Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #214

May 8 – May 21, 2016

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

  1. The Stephen Curry Approach to Youth Sports
  2. America’s weirdest, most wonderful basketball tournament is back with a social mission
  3. Jacque Davis and the Columbia Women’s Wrestling Club
  4. Flint City roller derby team refuses to be broken by water crisis
  5. NFL partners with SWAC to increase ethnic off-field opportunities
  6. Here Comes Futsal: Can Indoor Soccer Make it in America Again?
  7. The Benefits of Stress: How Up2Us Sports is Redefining the Role of Competition, for Good
  8. The rise, and fall, and rise again of Marcus Lattimore
  9. FanAngel Continues to Change Lives – Launches Campaigns With Washington Capitals And New York Red Bulls
  10. NFL star Patrick Willis is thriving in retirement as a Silicon Valley tech worker

Qatar Olympic Committee Announces Rio 2016 Legacy Project
Manny Santiago: My Little Oasis
Game on for girls in sport
Karate World Championships open to participation of refugees

A theme that we noticed this week has to do with the idea of specialization versus diversification. So many individuals featured in Sports Doing Good are obviously exemplary in their chosen sport. Hours upon hours of physical training, practice, study, and actual game time help create the expert talent we so admire in these individuals. But as we have seen before in anecdotal evidence and via many research efforts, specialization can also be harmful. A single-minded focus on a narrow task can lead to burnout and the inability to adapt to changing circumstances.

In several stories this week we see the benefit of having a balanced approach to sport and life. The first story involves NBA MVP Stephen Curry and his experience as a young athlete who played a number of sports before finally focusing on his chosen profession, basketball, when he entered college. Our last story involves former NFL All-Pro Patrick Willis, who has followed a post-football career path that is unusual for those who think pro football players are one-dimensional. Willis is now an executive with a technology start-up in the high-paced world of Silicon Valley. Finally, we feature a profile of Marcus Lattimore, a recent college graduate who for much of his life was seen as a great football player who suffered a terrible injury that ended his dreams. That is true if Marcus was only seen as a football player. His amazing story showcases that he is much more than just an athlete and how having multiple interests and talents will ensure that he will still have a very fulfilling life.

The other stories we are happy to feature include: the upcoming Basketball Tournament that is giving some very socially-minded teams an opportunity to play for the $2 million top prize; the growth of girls wrestling at the youth level; a tight-knit group of roller derby athletes from Flint, Michigan who are battling with their fellow citizens to live the healthy life they all deserve; the NFL’s efforts to work with members of the SWAC conference to provide opportunities for advancement in the coaching and executive ranks; the reemergence of the exciting sport of futsal; how the sports-based youth development organization Up2Us is helping create a cadre of amazingly important and influential coaches; and the new fundraising platform, Fan Angel, and two early examples of its success with pro teams.

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

The Stephen Curry Approach to Youth Sports
As sports scientists continue to study how elite athletes develop, many of them have come to the conclusion that early specialization is the wrong approach. In the last five years, the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the International Olympic Committee have published research supporting the position that children should sample different sports, rather than picking one too early. As sports scientists continue to study how elite athletes develop, many of them have come to the conclusion that early specialization is the wrong approach. In the last five years, the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the International Olympic Committee have published research supporting the position that children should sample different sports, rather than picking one too early. “It’s been proven scientifically to be a much better path to success to try lots of different sports,” said NBA executive vice president Kiki Vandeweghe. “I think Steph Curry is a great example of that.”

Dell Curry of the Charlotte Hornets and his son Stephen sit with Mitch Richmond of the Sacramento Kings and Drazen Petrovic of the New Jersey Nets during the 1992 NBA Three-Point Competition. Photo: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

America’s weirdest, most wonderful basketball tournament is back with a social mission
There’s weird-weird, and then there’s good-weird. The Basketball Tournament — which we introduced to the world in 2014 — is most definitely good-weird. The roundball free-for-all is back for its third year, and bigger than ever. Like in years prior, sixty-four teams will winnow down to one champ. As usual, former college and NBA stars playing for a fat payday will have you tripping down memory lane. The tourney’s semifinals and Aug. 2 title game will be broadcast on ESPN this year. But this summer, there’s even more money at stake. The winning team now takes home $2 million — a big jump from the inaugural tournament’s $500,000 prize and last year’s $1 million jackpot. The Basketball Tournament is also using its growing profile for good. Four spots — one in each of the tournament’s geographical regions — will be held for squads that fundraise the most money for their local Big Brothers/Big Sisters affiliates through the donation site GoFundMe. Teams make the field primarily through online fan voting or at-large selections, but this offers a backdoor in.

Overseas Elite celebrates winning The Basketball Tournament last year. Image: the basketball tournament

Jacque Davis and the Columbia Women’s Wrestling Club
Wrestling is the fastest growing sport for girls in New York City according to public records. In the past four years, the number of high school girls grappling for spots on the boys’ teams has nearly tripled from 93 to 254. That might seem miniscule to the thousands of girls who play soccer or basketball every year, but as the demand for a separate female division has grown, the Public School Athletic League decided to create the first girls’ division in 2012. Last year, 293 athletes participated in the girls’ season. The growth in female combat sports runs parallel to “Rousey Effect.” In 2012, former judo Olympian Ronda Rousey signed as one of the first female fighters to enter the UFC ring. Rousey’s dominance in mixed martial arts and her numerous appearances in action films brought women’s combat sports into pop culture. After years of being undefeated she showed the world that women could fight, whether it’s knockouts in the Octagon or kicking ass in The Fast and the Furious. Columbia men’s wrestling coach Carl Fronhofer believes, however, that the main reason behind the sport’s boom is not as sexy as a Hollywood action flick. “Most of the time, the biggest factor is the human resources,” said Fronhofer. “You need people who are confident and passionate about whatever it is you’re trying to do.”

Shaina and Jaime wait for the next match at the New England Freestyle Championships. (Adele Jackson-Gibson photo)

Flint City roller derby team refuses to be broken by water crisis
“It’s literally the team and my family that keep me going,” says Lopez. Jessica Bateman, (aka Crazy Diamond) feels the same way. “Sometimes bad things happen, terrible things, and derby is your family,” she says. When her son died unexpectedly in November of 2015, the team rallied. The sport emphasizes the need to connect with something bigger than themselves. After the news the team tried to keep some sense of normalcy, and went to Wednesday night practice as usual, but they couldn’t skate. Everybody stripped off their gear and went to Jessica’s house to spend the night. On the day of the funeral, the entire team came to the service in their Flint City gear. They take turns doing one another small favors. Still when a third of your team is unsure of the toxicity of the water pouring from the taps in their homes, sometimes it’s the little things that matter. The group spends weekends delivering cases of water to those that might need it…Five of the members on the team (including Coach Cotton) live within Flint’s city limits. Even for those whose water is deemed “safe,” everyone knows somebody affected by the latest manmade disaster unfolding in their town. “I maintain that derby finds people when they need it; that’s what my father taught me about sports, that it was meant to be a transitional phase, to take you from one place to another, ” says Brian Thomas, (aka Hell Ocho), one of Flint City’s assistant coaches.

Jilly Shark, Kategory 5, AshTray, Jojo McBruiseher, Block Mamba and SlapHer Sally take a break during final practice before their bout against Grand Raggidy’s B-team on April 6.  Photo: Latria Graham

NFL partners with SWAC to increase ethnic off-field opportunities
The NFL is partnering with two preeminent Historically Black College & Universities (HBCU) athletic conferences – the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) – to increase opportunities for ethnic minorities – both professionals and students – interested in pursuing careers in football administration, the league announced today. The goal is to provide qualified individuals with the preparation and skills needed to secure employment in professional football administration. “Our partnership with the HBCUs is not only important for our pipeline of qualified individuals at all levels of football, but also to improve the NFL’s goals for diversity and inclusion,” said NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations TROY VINCENT.  “With our HBCU partnership, we are making steady progress in developing future coaches, officials, scouts, managers, front office personnel and others through effective football resources, educational programs and internships.” In addition to the NFL providing much-needed support to HBCU academic and athletic endeavors, MEAC and SWAC personnel will benefit from programs that include internships at the club and league level, integration of HBCU football operations staff – including athletic trainers, video directors and equipment managers – into existing NFL platforms such as the Regional Combines, and networking and mentorship opportunities.

Here Comes Futsal: Can Indoor Soccer Make it in America Again?
But Tozer and Hitchcock are bullish on the ability of indoor and outdoor soccer to coexist. “With the growth of the outdoor game, there’s business opportunities for things that are authentic and real and connected to the world’s most popular game. And futsal is the authentic indoor version of soccer,” Hitchcock says. “Soccer has done a great job of building not just Major League Soccer but also the minor league system. Futsal is going to have its place as well. I see it as very complementary to one another.” In theory, this is true. Futsal can help create an environment that will help develop better American players, indoor and outdoor. In the many states where fields are unplayable in the winter, futsal offers a suitable, technique-driven alternative. Plenty of outdoor stars played futsal growing up, including Lionel Messi. It should be said, however, that boosters of the sport have conveniently labeled any kind of soccer played indoors as futsal, meaning, rather fortuitously, that every single major outdoor star has played it at some point. Still, it certainly kickstarted Michallik’s outdoor career. “Those are some of the best memories I have being in this country for 30 years,” he says.

The Benefits of Stress: How Up2Us Sports is Redefining the Role of Competition, for Good
That works for sports because if there is one demographic that is adept at learning and building skills, it’s coaches. “Taking small steps, and structuring activities so that you’re always adding a little bit more—whether you’re trying to perfect your foul shooting or whatever it may be—is exactly what’s needed to build relationships, and behaviors.” Building relationships, building culture, building competence—all three are a process of small gains, of concrete steps. It takes a lot of discipline to become a good athlete, and coaches who understand the universal quality of this process as a means to success on and off the court are invaluable to the athletes under their guidance. “If good coaches make clear connections about these skills, where kids might be able to use them in other parts of their lives, then you’ve really capitalized on the potential benefit of sports for an educational outcome—it’s different from saying we’re going to make you do the education side so that you can play sports. No, there’s actually a really cool link—kids who have learned the skill of discipline can also be taught that that skill is transferable to other parts of their lives.”

The rise, and fall, and rise again of Marcus Lattimore
It reminds her of Lattimore’s increasing happiness. She knows he has found solace in charitable efforts, especially when he’s running around with kids at his football camps on his tattered knee. “Here he is, inspiring 150 kids at each camp and all of them are looking up to him,” Miranda said. “I’m looking at him like this is true happiness here.” He has joined a kickball league and tends to his foundation every day. And if his positivity dips, Lattimore thinks back to the athletes he has helped and the estimated 250,000 letters of support he has received from fans over the years. On the morning of his graduation, Lattimore received an email from an aspiring football player in England who suffered a similar knee injury. He wanted Lattimore to know how much he inspires him. After finishing breakfast, Lattimore heads outside, finding fans everywhere. He speaks quietly with one before a group of women swarm him for a picture. He happily obliges; they thank him and offer more congratulations. A few photos later, he departs. It’s just another day in the happier life of Marcus Lattimore. Things move a little slower now, but he couldn’t be more thrilled with where his life is. Unexpected turns have put him on the path to peace. “There’s always light on the other side of the tunnel,” he said. “I’m living proof of it.”

Marcus Lattimore burst onto the scene in 2010 for the Gamecocks, earning freshman of the year honors and setting a school record for rushing yards. Frankie Creel/US Presswire

FanAngel Continues to Change Lives – Launches Campaigns with Washington Capitals and New York Red Bulls
The ability to find a true passion, to commit yourself towards mastering your goal while inspiring others in the process, is a feat that many dream of, but only few attain. However, there is a company that has consistently proved time and time again that professional athletes, organizations, as well as sports fans, can work as a cohesive unit and change the lives of people all over the world. FanAngel, is a crowdfunding website giving sports fans all over the world the ability to engage with their favorite athletes and teams, raising money for those in need. These charitable acts are made possible through philanthropic events, and other charitable campaigns associated with specific athletes and organizations. Recently, FanAngel has announced their newest Crowdfunding-For-Performance Campaigns, which includes the “So Kids Can” campaign with the Washington Capitals, as well as the “Light It Up Blue” campaign with the NY Red Bulls. The Red Bulls have partnered with Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, while the Capitals have partnered with Monumental Sports and Entertainment (MSE) Foundation benefiting Horton’s Kids, a non-profit organization supporting at-risk children in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington D.C. “MSE Foundation and the Capitals are excited to be partnering with FanAngel on our So Kids Can fundraising campaign”, states Elizabeth Pace, Executive Director of the MSE Foundation.

NFL star Patrick Willis is thriving in retirement as a Silicon Valley tech worker
Hearing Willis and Niazi discuss their working relationship — after years of watching Willis deliver bone-crushing NFL hits — is surreal. Here’s Niazi: “A lot of guys come in with a big ego, but Patrick’s not like that. He’s just a total pleasure to work with.” And now Willis: “It just felt like, a lot of times in my other occupation, it was all about you as an individual. Here, I’m part of a team in a little bit of a different way.” Unlike the many apps and games that have made technology a popular phenomenon, Open Source Storage is a behind-the-scenes player. Basically, the company provides storage and infrastructure solutions to other companies. (Niazi’s original iteration of the company worked with Shutterfly, Friendster and Facebook, among others.) It currently has about 60 employees, some full-time and some on contract. When Carrie Pendolino, the company’s current vice president for marketing, applied for an opening last December, both Willis and Niazi interviewed her. “Then I came home and my husband and son were like, ‘Uh, do you know who that was?!?’” Pendolino recalled recently. It’s a situation others can likely relate to; Willis is involved in interviewing most of the company’s prospective hires.

Patrick Willis then and now. Image: Marcio Jose Sanchez, AP / Sam Laird, mashable

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