in hopes of inspiring kids to eat healthy and be more active. MATIAS J. OCNER

Basketball activity in Kiribati at all-time high
The H4H program is funded by the Australian Government as part of the Pacific Sports Partnerships (PSP) program. H4H supports grassroots basketball development and capacity building of national basketball federations, whilst contributing to identified social development outcomes. In Kiribati, the program seeks to use basketball as a means to educate participants on non-communicable diseases (NCD) risk factors and the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle. The KBF is extremely active in the community. It recently conducted an inclusive community sports day for International Women’s Day (Tuesday 8th March), a referee and scorer’s table training workshop and on 9th of April will run an Inter-Secondary School 3×3 Championship in support of the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace. FIBA’s lead on Hoops for Health, Catherine Grawich, commented on the great work KBF were doing.

Participants during the Kiribati International Women’s Day event

Sport for Peaceful Coexistence in Refugee Host Communities
It is this combination of the unique power of sport to engage child and youth, with the deep commitment and local knowledge of youth volunteers, which makes these interventions most effective in communities. As Ahmad Al Omoush, a Jordanian Generations For Peace volunteer, explained about the Sport For Peace approach: “It is very non-traditional, the opposite of lecturing. In a program with sport you observe practical results. I saw it as an idea that could serve my community; the community in which I live, that my family lives in and that my children will live in the future.”… The work of Generations For Peace extends far beyond the Syrian Refugee Crisis, to many other communities around the world experiencing violent conflict and desperate displacement. Our volunteers are using Sport For Peace approaches, carefully adapted to local contexts and cultures, to support refugees, displaced people and host communities in northwest Pakistan, South Sudan and Yemen, and to promote deeper understanding and positive engagement between fragmented communities in northern Nigeria, Rwanda and post-conflict Sri Lanka. Through these programs we have seen the transformative power of sport as an innovative tool to engage meaningful youth participation in building peace.

ESPN,, and A Ganar Team Up, Launch Safe Spaces for Youth in Argentina and Brazil
The communities, carefully selected based on need, population and socio-economic status, will see sport opportunities renewed by the addition of these safe spaces. Dos Macacos, where the space in Rio de Janeiro is being built, has a population of nearly 15,000 and has some of the lowest rankings in the city for income and education.  La Cava, is one of the largest and most economically disadvantaged areas in greater Buenos Aires, with a prevalence of crime, drugs, alcohol, violence and firearms use. Once the sport spaces are built, ESPN will provide support to A Ganar, Partners of the Americas’ award-winning sport-for-development program that combats youth unemployment in Latin America and the Caribbean using team sports. At-risk youth, ages 16- 24, acquire marketable job expertise by building on six core sport-based skills: teamwork, communication, discipline, respect, a focus on results, and continual self-improvement. In 7-9 months, youth learn life and vocational skills and complete internships with local businesses. They learn to bring the best values of sport and apply them to the workplace.

Cubs make dream weekend come true for young Chicago ballplayers
And everywhere you looked, there was Tukes with a smile as big as a Kris Bryant homer. Smiling at shortstop. Smiling when he stepped to the plate in the first inning. Smiling in the dugout where his teammates shouted out “Tukes! Tukes!” It’s the type of grin that you see when a 15-year-old gets the opportunity of a lifetime. That’s exactly what this was. This group of teenagers had been whisked away from Chicago for a weekend that was nothing short of a baseball fantasy. They’d fly to spring training in Arizona, play a local team on the Cubs’ field, then stretch out with the pro Cubs, shag flies during batting practice, watch one spring training game, then the next day, they’d take the field with the Cubs at another. Imagine that’s you. Imagine you’re a teenage baseball player from Chicago and one day there’s a Skype call and it’s Anthony Rizzo inviting your entire team to Arizona for all that. “I was flabbergasted,” Tukes said. You would be too.–teens-weekend-spring-training-193609617.html?soc_src=mediacontentstory&soc_trk=fb

World Table Tennis Day: Making a Difference to Lives in Nepal
Approaching one year ago on the eve of the Qoros 2015 World Championships in Suzhou, the thoughts of the Nepal Team were not on the forthcoming matches but were directed home; just before midday on Saturday 25th April, a major earthquake had struck their country. It is estimated that over 8,000 people were killed and more than 21,000 injured; with the devastation of one year earlier very much in mind, Nepal was the focal point for World Table Tennis Day on Wednesday 6th April. The official World Table Tennis Day launch in Nepal was combined with the inauguration of NepALL, a three year Para Table Tennis project promoted jointly by the International Table Tennis Federation and the United Nations Sport for Development and Peace in conjunction with the Nepal Disabled Table Tennis Association and the All Nepal Table Tennis Association. Present for the occasion was Thomas Weikert, ITTF President. “Table tennis is not only a question of competition, we have seen today that we can make a big difference in people’s lives using our sport for development and peace, in this case improving the conditions of children with a disability”, said Thomas Weikert. “Today we inaugurated the renovated training centre for Para athletes damaged by the earthquake; it has been financed by the Republic of Korea government through the United Nations Office of Sport for Development and Peace.”

Nepal’s capital Kathmandu has hosted an International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) World Table Tennis Day event to coincide with the launching of a new project in the Asian country.

Gabby Haugh – How Weightlifting Changed My Life
Unfortunately, more and more teenage girls in this country struggle with their body image and self-esteem. I truly believe is it because of weightlifting that I was not another statistic. There is something incredibly empowering about hitting a new personal record. You become proud of what your body can do and learn to appreciate it in all of its abilities. Defining yourself by your strengths, not by how you look in a mirror can do wonders for a girl’s self-confidence. Don’t get me wrong, though, weightlifting is not a cakewalk. There have been tears, immense frustration, and struggles to make weight for competitions. However, it is overcoming those difficulties that makes it all even more fulfilling. Additionally, because weightlifting is an individual sport, you learn to rely on yourself. You don’t have any teammates to compensate if you’re having an off day. It’s just you and the barbell. All you can rely on is your body, your mind, and the training you have put yourself through. You become confident in taking on any challenge, whether it’s a heavy weight or a job interview or whatever life throws at you.

Judgment Play – LA KISS Open Tryouts
Editor’s note: You may recognize Neal Bledsoe for his roles on The Mysteries of Laura or The Man in the High Castle, or for his stint as an Old Spice Man. You’ll soon be able to watch him as the leading man of his own TV show. Beyond acting, he’s an MMQB contributor chronicling his quest to make the Arena Football League. Here is Part 3, his tryout. My dirty secret was that I had never played football before. Not Pop Warner, not high school, and certainly not college. Now I was trying out to be a wide receiver for the LA KISS of the Arena Football League. I knew the basics—throw, catch, run, tackle—but the game was new to me; every little nuance, every act of brute force had to be learned, often the hard way. Football looks simple enough, almost bloodless, when we are removed from the violence on the field. And because it looks that way on TV we assume on some narcissistic level that we could do it. We could put in the hours at the gym and tap into the well of unused athletic potential we secretly believe we have. The AFL gets the worst of it. People assume it’s a glorified beer league, that anyone can do it. If anything, I did my best to look the part.

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