Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #222

July 10 – July 16, 2016

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

  1. Farewell To Tim Duncan, The Greatest Two-Way Player In Modern NBA History
  2. 16-Year-Old Sydney McLaughlin To Become Youngest U.S. Track Olympian Since 1972
  3. Project Commits $3 Million to Build 50 Soccer Fields in New York
  4. The And1 mixtape tour brought streetball experience to the masses
  5. Mark Spitz: I’m ‘just a regular guy’ who achieved Olympic swimming glory
  6. Dodgers host stranded youth team from Mexico
  7. Nzingha Prescod Is Changing the Face of Olympic Fencing
  8. Refugee Olympic Team to shine spotlight on worldwide refugee crisis
  9. In Ali’s hometown Louisville, heirs to a boxing legacy
  10. How NBA stars made it to the ESPYS stage

World Experts on Diversity & Inclusion Confirmed to Speak at Beyond Sport (Beyond Sport)
Letter to My Younger Self (The Players’ Tribune)
Serve up these key values to your athletes: attitude and effort (NAYS)
French team brings mountain diplomacy to Iran (Peace and Sport)
A club to support in Lesotho (Beyond Sport)

Athletic success, from the earliest ages, can be accompanied by a fair amount of adulation and idolatry. It is probably (I am guessing since I was not in that position) quite difficult to turn away from the applause, the medals and trophies, and the press coverage the athletes receive. Many athletes, however, don’t see themselves as special and even if they do, they try not to bring any unnecessary attention their way. We see that in practice with Tim Duncan, an NBA legend who just retired after 19 years with the San Antonio Spurs. Tim was respected for his stellar play but also for his demeanor, his class on and off the court. Duncan retired like most people do, he just left. No huge press conference, and certainly no season-long serenade as has been done with other sports “heroes.” Is Duncan just a “regular” guy? Hard to say about someone who won 5 NBA championships, and multiple season and finals MVP awards but he surely he is seen as “someone who did it right.”

Another seemingly regular guy is also featured this week and that is Olympic swimming champion, Mark Spitz. While he calls himself regular, what he accomplished over the span of two Olympic Games was remarkable, 11 medals, including 9 gold (seven at the 1972 Games). In the interview, Mark does come across as very approachable and humble. Hard to believe for someone who held the world’s attention for two weeks and is a prominent figure in Olympic history.

When it comes down it, basically every person, organization or company mentioned in the Sports Doing Good newsletter has done something not-so regular. Their acts, whether for individual advancement or that of others, attract attention and a lot of times, emulation. Done the right way that is surely a method to creating a better society.

The other stories we are happy to feature this week include: 16-year U.S. Olympian Sydney McLaughlin; an ambitious project in New York City that will lead to the construction of 50 soccer fields; the “definitely not regular” ballers from the And1 tour that captured the attention of millions of youth around the country; a wonderful gesture by the Los Angeles Dodgers in support of a Mexican youth baseball team that was stranded without funding to continue their U.S. trip; U.S. Olympic fencer Nzingha Prescod; another look at the team of refugees who will compete at the Summer Games under the Olympic flag; the legacy of boxing in Muhammad Ali’s hometown of Louisville; and a plea from four of the biggest and best players in the NBA to change the “system’ that is leading to the spate of killings and responses we have seen this year in the U.S. This is not a “regular” problem and any solution will have to come from a newer, comprehensive approach.

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

Farewell To Tim Duncan, The Greatest Two-Way Player In Modern NBA History
Put it all together, and it’s hard to find a modern player with a better combination of offensive and defensive résumés than Duncan. To measure this, I used a couple of statistics from value over replacement player (VORP) and Win Shares, both of which strive to capture a player’s total on-court influence over his team’s success.1 I converted both metrics to a figure representing wins above replacement (WAR), and broke down each into its offensive and defensive components, zeroing out seasons where a player dipped into negative-value territory. Then I summed up offensive and defensive WAR for a player’s entire career — including the playoffs, where Duncan built a good amount of his legend — and took the harmonic mean (which favors balance between the two instead of a lopsided total in one category) of a player’s offensive and defensive tallies. By that standard, Duncan has no peers among modern NBA players.

Tim Duncan did it all. Barry Gossage / NBAE via Getty Images

16-Year-Old Sydney McLaughlin To Become Youngest U.S. Track Olympian Since 1972
McLaughlin appeared to be rolling at the trials. She won both her heat (55.46 seconds) and her semifinal (55.23). But inside, she was roiling with doubt. “I think the first day was definitely the hardest,” McLaughlin said, “just the trials, coming up here for the first time and running on this track, in this type of competition. As the rounds went on it definitely got easier to manage the nerves and get used to the field, but it’s a lot of mental preparation, and just keeping the negative thoughts out and trusting in the ability of what you’ve done so far. My coach had a lot to do with that. I had a mental breakdown my first day, and without them I wouldn’t have stepped on the line.” Although McLaughlin came in as the fifth-fastest performer in the world, she thought she was too young to go hurdle-to-hurdle with the older athletes such as Muhammad, who is 26, and Spencer, who is 23. “It was me doubting everything I’d done so far this season,” McLaughlin said, “not understanding that I’ve worked to get where I am and that I deserved to be here. And just thinking, ‘I’m 16 and these girls are all professionals.’ I definitely had a moment where I didn’t think I could do it, and they told me ‘You’re getting on the line and running this race.’ That put me where I am today.”

Sydney McLaughlin competes in the women’s 400-meter hurdles at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Track and Field at Hayward Field on July 7, 2016 in Eugene, Ore.

Project Commits $3 Million to Build 50 Soccer Fields in New York
New York City F.C., along with the city, Adidas and the U.S. Soccer Foundation, will build 50 junior-sized soccer fields in New York City’s five boroughs over the next five years in a $3 million partnership intended to increase participation in the sport and to promote health and social skills among young people in underserved neighborhoods. On Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio will announce the location of the first eight fields at Millbrook Playground in the South Bronx, where an all-weather synthetic field will replace part of a dilapidated playground. The 50 fields will be built on an array of underused or rundown city property, including existing parks and school playgrounds. The project will eventually reach an estimated 10,000 children, the team and city officials said. The four partners will contribute $750,000 apiece to build the fields. The $3 million will also cover maintenance of the fields and after-school activities based on an existing U.S. Soccer Foundation sports and life skills program.

People exercised at Millbrook Playground in the South Bronx on Monday. An all-weather synthetic field will replace part of a dilapidated playground there. Santiago Mejia/The New York Times

The And1 mixtape tour brought streetball experience to the masses
When And1 first came onto the scene, it provided a life-changing opportunity for some of New York City’s greatest streetballers. Local legends Shane “Dribbling Machine” Woney, Wailyy “Main Event” Dixon, Anthony “Half Man, Half Amazing” Heyward, Dennis “Spyda” Chism and Robert “50” Martin would become known as the original six, players who shaped what streetball looked like for a mainstream audience and pushed And1 to the top. And1 basketball has its roots laced tight on hundreds of outdoor battlegrounds, where the best come to prove themselves—Rucker Park, Dyckman, West 4th, Kingdom. New York City is the mecca of streetball and home to six basketball players who just wanted a shot. A shot at greatness, a shot at fame, better, a shot at being immortalized and proving they were more than what people thought, that they were the best non-NBA basketball players the world has ever known. And1 streetball was intended to be as authentic as possible. At the same time, entertainment was entrenched deep into the streetball identity. The original six were out to take that identity to the masses and gain a chance for the next wave of streetball greats to play college, international, or even NBA basketball.

Mark Spitz: I’m ‘just a regular guy’ who achieved Olympic swimming glory
“People always remember me sort of like with a poster with seven gold medals,” Spitz said. “They expect me to still look like I was 22.” Spitz, 66, said his march to his gold medal haul in Munich began at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. The 18-year-old entered the games with ten world records and many experts pegging him for six gold medals. But he ended up winning two team golds, an individual silver and a bronze. “The world thought I had failed,” he said. He then made the decision to attend Indiana University and train under swim coach Doc Counsilman. “That was the greatest thing that ever happened to me to be honest with you,” he said. “It was a great experience learning from him and his tutelage to me emotionally.” Following his amazing performance in 1972, Spitz retired from swimming at 22. Famously draped in his seven gold medals and sporting his trademark mustache, he became one of the first American athletes to capitalize on his Olympic fame by earning millions of dollars in endorsements.

Dodgers host stranded youth team from Mexico
The youth baseball team from Mexico that was left stranded in Southern California this month was given the full VIP experience Friday by the Los Angeles Dodgers. The team of 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds from Aguascalientes, Mexico, had been left high and dry in the Los Angeles area by a sponsor that broke a commitment to pay half the team’s expenses for a six-week stay. Left with basically the players’ $10-a-day in meal money, the team was able to find accommodations, as well as last-minute donations to keep the trip alive. A Facebook page was created to spread word about the team’s plight and update its trip. Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who was born in Mexico but raised in the United States just outside of San Diego, felt compelled to help…The team is made up of players from Little Garcia’s School of Baseball in Aguascalientes, a community outreach program that helps at-risk youth. “It’s because of people that care and the people of Montebello that we were able to keep moving forward,” Garcia Davila said. “I have been bringing kids for four years now and been fortunate to be able to participate in these tournaments. This one was made possible because of the help from all the people.” Gonzalez said he was impressed by the resiliency of the group and hoped the visit to Dodger Stadium brightened their spirits.

A youth team from Mexico spent batting practice on the Dodger Stadium warning track behind home plate and Adrian Gonzalez met with each player individually. Doug Padilla/ESPN

Nzingha Prescod Is Changing the Face of Olympic Fencing
As this year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro approach, Prescod looks to embody excellence and become the role model Serena Williams has become to her throughout the course of her career. “She’s such a champion because she looks fear in the face like, ‘I’m coming for you.’ I really admire her for that,” says Prescod. “It’s empowering for young Black girls to see me be successful at a sport that they’re underrepresented in. So my two goals are to win a medal at the Olympics and to inspire young Black girls to be fearless.” Source recognizes Nzingha Prescod during Women’s History Month for being the first African-American female foilist World Champion and Olympian as she aspires to inspire young girls of color in the sport of fencing.

Refugee Olympic Team to shine spotlight on worldwide refugee crisis
Ten refugee athletes will act as a symbol of hope for refugees worldwide and bring global attention to the magnitude of the refugee crisis when they take part in the Olympic Games Rio 2016 this summer. The athletes will compete for the Refugee Olympic Team (ROT) – the first of its kind – and march with the Olympic flag immediately before host nation Brazil at the Opening Ceremony. The athletes were named to the ROT today by the Executive Board (EB) of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Like all teams at the Olympic Games, the ROT will have its own entourage to meet all the required technical needs of the athletes. Olympian and former marathon world record-holder Tegla Loroupe (Kenya) was named the team’s Chef de Mission, while Isabela Mazão (Brazil), who was proposed by the UNHCR, will act as the Deputy Chef de Mission. They will lead a crew of five coaches and five other team officials. Unveiling the composition of the team, IOC President Thomas Bach said: “These refugees have no home, no team, no flag, no national anthem. We will offer them a home in the Olympic Village together with all the athletes of the word. The Olympic anthem will be played in their honour and the Olympic flag will lead them into the Olympic Stadium. This will be a symbol of hope for all the refugees in our world, and will make the world better aware of the magnitude of this crisis. It is also a signal to the international community that refugees are our fellow human beings and are an enrichment to society. These refugee athletes will show the world that despite the unimaginable tragedies that they have faced, anyone can contribute to society through their talent, skills and strength of the human spirit.”

In Ali’s hometown Louisville, heirs to a boxing legacy
Clay started his training in 1954 at the age of 12 — about the same age as many of the kids at TKO — training at a nearby gym that is now part of Spalding University, at a time when Louisville was a segregated city at the crossroads of the Midwest and the Deep South. He changed his name to Muhammad Ali, and rose to become not just Louisville’s favorite son, but, at the height of his fame, “The Champ” — an American and global phenomenon. Even after his death, Ali remains a larger-than-life presence, nowhere more so than in the minds of these up-and-coming boxers following in his prodigious footsteps. Stephanie Malone, 24, a recent boxing recruit, says she has adopted Ali’s credo as her own. “Be yourself and don’t let anybody dictate who you are, your drive, your determination,” she says, summing up what she said is the crux of Ali’s message. Malone came to boxing relatively late, but has established herself as one of the most gifted fighters at TKO — bobbing, weaving and jabbing with the best of them, fearlessly taking on a more solidly built opponent who she subdues against the ropes. The young woman said Ali remains for her an endless source of inspiration.

How NBA stars made it to the ESPYS stage
Spurred by recent violent events in America and Carmelo Anthony’s social media response to them — evoking an image from the famed Muhammad Ali Summit in 1967, when a handful of the country’s most influential African-American athletes gathered in Cleveland to discuss the issues plaguing the nation and minorities in particular — the group that refers to itself as The Brotherhood chose to deliver a message. LeBron James, Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul were looking for a way to further Anthony’s Instagram message calling on athletes to use their platforms to call for social change. The friends talked on group text and decided to deliver a speech at the ESPYS calling on athletes to do more to enact social change in the wake of high-profile shootings in Dallas, Orlando, St. Paul and Baton Rouge. “This was their idea, and their powerful words … the show ensured their voices had maximum impact,” said Connor Schell, the executive producer of the ESPYS. On Monday, two days before the broadcast, a representative for James reached out to ESPN about the possibility of becoming a part of the show. The purpose, according to a source familiar with James’ thinking, was to highlight the history of professional sports having a tradition of activism and establishing that duty of consciousness with all of the high-profile athletes in attendance.

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