Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #218

June 12 – June 18, 2016

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

  1. Orlando Community Showing Incredible Strength, Perseverance and Teamwork
  2. Boy Who Couldn’t Afford Football Equipment for Tryouts Gets Surprise From Stranger
  3. Football unites against domestic violence
  4. Who We Are (Richard Jefferson of the Cleveland Cavaliers for The Players’ Tribune)
  5. Leaving Past Behind, Northern Ireland Unified Behind Its Team
  6. My Olympic Journey: Making the First Cut
  7. Former Fighting Irish Football Player Lives To Make The World A Better Place
  8. Friends of Jaclyn Foundation Gives Elijah and Jackson a Shot at College Football
  9. Euro Soccer: Just as Good as the World Cup, if Not Better
  10. Summer Olympics 2016: 10 Early Storylines to Watch

Letter to My Younger Sister (Russel Wilson) (The Players’ Tribune)
Denmark announces refugee-only football league (Beyond Sport)
Golden insight: 2-time Olympic champ shares youth sports memories (NAYS)
In Louisville, Ali should be remembered as the true, peaceful face of Islam (Peace and Sport)

In times of need or when facing challenges, we rightly turn to those whom we trust the most, the folks who have been there to provide support in the past. This could be family, friends, and in the context of sports, our teammates. We try to find strength in their words and actions as they help us to deal with whatever situation may be at hand. We have a story this week that speaks to such a connection, an essay by Richard Jefferson, a veteran NBA player who is on the Cleveland Cavaliers, speaking about his teammates, especially LeBron James, the night before they were to play in the biggest game of the season (they ended up winning that game).

But it is not always about those closest to us that provide the support we need. Sometimes the most important assistance we get are from strangers, those who want to help a fellow man or woman or child. We have several stories this week that speak to that reality, including a look at how sports entities in the Orlando area have rallied the community in the face of that horrific crime. We also have an adult, Earl Davis, driving by a young man, Demarco Bailey, using rudimentary tools to train for his upcoming football season. Earl, who has two football-playing sons, decided to fix the situation and before he knew it, dozens of others also stepped in to give this young man the equipment and group support he will need to reach his goals. We also have two stories from the college football world, one including recent graduate Joe Schmidt from Notre Dame and his connection with a fellow alum and his family; and the other a team-wide effort by the Georgetown Hoyas to bring in two “recruits” and give them a wonderful experience beyond their wildest dreams.

The other stories we are happy to feature this week include: a concerted effort by Premier League football players in England to fight for women facing domestic violence; a look at the evolution of the Northern Ireland football team and its return to elite international competition; the first step in one woman’s journey to become a U.S. Olympian; a look at one of the two major football competitions taking place right now, Euro 2016; and a peak at 10 storylines we may see in August during the Summer Olympic Games in Rio.

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

Orlando Community Showing Incredible Strength, Perseverance and Teamwork
Out of unspeakable tragedy has come incredible strength, perseverance and teamwork all throughout Orlando. And the hope now is that Orlando’s togetherness and resiliency will ultimately define the area more so than the heinous crime that stunned Central Florida and the nation alike. Helping with the healing of a community still picking up the pieces from the devastation of recent events are Orlando’s professional sports teams. In a combined effort, the Orlando Magic, Orlando City, Orlando Pride, Orlando Solar Bears and Orlando Predators joined forces to display to the nation and the world Orlando’s strength and solidarity. The Magic, Lions, Pride, Solar Bears and Predators will be selling T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan, “#OrlandoUnited’’ and the net proceeds will be donated to the City of Orlando’s One Orlando Fund. has been set up to support those impacted by the June 12 terror attack at Pulse nightclub that left 49 people dead and another 53 victims injured…“Our community will heal because there are so many great things about our Central Florida community, including the fact that we are a community of inclusion and acceptance,’’ Martins said recently. “We need to band together as we do during difficult times. And certainly the things that we have been through in the past pale in comparison to what happened to our community, and quite frankly our country and the world, over the weekend with Orlando as the focal point. Our community does a great job of coming together, whatever situation it is, that we need to come together to improve or heal and I know our community will.’’

Boy Who Couldn’t Afford Football Equipment for Tryouts Gets Surprise From Stranger
A chance encounter between a teen and a stranger passing by has turned into a viral sensation resulting in some major surprises for 15-year-old Demarco Bailey. “I was on my way to a job interview and I rode past him,” Earl Davis, of Fort Wayne, Indiana, said of the first time he met Demarco, who was working out on the side of the road with tires chained around his waist for strength training. After the two started chatting, Demarco explained that he made the homemade equipment to train himself so he could make the football team at school next year when he’s a sophomore. His family couldn’t afford real equipment, but that certainly wasn’t going to dampen his spirits or slow Demarco down. “He’s so small and he looks about the same age as my kids that I coach,” Davis, who coaches football for Metro Youth Sports, recalled of their initial conversation. “So I saw him and I was like, ‘Wow.’ My two boys play football and they were home asleep. They work hard, I can’t say that they don’t, but I wanted to take his picture to come home to show them his dedication.” The Facebook post read, in part, “I gave him my name and number so he can work out with my boys, told him we have sleds, parachutes, resistant bands, weights, [etc.] He was geeked up. Best part of all, the whole conversation took place while he was still jogging. He said, ‘Sorry to be rude coach but you gotta drive while I jog. I gotta stay moving.’ He didn’t wanna stop long enough to take a pic! When a kid wants to succeed as bad as they wanna breathe……..then they will be successful.”–abc-news-topstories.htmlCourtesy of Earl Davis

Football unites against domestic violence
Women’s Aid, which works to end domestic abuse against women and girls, started the campaign in the run-up to the 2014 World Cup, claiming reports to police from women who had been victims of violence by their male partners rose by up to 30% during the tournament four years earlier in South Africa. Working with national football clubs and organisations, police, players and fans, the aim is to raise awareness of domestic abuse and sexist attitudes that underpin abuse. Guests at the reception came from the worlds of football, politics, film and television as well as survivors of domestic abuse. Polly Neate, the Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, thanked the Premier League and PFA (Professional Footballers’ Association) for their commitment to the campaign which they are planning to develop further. “We are so proud to be working with footballing organisations such as the Premier League and the PFA to be able to raise awareness of domestic abuse and the importance of healthy relationships,” said Neate. “We really appreciate the enthusiasm of our campaign supporters and are looking forward to planning the next steps of the campaign with their support.”

Who We Are (Richard Jefferson of the Cleveland Cavaliers for The Players’ Tribune)
There’s another reason I’m sharing this now — when I should be trying to relax. It’s a personal reason. I’m no longer a young buck in the league. I’m not 25 or 30, I’m not the main guy. I’m riding on someone else’s shoulders. When I came here this year, I knew my role. I’m just trying to help the team and do my part. I know how hard it is to make it to the Finals. To make it to a Game 6. I know how lucky we are that we’re home for this one. LeBron brought it home for me after the Toronto series. We were sitting diagonal from each other on the team plane when we were flying home after our victory in Game 6. I was staring off into space and shaking my head. I didn’t notice he was watching me. Bron got up from his seat and sat down next to me. “Richard, I know.” I was still shaking my head. “Richard, I know.” Head shaking. I didn’t know what to say. I was a little emotional. “Four more, come on,” he said. I’ll probably tell him how much this meant to me when this is all over. LeBron knows the journey I’ve been on. I made my first NBA Finals when he was still in high school. He’s very aware of what he’s trying to accomplish for this city. He’s aware of how much it would mean to me, and the rest of the guys, to win a championship. I don’t care if you’re a LeBron “fan,” or not, I have seen it: Bron has something I’ve never seen. The way he says “follow me and I’ll take you there” with actions, more than words, is like no one else I’ve ever played with. He’s the kind of leader who makes you want to carry the weight too. I feel indebted to him. We all do.

Getty Images

Leaving Past Behind, Northern Ireland Unified Behind Its Team
Belfast remains a patchwork of allegiances and murals, but the streets no longer contain the guns and the British troops that characterized the worst of times. Many of the walls around Windsor Park are painted with murals supporting loyalist paramilitary groups, alongside the faces of Northern Irish sports heroes like the snooker player Alex Higgins, known as Hurricane, and the former Manchester United star George Best. But the teams themselves believe they no longer represent that divide. Glentoran is from the heavily Protestant area of East Belfast, in the shadow of the Harland and Wolff shipyard, which built the Titanic. It once counted Best as a boyhood fan and Michael O’Neill as a late-career player, but it has long been a mixed side. “Half the team is Catholic, the manager is Catholic,” the club’s secretary, Ricky Rea, said of the current Northern Ireland team. “I don’t care if it’s the pope and 10 cardinals playing, as long we’re winning every week.” Many have the same opinion of the national team. “It is a country we can all be proud of — look at the different backgrounds of the players,” said Linfield’s coach, David Healy, after his side’s 3-0 victory in the derby. Healy had himself only recently retired from playing for Northern Ireland, and he still holds the national team’s scoring record, including a 2006 hat trick against Spain.

Northern Ireland fans applauded their team after Sunday’s loss in the European Championships. Credit Eddie Keogh/Reuters

My Olympic Journey: Making the First Cut
As the morning went on, I continued to feel more and more out of place. EVERYONE else did what I now know to be a proper track warm-up, but as a former volleyball player in college, that wasn’t a part of my warm-up routine. I did a couple laps, stretched my legs a few times and waited for things to get started. I did my first sprint and actually felt pretty good about it. I returned to the group with a bit of old my confidence back when I was hit with the news that the timer had malfunctioned and did not record a time. Not taking enough time to recover before my second attempt, I took off for my second sprint. My second run through felt like a night and day difference from my first attempt and my time reflected that feeling. An onlooker pulled me aside to let me know that I was slowing down before the finish line and it was negatively impacting my time. To avoid making the same mistake, I opted to complete the other two parts of the combine before sprinting again. At the end of day they tallied up our scores and told us that if we scored high enough, we would receive an email inviting us to a push camp at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, NY. I got a ride back to the training center, took a quick picture in the Athlete Center to prove that I had been there and then headed for home.

Former Fighting Irish Football Player Lives To Make The World A Better Place
After Schmidt’s season had ended, Evans sent him a letter explaining who he was, and what had happened to his son. He also explained how Schmidt was a hero to him, and how his hard work and dedication was an inspiration to him and his family. An emotional Schmidt read the letter, and immediately wanted to do something memorable for Evans’ and his family. He sent Evans a letter along with a Notre Dame medal, which all players receive before a game, Joe’s MVP plaque, and a picture of his medal attached to a Notre Dame helmet. On the picture, Schmidt signed: “Schmidt Family, I’m sharing my journey with you.” “For me it was being able to share my journey with someone who wasn’t able to live theirs,” he said. “I had wanted to do something small and put a smile on their faces. Knowing I was thinking about their son and trying to play for him – it was just awesome to do something like that.” Schmidt was an inspiration to Evans’ and his family, but it wasn’t a one-time thing for him. While at Notre Dame, Schmidt was very active in helping in the community. It’s something that has been instilled in him ever since he was growing up. “I think it was just part of how I was raised,” he said. “Service has always been a huge part of my life. The big influences on giving back are my parents, who showed me at a young age how important charity is.”

Friends of Jaclyn Foundation Gives Elijah and Jackson a Shot at College Football
At the tender ages of 12 and 8, Elijah Davis and Jackson Dundon are already the most prized recruits in Georgetown University’s history – if eligible; they’d only be sophomores for the Hoyas this year. Unfortunately, their age and ailments prevent them from participating at the collegiate level. Both suffer from separate cases of brain cancer, but together, they have found a way to still participate in the complete Hoya gridiron experience. In 2014, special teams coach Kevin Doherty spearheaded an effort to unite community and team with these two young men through the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation – an initiative inspired by brain tumor survivor Jaclyn Murphy. Georgetown decided to recruit and offer an opportunity for Elijah and Jackson to become a part of the Hoya football program as honorary members. “We give these guys complete access to our program, players and our families”, said Coach Doherty. “If these two are around, we drop everything to accommodate them, without hesitation.” Under the direction of head coach Rob Sgarlata, the Hoyas brought out all of the stops for Elijah and Jackson’s signing day experience. There were banners, cheerleaders, community of supporters, Georgetown’s mascot: Jack the Bulldog and Dennis Murphy – father of Jaclyn Murphy, at their commitment press conference. “It was an emotional day, but it was also a lot of fun for our football team and for Jackson and Elijah”, said Doherty. “It was pretty cool.”

Euro Soccer: Just as Good as the World Cup, if Not Better
For some American fans, the World Cup is the be-all and end-all of international soccer. There is no close second. Across the Atlantic, though, many fans, soccer writers and even some players have contended that the European championships, or Euros, which began on Friday, produce better soccer than the World Cup. The pro-Euro argument is that a lot more teams compete in the World Cup, including some from countries that have rarely done well at the international level. This can create too many lopsided games and possibly drag down the overall quality of the soccer. So while there have been many great games in the World Cup, the thinking goes, the standard of play has been lower on balance. There are reasons for assuming this is true. The best players from around the world overwhelmingly play for European clubs, which helps bolster the standard of European players. European national teams have won four of the last five World Cups, and seven of the 10 finalists were European. But is the game in fact better when the Europeans play only against one another?

Summer Olympics 2016: 10 Early Storylines to Watch
The Olympics, like a good movie, have a set of plot lines that surprise the viewer. They can’t be anticipated before we watch. That’s what provides the excitement. We get to see no-name athletes burst into stardom. After all, Michael Phelps was once just another swimmer. Then he became a household name. Every movie also has a trailer to go along with it, a preview to try to entice the viewer to watch. It gives us a general guideline of what we will see without spoiling the excitement. Consider these 10 storylines your Olympics trailer. It’s a set of talking points sure to be highlighted throughout this summer’s Olympic coverage, each of which can add to the excitement and intrigue of the upcoming Games. You’ll hear about the debuts of the South Sudan and refugee delegations quite a bit. But we’ll still be left wondering whether any of those underdog athletes can medal in their events. As in any Olympics, there will be athletes chasing records in the pool, on the field or track and in the gym. We know that history will be made. We just don’t know how. This preview is an attempt to give you a better shot at catching that history in the making.

Simone Biles, 19, has never competed in the Olympics, yet she’s already considered one of the best gymnasts of all time. Associated Press

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