Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #224

July 24 – July 30, 2016

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

  1. The Steve Gleason Movie: Raw, Emotional and Real
  2. Olympics: Female swimmer challenges Libyan taboos
  3. Michael Jordan Comments on Donations to Civil Rights and Community-Police Groups
  4. The Longest Run: Olympics about more than winning for Refugee team
  5. Olympic Runner Who Once Couldn’t Afford Shoes Now Donates Kicks To Kids
  6. Manchester United And UNICEF Champion Rights Of Young People In China
  7. Coach Tempest: Squash Provides Relief and Opportunity
  8. In Rio Slum, a Gleaming Hotbed of … Badminton?
  9. How WNBA star Tamika Catchings is flipping the script on the athlete farewell tour
  10. ‘Game, Blouses’; The real story behind the famous Chappelle skit about Prince’s late-night hoops challenge

Sports can be used to help national integration (Beyond Sport)
Nothing in Guaranteed (by James Conner) (The Players’ Tribune)
Italy hosts first Down’s Syndrome ‘Olympics’ (Peace and Sport)
Can sport solve America’s mental health crisis? (Sport and Dev)
Up2Us Sports Receives $1.8 Million in National and State AmeriCorps Grants (Up2Us)
100% Sport: Uniting Sports Fans to Take Action for a More Sustainable World (Green Sports Alliance)

Our collection of stories are book-ended by two very different, but very real stories. The first story, which takes a look at a just released documentary, Gleason, tells the incredibly pain-staking journey of Steve Gleason (and his wife) as professional football star to a patient diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Reading this article was difficult so I can only imagine what impact the movie will have on the viewer, myself included. I am privy to the ravages of the disease as I have a dear family member suffering from a related disease with similar effects. Please read this article and see this movie. It sounds like it is a life-changing experience.

The other story we feature takes us to the other end of the spectrum of emotion. You can’t help wonder and be incredulous that such an event took place but the participants claim it is very true. And very funny. Before you read the story, we suggest you take a look at the TV clip that spurred this story. (From Comedy Central, please note the clip is uncensored)—prince—uncensored. Dave Chapelle is Prince and Prince is a badass (is that a surprise?) on the court. Let this story get you to smile and laugh, and appreciate the weird things that can happen in life at any time.

The other stories we are happy to feature include: a groundbreaking Libyan athlete, Daniah Hagul, who while trying to perform at her best also appreciates the impact she may be able to have on a larger population; comments from NBA legend and current team owner Michael Jordan regarding the national debate of police violence and violence against the police; a detailed look at the various members of the Team Refugees who will competing under the Olympic flag at the upcoming Rio Games; a moving portrait of U.S. runner Brenda Martinez and her journey to the 2016 Rio Games and her commitment to giving back so that more young people will have the chance to enjoy the joys of running and competing; a new partnership between the world famous Manchester United soccer club and UNICEF targeted to help the young in China; a look at a very special coach, Tempest Bowden, and program, SquashSmarts, that has and will continue to change lives; the rise of hometown Olympian, Sebastiao de Oliveira, who is helping to spread the joy and influence of his chosen sport, badminton, to a group not often witness to such positivity; and a look at champion athlete and humanitarian, Tamika Catchings of the WNBA.

Finally, we want to let you know of an excellent event coming up on Aug. 9 in Brooklyn, New York. Put on by our friends at Beyond Sport, the event, Beyond Sport United, brings together an unprecedented number of influential and passionate members of the sport for development movement. If you can, please join them for what should be another fantastic event.
“On August 9th, the highly-anticipated Beyond Sport United – backed by US major leagues MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL, NHL & WNBA will welcome a compelling line-up of speakers to explore sport’s unique power, responsibility and role in addressing key issues associated with Diversity & Inclusion, at a time in society when it has never been so crucial to do so. Hosted at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, Beyond Sport United will be a day of insight, idea exchange, and education, that will drive the agenda for creating a level playing field across all sports, for everyone to participate and enjoy, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or socio-economic background.”

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

The Steve Gleason Movie: Raw, Emotional and Real
Gleason, 39, was diagnosed with ALS in January 2011, two months shy of his 34th birthday. Soon after, he and Varisco found out she was pregnant, and son Rivers was born that October. Knowing he might have only a few years to live, Gleason decided to tape a series of video journals, lessons to a son whom he might never be able to properly mentor. Two young filmmakers, Ty Minton-Small and David Lee, soon joined the project, to help document the family’s life. Director Clay Tweel then combed through that 1,300 hours of recorded history to shape the footage—raw and uncensored, as Gleason wanted it—into the two-hour feature film. Gleason got made in the hopes that it would spur funding for ALS research and bring attention to a debilitating disease that affects an estimated 30,000 Americans and for which there is no cure. “What is so surreal about this,” Drew Brees, Gleason’s friend and former teammate, said recently, “is that all this footage, the thousands of hours of it, was not compiled with the intention of being seen at the Sundance Film Festival. But that’s where it ended up.” That’s where I saw it in January, in my first of two viewings. I found myself agreeing with The New York Times’ review after it debuted there: “Prepare to be wrecked.” I teared up or downright wept six times during the showing, and the crowd there was equally moved. I sat next to former NFL long-snapper Lonie Paxton, and I could hear him choke up during the film.

© Sports Illustrated

Olympics: Female swimmer challenges Libyan taboos
Bashir and his wife Samira hope that their daughter can help change mentalities in their country. “Competitive swimming for girls is new to Libya and some people are finding the concept too much of a challenge,” said Samira. “However, I truly believe it all starts with parents who should challenge rigid mindsets by encouraging and supporting their girls to pursue this great sport.” Few women have represented Libya at the Olympics. At the 2008 Beijing Games, Libyan-American Asmahan Farhat won a heat in a 100m breaststroke but did not get to the semi-finals. Freestyler Amira Edrahi competed at Athens in 2004, the first Libyan woman swimmer at an Olympics since Soad and Nadia Fezzani in the 1980 Moscow Games. The Libyan press has given Daniah little coverage. But she is often mentioned on social media by Libyans who hope she can win a medal — a rare good news story for a country immersed in conflict. Hagul has won a place at the Mount Kelly School in Britain’s Devon countryside. The school has produced 19 Olympic or Commonwealth Games swimmers and six Olympic medal winners. She is not impressed by the British weather but is inspired by the school’s swimming programme devised by Robin Brew who swam for Britain at the 1984 Olympics. “Robin is a great coach and mentor,” Hagul said.

Michael Jordan Comments on Donations to Civil Rights and Community-Police Groups
Jordan, 53, will donate $1 million to the Institute for Community-Police Relations and $1 million to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The International Association of Chiefs of Police announced the launch of its community relations arm in May amid social unrest following the high-profile deaths of multiple black citizens in recent years. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has been in place for decades to help fight for racial justice and protect civil rights. “Although I know these contributions alone are not enough to solve the problem, I hope the resources will help both organizations make a positive difference,” Jordan wrote. Jordan’s donation comes a little less than two weeks after LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul opened the 2016 ESPYs with a plea to athletes to use their status to speak on such issues.

The Longest Run: Olympics about more than winning for Refugee team
To be fair, Bach had been thinking about pairing the worldwide refugee crisis—the worst since World War II—and the Olympics almost from the moment he took office in September 2013. Tegla Loroupe, the Kenyan marathon legend, had been scouting and training talented South Sudanese refugees for years; Bach spoke to her that fall about expanding the work worldwide, and last September the IOC authorized $2 million in funding for the effort. “I was always wishing that I had somebody to help me,” says Loroupe, whose training camp welcomed 30 refugee runners last October. “If it was not for IOC, I couldn’t support these athletes.” Meanwhile, the crisis is so great, and the journeys of some athletes have been so harrowing, that the Refugee Team’s march into Maracanã Stadium under the Olympic flag during the opening ceremony, just before Brazil’s delegation, figures to be irresistible. There will be swimmer Yusra Mardini, 18, of Syria, where a five-year civil war has killed more than 400,000 people and scattered four million refugees across the Middle East and Europe. In the summer of 2015, Mardini, one of Syria’s top freestylers, boarded an inflatable dinghy in Izmir, Turkey, bound for the Greek island of Lesbos. When the boat’s motor died, she jumped into the Aegean Sea with her older sister, Sarah, and another refugee and kicked for three hours, pushing and pulling the boat to safety. “I hated the sea after that,” Yusra said at a news conference in March.

Olympic Runner Who Once Couldn’t Afford Shoes Now Donates Kicks to Kids
Aside from her tenacity, the Olympian also has a heart of gold. For the past four years, Martinez has hosted an annual summer camp for 10 to 12 female high school runners, she described to FloTrack. The camp includes daily runs and clinics about confidence, healthy living and positive thinking. Martinez and Handler cover all expenses, including meals, and even personally pick the girls up when they arrive in couple’s town of Big Bear Lake, California. Martinez, however, does let her sponsor help out a little bit. New Balance provides each camper with workout clothes and three pairs of shoes — gear Martinez couldn’t afford as a kid. “These are the girls that I definitely look up to,” Martinez told New Balance in the video below. “If in the middle of a work out I’m having a hard time, my husband will yell, ‘How many little girls do you want to motivate? How many people do you want to help?’ I just dig deep and find a way to finish.”

Ivan Sekretarev/AP

Manchester United and UNICEF Champion Rights of Young People In China
The players hope that their influence across the huge Manchester United fan base in China will help champion the rights of marginalised adolescents, and encourage young people to be the drivers of change. Adolescence is often a challenging time for young people; an exciting but often uncertain transition from dependency to independence, sometimes leading to confusion, pressure and even depression. “Adolescence is a valuable period of childhood in its own right, but it is also a critical period of transition and opportunity for improving life chances,” said Rana Flowers, Unicef Representative to China. “By providing positive and supportive opportunities that enrich the developmental environment during adolescence, it is possible to overcome some of the consequences of early childhood harm and build resilience to mitigate future harm. With their passion, resilience and commitment, players from Manchester United can be positive role models for young people, inspiring them to strive for success.”

Coach Tempest: Squash Provides Relief and Opportunity
“My favorite part of the training is the day we talked about the brain, the impact of stress and how sport can be that perfect outlet for kids to become their better selves,” she shared. She knows squash has helped her become her better self. “The more I played squash and pushed myself I knew I was not going to be done with squash. I knew I was going to be doing it for my life. Honestly, it’s the most consistent thing in my life.” Tempest left the training with a strong desire to keep working hard and improving as a coach. “I know squash very well and the training I got with Up2Us Sports fine-tuned everything that I needed to be the coach I am today. Learning how to be a trauma-sensitive coach, learning about the High Impact Attributes, things like that really helped me to connect with my kids on a greater level.” On June 15, 2016, Up2Us Sports honored Tempest as the Coach of the Year at their annual Gala in New York City. On July 31, 2016, Tempest will finish her one-year term as a Coach Across America coach, but her time with SquashSmarts will not end. She will continue as a full-time employee, serving as the Director of Squash and Fitness for their middle school program.

In Rio Slum, a Gleaming Hotbed of … Badminton?
Rackets in hand, the children began marching in place, rhythmically. At intervals, with a whistle to signal each change, they switched, in unison, to a different and more complex exercise — stepping side to side and pantomiming overhead slams, lunging forward and swatting a backhand, and so on. The 20-minute sequence culminated with children lobbing birdies over the net to someone else, who would catch it, wait for the beat and then lob it back. The only sounds were the whoosh of birdies sailing in identical arcs and a slow, delicate instrumental of piano and drums. It was a spectacle of military precision and uncanny beauty, as well as pathos. Some of these children were wearing flip-flops, and all of them came from a place largely written off by the middle and upper classes of Brazil, a country where growing up in a favela is a black mark as permanent as a tattoo. But here they were, dancing, lobbing and excelling in a setting that urged them to aspire. “My dream is that someone who grew up in a favela and trained in a favela could inspire other kids in favelas,” de Oliveira said. “I want to highlight success rather than crime.”

Sebastiao de Oliveira training children at the Miratus Center, which he built. “The sport chose me,” he said. “I knew right away that this is what I had to do with the project.” Credit Dado Galdieri for The New York Times

How WNBA star Tamika Catchings is flipping the script on the athlete farewell tour
When Catchings entered the room, it was impossible to tell that her Fever had just fallen short against the Sparks. She flashed an electric smile, gave a brief hello to the group, presented a $2,000 check to a local charity and worked her way through the crowd, snapping photos and signing autographs with anyone that asked. The fans “appreciate that we’re doing it this way and appreciate that they can still give back to me, although it’s not ultimately me, it’s my foundation,” Catchings said. “I think overall, at the end of the day, we all want to be able to make a difference and this is a way of being able to make a difference.” Doing it this way also allows Catchings to expand the reach of her foundation. Next year, Catchings will return to each WNBA city and hold a youth basketball camp or fitness clinic, keeping true to her foundation’s mission of providing fitness, literacy and mentoring programs to underprivileged kids. “With everything that is going on now, it’s really something that our youth need,” Catchings said. “They need positive role models. They need positive people in their lives. Through our mentoring program, we’re able to touch a lot of kids that otherwise wouldn’t be able to be touched. We give them opportunities to be able to experience new things and enter new environments, get out of the things that they’re having to deal with at home.”

(Getty Images)

‘Game, Blouses’; The real story behind the famous Chappelle skit about Prince’s late-night hoops challenge
Going back to the basketball game made famous on Chappelle’s Show: Free said it happened sometime in the mid-1980s as he was hanging out with Prince, Eddie Murphy and Charlie Murphy at a private club, Tramps! at the Beverly Center in Beverly Hills, California. When the club closed, Prince invited the group to his Beverly Hills home. While playing music for his guests, Prince asked the group, “Do you want to play basketball?” The invite was met with laughter, but once the Murphy brothers saw Prince was serious, they geared up and took to the court at his house. The TV skit portrayed the game as 5-on-5, half court. In reality, it was the Murphy brothers and their uncle, Ray, against Prince, his brother, Duane, and Free. Murphy’s crew changed into athletic gear. And Prince’s crew? “Yes, it’s true, we had on ‘blouses,’ and frilly shirts,” Free said. “The same clothes we had at the club. Prince played in 6-inch heels!” Free remembered that Murphy’s crew didn’t take the game seriously at first. “They checked the ball to me, I gave it to Prince and he went to work,” Free said. “You know that one move where Curry dribbles up and they got him covered, but he steps back behind the 3-point line and hits nothing but net? That was Prince.”

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