Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #227

Aug. 14 – Aug. 20, 2016

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

  1. Simone Biles’ coach Aimee Boorman: Focus on the personal joy competition brings
  2. Sisterhood of the Skateboard
  3. The Role of Sport in Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals
  4. In this race, Allyson Felix is ahead of them all
  5. WWE’s next star is a former NYU basketball player who skipped med school to chase a dream
  6. Don’t Run (And Don’t Laugh): The Little-Known History Of Race-Walking
  7. In Bolt’s Long Shadow, Ashton Eaton’s Excellence Peeks Through
  8. Hagerstown Son: Mariano Rivera III isn’t his dad, which is fine by him
  9. LeBron James Discusses Importance of Community, Education on ‘The Daily Show’
  10. Sport Building Bridges Across the Globe

Finding his passion: How one San Diego lawyer became a devoted youth soccer coach (Up2Us)
Karch Kiraly: Embrace mistakes and chaos
High school football teams across America unite to raise funds for St. Jude (Beyond Sport)
Weather the Storm (Damon Harrison) (The Players’ Tribune)
Preparing Future Scholars in Atlanta’s Westside (Laureus)

Tonight the 2016 Summer Olympics will come to an end. I am always kind of sad when such an event concludes. The Opening Ceremony invited us to know more than 200 countries and thousands of athletes, each of whom had their own Olympic dream. From just making it as an Olympian (a worthy accomplishment) to aiming to win multiple gold medals, the athletes representing their respective countries (and of course, The Refugee Team) represent hopes and dreams that everyone on this planet should have. And their stories should always be told.

This week we have some Rio-related stories, starting with a look at champion gymnast Simone Biles’ coach Aimee Boorman. We also get a wonderful look at champion sprinter Allyson Felix, whose athletic career and her positive impact on others, will surely continue. The last two Olympic stories include coverage of 2-time gold medal winning decathlete Ashton Eaton and a peek at an event not known by many but still one that includes elite athletes from around the world running, excuse me, race walking to glory.

The other stories we are happy to feature include: a unique band of skateboarders helping to change perceptions of girls and other young people; the role of sport in reaching long-term sustainable development goals; the amazing journey of a young man, Bill Morrissey, now living his dream in the WWE; emerging baseball star Mariano Rivera III; LeBron James talking about his commitment to supporting the community and educational efforts; and multiple sports non-profits giving girls from India and United States a chance to meet and learn about each other’s cultures.

Finally, we want to announce an upcoming event that is being co-hosted by our friends at Adelphi University and Laureus. The NYC Sport for Development Collaborative will be taking place on Monday, September 19 from 10am – 12pm and will be discussing positive engagement opportunities for youth through sport. For more information please contact Katherine Tomaino at Laureus Sport at

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

Simone Biles’ coach Aimee Boorman: Focus on the personal joy competition brings
Boorman, married and a mother of three, has filled her own social media accounts recently with pictures of her and Biles taking in the Olympics. Her messages are always light and usually funny, such as when jokes about Biles’ crush on actor Zak Efron or posts a selfie to check her hair. “That’s just who Aimee is,” Gregie said. “She’s very real, very down to earth. She doesn’t take herself too seriously.” It’s unclear what the future holds for either Boorman or Biles. Boorman, who coaches other gymnasts, says Biles has talked about going to college and taking a break to do all the fun things that come along with being the women’s all-around champion. “I just want her to love life,” Boorman said. “That’s it. Whatever she wants to do, whatever she wants to become, I’m always going to be there for her.” But knowing that these Games could be Biles’ last major international competition, Boorman urged her to take a curtain call after winning the all-around title. Neither could recall the words they exchanged, but Boorman remembered urging Biles back to the mat before the coach’s tears got the best of her. “I was glad the cameras were turning (toward Biles on the mat) because I was going to ugly cry,” Boorman said. “As coaches, this is our dream also. It’s my career, it’s my passion and it has been great being on this journey with her.”

Simone Biles hugs coach Aimee Boorman after her balance beam routine Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016, in the women’s gymnastics individual all-around final at Rio Olympic Arena in Rio de Janeiro. (Brian Cassella/ Chicago Tribune)

Sisterhood of the Skateboard
And with that, in rolled some of the park’s most steadfast devotees, their ponytails waving in the breeze. The Brujas, a crew of female skateboarders, have gathered regularly there for more than two years, but they still tend to turn heads. Even as they have become fixtures in the local skateboarding community, the young women — all of them from ethnic minorities, most from Upper Manhattan or the Bronx — are frequently greeted with catcalling and rubbernecking. “Silly boys acting like they’ve never seen a girl before,” scoffed Arianna Gil, 22, who helped found the group in 2014. “Skater bros all think they’re rebels, but who are the real outsiders here?” Skateboarding, which long enjoyed a freewheeling, anti-establishment reputation, has gained substantial mainstream traction and corporate sponsorship over the years. And still the sport remains dominated by men, most of them white. The Brujas hope their presence on the scene will challenge skateboarding culture with what they view as a more radical agenda. “There’s so little opportunity for young people of color in terms of jobs and education that we don’t feel like a part of this city,” Ms. Gil said. “Skating is a way to reclaim our freedom.”

The Brujas are a crew of female skateboarders in New York City. Besides enjoying the sport, members use it as a tool for community outreach. From left, Yasmeen Wilkerson, 18, Sasha Alicea, 19, Arianna Gil, 22, Nesa Guzman, 21, Samantha Olivieri, 20, and Carla Cruz, 24. Credit Edwin J. Torres for The New York Times

The Role of Sport in Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals
Female participation in sport also challenges stereotypes and social roles commonly associated with women. Sport can help women and girls demonstrate their talents and achievements to society by emphasizing their skills and abilities. This, in turn, improves self-esteem and self-confidence in women participants. Sport also offers opportunities for social interaction and friendship, which can raise awareness of gender roles among male counterparts and convey social and psychological benefits to both individuals and groups. For example, the Diyar Consortium project implemented in the State of Palestine effectively illustrates sport’s ability to promote gender equality. The project established a sports centre to provide an opportunity for women to participate in sport, learn transferable skills and gain knowledge for employment. The Diyar Women Sports Unit was founded in 2008, and a great example of its success was represented by the Diyar Women Soccer Team, which became one of the top national soccer (football) teams in the State of Palestine. In 2011, the team won the first-ever Palestinian Women Football League Championship. Members of the Diyar Women Soccer Team are now involved in the academy, opened in 2012, training and passing on their knowledge to younger girls. Furthermore, Diyar has developed a strong network and partnerships with Palestinian and international organizations, allowing the project to gain momentum and support to become sustainable. This project benefited not only women but the community as a whole.

In this race, Allyson Felix is ahead of them all
There is a beauty to how these female Olympic heroes have been there for each other for strength and support over the years. On Felix breaking her medal record, Joyner-Kersee told a St. Louis TV station: “If it’s going to be somebody, I’d love for it to be Allyson. Not only is she a great athlete, she is a great person. I just love her spirit. I love what she stands for. I love how she carries herself, I love how she gives back. And I love how she picks up the phone and calls me and asks for my advice.” There is a lot of admiration shared among these athletes for their track and field performances, and they are eerily similar off the track as well. Each one dedicated their lives to helping children. Pickett became an elementary school teacher at a school that was eventually named after her in Chicago. Chapman spent her post-track career dedicated to education. Rudolph, who died in 1994, said that her greatest achievement was her work advocating for children through her foundation. Felix is no different. Since earning a degree in elementary education from the University of Southern California, she has spent a lot of her off time dedicated to multiple local, national and international nonprofits that help children. “I feel like now I am in a position to make a difference and I do feel a responsibility,” Felix said during a 2012 interview for The Daily Beast. “I have a passion for kids. Anything with children automatically catches my eye.”

Allyson Felix (USA) during the women’s 400m final in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Estadio Olimpico Joao Havelange. James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

WWE’s next star is a former NYU basketball player who skipped med school to chase a dream
After Morrissey received an academic scholarship to attend New York University, he contacted Joe Nesci, the school’s basketball coach, and asked if he could tryout. Morrissey made the NCAA Division III team, but he didn’t play much. During his career, he averaged 1.6 points and 1.5 rebounds in 50 games. As a senior, though, he was named a co-captain. He kept everyone loose, provided a positive presence and showed off a bit of what was to come. “After some of our wins, he would imitate Ric Flair in the locker room, being excited that we won and do some imitations,” said former NYU assistant coach John Pelin, who is now the coach at Hunter College in New York. “I do always remember him having an interest in wrestling.” Morrissey remained a good student in college, too. Although he took the MCATs and had the prerequisites for medical school, he knew he couldn’t commit to the long journey of becoming a doctor. “I realized that this isn’t my true passion,” Morrissey said. “I can’t do another four to eight years of this.” Late in his senior year, Morrissey decided to give wrestling a shot.’t Run (And Don’t Laugh): The Little-Known History Of Race-WalkingThe precursor to race-walking was a 19th-century sport with the aptly Victorian name “pedestrianism.” Champagne was seen as a restorative… a preferred drink among [race-walking] competitors. Journalist Matthew Algeo, who wrote a book on pedestrianism, describes how walking contests in which competitors kept going for hundreds of miles over the course of many days were a popular attraction in late 19th-century America. Algeo writes that competitive walking had many of the attributes we associate with major sports today: crowded arenas, big purses for the winners, gambling and even some eyebrow-raising performance enhancers. (Champagne, for instance, was seen as a restorative and was a preferred drink among competitors.) As track and field became an organized sport in England toward the turn of the century, race-walking was one of the events. It made its first Olympic appearance in 1904 as part of the all-around, or decathlon, championship. Race-walking was its own event at the 1908 London Games and, for men, has been held at the current distances since 1956. Winners have come from England, Italy, Mexico, Russia and Spain, to name a few.

Race-walkers turn a corner, keeping one foot on the ground, during the women’s 20-km event at the 2012 London Olympics.

In Bolt’s Long Shadow, Ashton Eaton’s Excellence Peeks Through
Eaton is measured and modest and would no sooner talk smack than he would turn down a chance to meet Elon Musk, the tech entrepreneur behind Tesla and SpaceX, who is Eaton’s true aspirational figure. “I think Ash might prefer being an engineer sometimes; I really do,” said Don Butzner, Eaton’s physical therapist. For now, he remains a decathlete, and though the focus Thursday was on Bolt’s eighth career gold medal, Eaton joined an elite club of his own by successfully defending his Olympic title. “The decathlon is exclusive company,” Eaton said after beating the fast-improving Frenchman Kévin Mayer for gold with a total of 8,893 points. “I’m just happy to be part of the family, the decathlon family, regardless of the records.” It does feel more like a brotherhood than a guild, and one of the more reaffirming moments in sports is when the decathlon’s final event, the 1,500 meters, is done and the exhausted contestants — when they’ve finally picked themselves up after collapsing — congratulate one another for simply finishing. “We are competing against ourselves,” Eaton said.

Ashton Eaton of the United States successfully defended his Olympic gold medal in the decathlon on Thursday night. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

Hagerstown Son: Mariano Rivera III isn’t his dad, which is fine by him
The younger Rivera’s minor league teammates seem to like him because he plays down his name. His roommate, Rhett Wiseman, grew up near Boston. Wiseman joked that his roommate’s dad “caused me a lot of tears.” He has noticed that Rivera doesn’t flaunt his father’s legend. “I think it is great that he is with the Nationals,” Wiseman said. “It gives him the opportunity to create his own path. He is a very independent guy. He doesn’t say, ‘I’m Mariano. Give me this.’ He is not entitled. He works for everything he gets.” So far, this has meant not throwing the cutter, his father’s signature pitch. He has worked on it and tried out some grips but so far is sticking with his 91 mph slider. “He wanted to create his own legacy,” Wiseman said. “I think it took him a couple of years [to decide] that it is a pitch I want to add, I’m ready to add.” Rivera said he has not added a cutter, but you can imagine that might be the next step in his maturation as a closer. He is also not your average prospect — and not just because of his name. Because he didn’t go through the manufactured, for-profit grinder of youth baseball, his arm might be in better shape.

Yankees legend Mariano Rivera poses with his sons (from left) Mariano, Jaziel and Jafet. Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

LeBron James Discusses Importance of Community, Education on ‘The Daily Show’
The NBA star appeared on Wednesday night’s episode of The Daily Show to discuss his multiple projects off the court. During the interview with host Trevor Noah, James stressed the importance of giving back to the community. He talked about The LeBron James Family Foundation, which works with over 1,000 kids from third grade to high school to prepare for college. Students who graduate receive a full scholarship to the University of Akron. James said sometimes he’ll personally reach out to kids who miss class or are struggling with grades. He also acknowledged that some students will purposely seek a call from the NBA champion. He also espouses those community ideals through Cleveland Hustles, a CNBC show where he helps local entrepreneurs. Aside from leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a championship, it is clear James has a lot on his plate.

Sport Building Bridges Across the Globe
For the twelve Magic Bus girls from Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai and Hyderabad, this was their first time visiting the United States. Their trip was funded by a grant from the US Department of State’s SportsUnited Initiative, which taps into sports’ ability to increase cultural understanding between people around the world. Their travels offered them many new experiences: they had boarded a plane for the first time, and even visited the beach for the first time. Now, they had their first opportunity to observe how sport is being used to maximize the potential of girls in the US. As they started chopping vegetables for lunch, the girls from Power Play NYC shared their favorite parts about living in New York City, praising the diversity of the people around them. They also shared skills that they have developed during the course of their SuperSTARS Leadership Academy. The Magic Bus girls shared their passion for soccer, and the challenges they have been faced with in order to continue playing. They explained how social norms prevent most girls from playing sports in India. One of their highest barriers is the societal expectation that women should dress modestly and always cover their legs. To address this issue, the Magic Bus coaches explained that they must regularly meet with their participants’ parents. Over time, the parents are convinced to let their daughters wear athletic shorts while they play soccer. The freedom to dress comfortably was a privilege that the Power Play NYC had not previously realized.

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