Aug. 28 – Sept. 11, 2016
Welcome to week two hundred and twenty-nine of the Sports Doing Good newsletter. This week’s 10 stories include:
- The Strike and the Winning Streak
- It’s not just the Olympics. Sports have been important in refugee camps for decades.
- Little Leaguers, big dreams
- How an American couple founded an African baseball team by accident
- He can’t move on his own, but that doesn’t mean he can’t train master divers
- Keegan Rosenberry leaving his mark on and off the pitch
- Inspirational Blind Runner Creates App to Guide Him through Marathons
- Empower2Play to Use Live Stream Virtual Reality to Share Its Sports Diplomacy Event in Haiti
- A Paralympian Races to Remove Obstacles for the Next Generation
- MLS Launches Kick Childhood Cancer Initiative to Raise Awareness and Funds During Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
Paralympic Games are redefining disability sport (Beyond Sport)
How We Ball in NYC (Kenny Anderson) (The Players’ Tribune)
Sheffield gets first glimpse of grassroots football future (Beyond Sport)
Israeli Olympian raises $52,000 for charity in auction (Peace and Sport)
The power of sports: Amazing women opening doors for girls worldwide (NAYS)
After one-week away, we are back with a brand new Sports Doing Good newsletter. And we send it on the anniversary of a day, Sept. 11, that is recognized as one of the darkest in our nation’s history. Each year that we are further away from 2001, the more I wonder if people still remember the significance of what happened and the impact it had on us as individuals and a country. There was great resolve shown in NYC, DC, and in PA that day and the weeks and months thereafter. And that resolve was propped up further by those in other parts of the country who were pained much like those in the three devastated areas.
A lot has happened since then and a lot of it not good. The last two years have been especially frightful around the world. But as we did after Sept. 11 in 2001, we are seeing individuals and communities coming together to exercise their free will against the bad that is out there. Every day we are witnesses to good, and sometimes, even the great. Many times that is on the fields, courts, tracks, and pools of our communities as well as on the global stage.
Part of the motivation for Sports Doing Good was the desire to give myself, and others, a different menu of news stories, one not fraught with fear and danger and misdeeds, but rather, instilled with strength, perseverance, teamwork, and love. I hope that we have done a good job of that over the past 5 years. We are more than encouraged by the power of the human spirit and the good-heartedness of people when it comes to supporting others in need, including those we have never met and will likely never meet. That speaks to the essence of who we are, members of the same human race, and what we want for each other, the opportunity to be the best that we can be.
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So enjoy. And have a good week.
The Strike and the Winning Streak
The gimmick worked. Ray Henderson was suddenly Braddock’s go-to man. Butch quickly caught two passes for 35 yards. The crowd went wild as the boy dusted himself off. Jacobs made two more completions for gains, putting Braddock in Purple Raiders’ territory with just over 30 seconds to play. Down by three, a tying field goal would jeopardize Braddock’s chances at the postseason. There was no overtime in WPIAL football. Klausing called another passing play. Jacobs saw Butch streaking for the back of the end zone. He let one fly. Henderson hauled in the 26-yard pass, a beautiful over-the-shoulder grab for a touchdown. The kid with boards for hands had come through. Half of the fans in Scott Stadium went nuts. The other half looked on in disbelief. The Tigers had done it again. Braddock went on to beat Waynesburg 25–7 in the championship game. When Klausing had arrived in Braddock in 1954, the Tigers were a mediocre team with a long losing streak. Now, in the six seasons the coach hadn’t lost a game. Braddock had become a winning town by association, a point of pride in the region. Klausing went on to a storied career at both Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Carnegie Mellon. He was twice named NCAA Division III Coach of the Year. With an overall winning percentage of .828, he ranks among the most successful coaches in NCAA history. As he was being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, someone asked for his favorite memories. “Some talked about playing in the Rose Bowl in front of 100,000 or the Army-Navy game. I got up, and it was my turn, and said playing Friday night against North Braddock Scott was the greatest for me.”
It’s not just the Olympics. Sports have been important in refugee camps for decades.
In addition to sporting events at general population refugee camps, sports played a major role at camps that were created specifically for children who were displaced from their homes and separated from their families. For example, the “Children’s Village” in Bad Aibling, about 40 miles from Munich, not only allocated resources to develop grounds where young people could play with one another, but also incorporated sports like gymnastics into children’s daily educational routines. Like today, the Olympics were a major source of inspiration for sporting events in US Zone resettlement camps. For example, the YMCA periodically organized an International Youth Sports Festival that brought together refugee children from camps throughout the US Zone. Nearly 2,000 spectators came to watch more than 140 refugees compete against one another in track and field events on September 24, 1949. In their credo printed in the program for the festival, the young participants evoked the Olympics: “We consider that sports are means by which mankind can be united. Therefore, we give our oath on behalf of our nations to participate in these games as honorable sportsmen in every sense of fair play.”
A group of children play on a volleyball court at Camp Altenstadt, a refugee camp in the US Zone of Allied-occupied Germany in August, 1950. Credit: Courtesy of the Kautz Family YMCA Archives, University of Minnesota
Little Leaguers, big dreams
More than 200 players on 16 teams representing eight different states, eight countries and four continents, came to South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, for the 2016 Little League World Series. They came here seeking glory on the baseball diamond, but for many of the players, some of the most fun they’ve had over the 10-day tournament has been around a Ping-Pong table or in the pool. “The Grove” is the melting-pot residential complex where all 215 players and their coaches stay in Williamsport and where languages and culture mix. It’s a place where kids like Curacao’s Nair Jamanika, above, cut can loose, make new friends and share the international language of baseball with players from all over the world. This Little League World Series has become a seriously big event, no doubt. During the downtime between games, we found a bunch of 11-, 12- and 13-year-olds acting like, well, kids.
Five-time MLB All Star Torii Hunter — a former Little Leaguer in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, who was enshrined in the Little League Hall of Excellence Wednesday night — met with players in the rec center and encouraged them to “enjoy the moment.”
How an American couple founded an African baseball team by accident
Every Saturday, a well-worn horse field in the Zambian capital of Lusaka transforms into a baseball diamond. Sure, the donated bases have seen better days, there’s no catcher’s gear to speak of and the southpaws have to make due with one left-handed glove, but it’s something. It’s actually something quite amazing. The few dozen kids that gather here are the Chilundu Leopards, a group of local boys and girls mentored by Chris and Erin McCurdy, an American expat couple from southern Maryland. Together, they have built a team that has revived interest for a long-neglected sport and caught the attention of baseball lovers an ocean away. And like so many good baseball stories, the whole thing started with a game of catch.
The first Chilundu Leopards group picture, with 14 original participants
He can’t move on his own, but that doesn’t mean he can’t train master divers
Gravity is every diver’s nemesis, and Larsen knows its lessons well. Three years ago while practicing a backflip on a trampoline at the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center, he broke his neck. Now a quadriplegic and coach, he believes that the lessons he learned from his mistake are worth sharing. “Kevan,” he says, “slow down and relax. Don’t make it rocket science. That’s my job.” Let other coaches gesticulate and model proper form, send signals from sidelines or pace their dugouts; such demonstrations are not available to Larsen. He has only words to make a point, and even they are constrained. Larsen speaks between the inhales – 12 a minute – delivered by a ventilator to his lungs. Diving is simple, he tells his students; it isn’t a POW exchange. It begins with a jump and ends with the lineup into the water. In between are the variables that need to be navigated. He knows that only a few corrections – seven, 10 at most – will turn a bad dive into a good dive, but he has to find dozens of ways to say it. “Stop running down the board like a bull.” “You’re throwing back your head like you’re pulling on the emergency brake.” “You need to see your feet … I want you to give yourself a pedicure on the way down.” Larsen has found his style: the apt analogy, a word of encouragement, an unsentimental goad. His divers – more than 20 in a master’s class – speak of him with a Yelp-like affection. Without irony, they turn to the man in the wheelchair for help.
Physical therapy for diving coach Lenny Larson includes standing with the help of a team at NextStep Fitness in Lawndale. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
Keegan Rosenberry leaving his mark on and off the pitch
“Keegan is a very, very good right back. His soccer IQ is the first thing that I go to. Incredibly smart player, studies the game, studies the other teams, knows the league well,” Curtin said. “He’s running with his time on the field right now. He’s contributing in a big way, sometimes through assists and setting up goals. I’m happy with where he’s at.” After every match at Talen Energy Stadium, Rosenberry is always the last one to return to the home locker room. Reason being, he spends time talking with fans that just spent two plus hours cheering his name. As the flood of Rosenberry jerseys scurry to the front row to greet him, he signs autographs, take selfies and makes sure everyone leaves home happy, even it means delaying a post-match interview. Two weeks ago Rosenberry drove an hour away to visit his old stomping grounds visiting with kids who were playing the game that he too fell in love with at a young age. The younger athletes rushed to Rosenberry upon his arrival hoping to get a glimpse of the All-Star. The impact he’s made on young soccer players in the area was evident after a 90 minute autograph session was forced to be extended due to the amount of requests.
Inspirational Blind Runner Creates App to Guide Him through Marathons
Wheatcroft was born with retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a genetic degenerative eye condition that causes a gradual decrease in his ability to see. By the time he was 17 he had become legally blind. Even so, this didn’t deter his dreams of completing races like the New York Marathon. “I was tired and in pain after the marathons, but I was also happy knowing I had achieved something that once seemed impossible, made possible thanks to technology,” said Simon. During his everyday life, he has his dog Ascot to keep him company but he usually has another individual assisting him during races. So what happens when he wants to go on his own? Well, this is where his ideas and IBM Bluemix, an app development platform, come into play. Scott created the app eAscot (named after his dog) that will potentially help him navigate through the 155-mile ultra-marathon Sahara Race of the 4 Deserts Race series. The app will help Scott keep on track during the race by using satellite navigation that connects to his phone via Bluetooth. While he’s running, it will give high-pitch beeps if he starts going too far to the right and low pitch beeps when too far left.
Empower2Play to Use Live Stream Virtual Reality to Share Its Sport Diplomacy Event in Haiti
The ten-day sports diplomacy event on September 10th will look to provide the opportunity to expand the sport of football beyond U.S. soil and will publicize the great potential of virtual reality. The event will be teaching kids the fundamentals of American football and give them the chance to play the game and get active in their community. 300 local youth members in Cite Soleil and 100 volunteers involved from all parts of the world will help make the event happen. Livit Now is partnering with Empower2Play to broadcast the live stream of the event through virtual reality. Specifically, Empower2Play will be using a 360-degree camera to provide the feed for the event and Livit Now has the proper technology to make the live virtual reality stream possible. The collaboration between Livit Now and Empower2Play is an opportunity to showcase a caring initiative in a part of the world that is not represented positively and is known for its troubled economic and societal status. And sharing Empower2Play’s initiative would of course not be possible without the use of virtual reality which in this case will allow the world to see a part of Haiti that is not often covered by the media. This is something that Ikwuakor is excited about. “Our mission is to show sides of the world most people are unable to see. With virtual reality, the world will finally get that chance.”
A Paralympian Races to Remove Obstacles for the Next Generation
On a stage in Times Square this summer, surrounded by Olympians and Paralympians, Tatyana McFadden described her early years in St. Petersburg, Russia. “For the first six years in the orphanage, I received no medical treatment, so no wheelchair available,” she said, addressing the crowd at a news media event. “And I taught myself how to walk on my arms, using my arms as my legs to get around the orphanage.” The next speaker, Michelle Obama, waited in the wings. “The sixth year changed my life for the better, when a woman happened to walk through the door, and that’s my mom Deborah McFadden. She’s here today.” She paused for applause and then continued. Tatyana McFadden said sports had changed her life, and had perhaps saved it. Given her weak physical state at the time of her adoption, her parents signed her up for every sport they could find to build her strength. “See that wooden fence?” Debbie McFadden said as she pulled into the parking lot outside the home of the Bennett Blazers, an adaptive sports program. “That’s where she was when we first put her in the racing chair and said, ‘Go.’”
Tatyana McFadden, right, and her sister Hannah, left, of Clarksville, Md., will compete in the Rio Paralympics, which begin next week. Credit Daniel Acker for The New York Times
MLS Launches Kick Childhood Cancer Initiative to Raise Awareness and Funds During Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
Today Major League Soccer launched its month-long Kick Childhood Cancer initiative, the annual League-wide campaign to raise awareness and funds in conjunction with Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. New to this year’s initiative will be the alignment with Scarftember, a social campaign launched last year for fans to show support of their MLS Club. For this year’s activation, renowned designer and illustrator Sophia Chang has created a Kick Childhood Cancer scarf for each MLS Club with proceeds benefitting Children’s Oncology Group, a partner of MLS WORKS – the League’s community outreach initiative – and one of the leading childhood cancer groups in the world. Each Kick Childhood Cancer scarf includes patterned graphics promoting the fight against cancer and soccer culture on one side, and club-specific initiative branding and colors on the other. “The fight against cancer is one the most critical issues we are committed to supporting across our League,” said JoAnn Neale, Chief Administrative Officer, Major League Soccer. “Each year, we aspire to make an even greater impact in this fight by raising awareness and funds. By empowering our fans to join the fight through Scarftember, we hope to make our greatest contribution to Childhood Cancer Awareness Month to date.”