Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #230

Sept. 11 – Sept. 17, 2016

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

  1. The Best Team I’ve Ever Known (by Heather O’Reilly at The Players’ Tribune)
  2. Olympic medalist swimmer takes on depression with help of Phelps, others
  3. Clutching his tiny American flag, Redskins lineman becomes a U.S. citizen
  4. MLB player survey: The challenges of mixing baseball and activism
  5. Learning Through Play: Education does not stop when recess begins.
  6. Bison Pride: North Dakota State has built FCS powerhouse with five straight national titles and a passionate fan base
  7. ‘Pitch’: Inside Fox and Major League Baseball’s Unique Partnership
  8. Easy Brizi: Toronto company introduces picture-perfect solution for transforming sports sponsorship
  9. Beyond Sport Summit Announces EA as Presenting Partner
  10. Dutch Soccer Fans Shower Sick Children With Stuffed Animals

Blind trust? A true bond is tested at the Paralympics (Sport and Dev)
Why I Play Football (Christian McCaffrey) (The Players’ Tribune)
The Just Play Emergency Progamme reaches 10,000 children (Beyond Sport)
India’s sport and development landscape today (Sport and Dev)

Over the past few weeks we have seen all over the news a story that features the intersection of sport, justice, patriotism, and responsibility. Colin Kapernick of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers has triggered a lot of news and discussion, some of it worthwhile, about the expectations we have of each other, including those in the position of authority and power.

Whatever your stance on this issue, if you have one, it seems Kapernick has achieved one of his goals. Discussion is being had. People are participating. Of course, not all participation is as informed as the other, but conversation, and then maybe action, is at the foundation of social change and improvement. But to have an opinion of any merit, you have to be involved.

One of stories this week speaks to that privilege of participation. NFL player Arie Kouandjio of the Washington Redskins recently became a U.S. citizen and from his take, it seems that Arie knows that this is the beginning, not the end, of his position as an “American citizen.” He references his opportunity, and his responsibility, to be an active member of society. For whatever your position on the Kapernick issue, it only has any merit if it is supported by informed action, and not empty proclamations of being more patriotic than someone else.

The other stories we are happy to feature include: a first-person account from U.S. soccer star Heather O’Reilly upon her last game as a member of the national team; the personal battle of U.S. swimmer Allison Schmitt and her aim to help others similarly situated; the challenge that pro athletes, including Major League Baseball players, have when it comes to speaking on social issues; a discussion about the incredible benefits of play on the development of young people; the amazing success of North Dakota State football; the partnership that led to the development of a new show on Fox Television, ‘Pitch;’ a new technology that offers a business opportunity for teams and events while improving the at-game experience for fans; an important new partnership between the good folks at Beyond Sport and EA Sports built around social change; and an incredibly heart-warming gesture by soccer fans in Holland that captures the essence of sport doing good.

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

The Best Team I’ve Ever Known (by Heather O’Reilly at The Players’ Tribune)
When Mia tweeted about my retirement announcement last week and called me a legend, I laughed at the irony. Her message made me think back on the nearly half of my life that I’ve spent as part of the U.S. Women’s National Team. Anyone who has seen me play, or even seen a picture of me play (yes, the “game face”) can see my passion for soccer. What can I say? I wear my heart on my sleeve. Because that sleeve of that jersey, on this team for this country, is sacred to me. And tonight against Thailand, I will wear it for the last time. I have had countless memorable times with this team. Winning three Olympic gold medals and a World Cup are certainly the highlights, and my personal statistics are interesting to look back on. My assist on Alex Morgan’s game-winning goal against Canada in the semifinals of the 2012 Olympics, and the game-winner I scored against Germany in the 2004 Olympic semis may go down as the moments people remember me for, but it’s the other times, those moments in between the titles of my National Team tenure, that are equally as meaningful to me.

“Because that sleeve of that jersey, on this team for this country, is sacred to me.”

Olympic medalist swimmer takes on depression with help of Phelps, others
For a while, Schmitt wasn’t open about her psychological suffering. She thought that seeing a psychologist was an embarrassment and kept it from her family. It wasn’t until her cousin, a young athlete named April Bocian, ended her own life in May 2015 that Schmitt decided to speak out. “Especially as athletes, we are taught that if we push through something, we can get through. We use that mentality in sports, and we use that in life,” said Schmitt. “But life is such a big game. You need a whole army of support and help that you can get.” By being outspoken about her own struggles, she hopes she’ll inspire more people to recognize the severity of depression and the importance of seeking help. Now, Schmitt has become more comfortable sharing her thoughts and emotions with the psychologist. She goes to her office whenever she needs someone to talk to. She’s also considering pursuing a master’s degree in social work to counsel those who are struggling with mental health problems.

Allison Schmitt celebrates her win in the women’s 200-meter freestyle final at the 2012 London Games.

Clutching his tiny American flag, Redskins lineman becomes a U.S. citizen
Kouandjio caressed his little flag as Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas described the United States as a country “like no other, a country that always has been and forever will be a nation of immigrants.” He held it as U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez praised the assembled teachers and custodians and engineers and housewives (and professional athletes) for “adding such tremendous value to our nation.” He held it when the candidates were asked to stand by their country of origin, 38 in all. (Cameroon came after Cambodia and before Canada.) And when Perez read out some of the comments the candidates had written down, Kouandjio heard his own words quoted. “I’m the one who said that I can finally call myself an American,” he said after the ceremony. The 24-year-old came to this country with his family at the age of 6 and has spent three-quarters of his life here, mostly in the Washington area. His brother Cyrus, who plays for the Buffalo Bills, also plans on becoming a citizen, and Kouandjio talked about the new rights he now enjoys: He can get a passport, he can vote, he can run for office. “Before, all I could do is just watch CNN or just watch Fox or just watch; I wasn’t a participating member in all decisions,” he said. “I [still] can’t be the president, which is something that I’ve always wanted to do, but I can do other things, so it’s awesome.”

Arie Kouandjio and Dahlia Lyons take the oath of allegiance during a naturalization ceremony at the Department of Labor. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

MLB player survey: The challenges of mixing baseball and activism
For the past few weeks, I’ve been posing questions to former and current major leaguers about the challenges of publicly speaking out against social injustice. Torii Hunter, Chris Archer, Jimmy Rollins, Sean Doolittle, Curtis Granderson, David Ortiz, LaTroy Hawkins and many others provided insight into the internal conflict that comes with sticking their necks out to support a cause, from navigating social media to headlines that don’t reflect the player’s sentiment and the basic idea that a player’s economic future is at risk when players don’t tow the company line. Baseball is daily. There is no week to think between games, there is little time to reflect or rethink one’s position. Once you jump in the world of public opinion, everything changes, and players believe this isn’t reversible. Speak carefully, they say, or don’t speak at all. So what does today’s baseball player face in finding footing to address social justice issues? Here is what they had to say.

New York Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson notes there are obstacles to players speaking out about social injustice. Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Learning Through Play: Education does not stop when recess begins.
Without structure, Vialet said, there are fewer opportunities for kids to be successful in directing their own play. And Playworks coaches can’t be everywhere at once, said Cushing. Coaches will start a game, teach the kids how to play, make sure they’ve got it, and then move to a different part of the playground. “With increased structures, that actually creates opportunities to play more games,” Gonzalez said. “There’s more interaction.” Harvard’s Shonkoff—who also dislikes the term recess “because it implies withdrawing or disengaging from the serious business of school”—said that where some kids are able to engage in free, unstructured play on their own, without much prodding, others may need more scaffolding” or coaching in how to play, particularly if they’ve grown up in a home or neighborhood where they haven’t had the time and space to direct their own play. And, he said, the “right” kind of play can produce the “right” kind of academic achievement because, regardless of the situation, kids will be learning valuable skills. What really matters, he said, is that kids are surrounded by adults both in the classroom and on the playground who are trained in child development.

Bison Pride: North Dakota State has built FCS powerhouse with five straight national titles and a passionate fan base
That passion is derived from the Bison’s unique grasp on North Dakota. Like Cornhuskers fans in Nebraska or Alabama and Auburn’s annual battle for supremacy in the South, North Dakota natives live and die with Bison football. The closest professional sports franchise is in Minneapolis, a three-and-a-half hour drive from Fargo. For college sports fans in North Dakota, the Bison are the show. (With all due respect to the University of North Dakota’s men’s hockey program, winner of eight NCAA titles.) It’s no wonder fans in the state brand their North Dakota State passion with two words: Bison Pride. Ask players, coaches or fans to define the term and you’ll never get the same answer. For some, that pride is difficult to articulate. In 2015 North Dakota State’s staff hosted Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley on campus during spring practice. Bradley played safety and punter at North Dakota State and served as the Bison’s defensive coordinator from 1996–2005. During one meeting with NDSU’s staff, a Bison coach posed a question to Bradley: What is “Bison Pride” to you? “He sat there and moved around in his chair for about a minute and a half,” says Tyler Roehl, who coaches fullbacks and tight ends at North Dakota State. “He did not know how to put it into words.”

‘Pitch’: Inside Fox and Major League Baseball’s Unique Partnership
It’s a 90-degree August day in L.A., and Mark-Paul Gosselaar, clad in a San Diego Padres uniform and full catcher’s gear, is chasing errant throws all over the field — at Dodger Stadium. Welcome to the start of production on Pitch, where the ability to film on such sacred ground — thanks to a deal with Fox and Major League Baseball — is as groundbreaking as its concept about the first woman to break the sport’s gender barrier. The pact, where no money exchanged hands, extends Fox and MLB’s partnership beyond their $12.4 billion TV rights deal that includes postseason games and the World Series. Pitch has unparalleled access to big-league teams, stadiums and logos that lend the production an authenticity that makes its premise realistic. It marks a never-before-seen cooperation between Hollywood and baseball. “If we didn’t have MLB, I don’t think we could have done the show because I didn’t want to create fictional teams. That defeats the whole purpose,” says co-creator Dan Fogelman.

(photo, Bunbury)  Caption: Kylie Bunbury, 27, stars as MLB’s first female player in ‘Pitch.’

Easy Brizi: Toronto company introduces picture-perfect solution for transforming sports sponsorship
Brizi rhymes with “breezy,” its name reflecting its founders’ philosophy of an easy-to-use application that doesn’t require a change in existing consumer behaviour. “This is a dangerous path that a lot of tech companies go down, and is detrimental to getting users,” says Hu. “There is no app to download for our tech – it’s easy Brizi.” The BriziCam provides sports teams and venues with a white label solution to which the franchise – or a sponsor partner – is able to apply a simple graphic overlay to all fan photos shared from the game. “The franchise or sponsors have instantaneous end-to-end control,” says Hu. “They select the colours, the messaging, upload an overlay image and then they’ve got this fan experience ready to go live.” During the recent U.S. Open tennis championship, for example, the event’s official timekeeper, Citizen, was among the BriziCam sponsors. All of the photos taken by the camera during Citizen’s one-day sponsorship – many of which were subsequently shared via social media – were framed by the outline of a watch featuring Citizen branding. According to Hu, attendees snapped and shared nearly 7,500 photos – leading to 650,000 social media impressions – during the U.S. Open. Fans were urged to post the picture to social media with the promise of an ultra-high resolution photo commemorating their attendance at the game.

Beyond Sport Summit Announces EA as Presenting Partner
At a time when the popularity of eSports is growing at an unprecedented rate, there comes with it a unique opportunity to use its influence to drive positive social impact. At this year’s Beyond Sport Summit, 18-20 October, Electronic Arts (EA) will lead the discussion on how eSports can act as an agent of change, educating some of its 30 million viewers with authentic social messaging that can help change lives for the better. Through their own dedicated session, EA will look to educate around eSports in a bid to change the perception of videogames. EA’s participation will promote the many benefits of gaming including but not limited to, participation, communication and collaboration. The event will also touch on EA’s grassroots efforts, highlighting some of the life-skills and intrinsic rewards that come from gaming. With a huge pool of emerging talent, player welfare is also an important topic in the eSport industry, with EA discussing the initiatives in place to ensure their health, fitness, and competitive mentality. “Our partnership with Beyond Sport is all about changing perception and demonstrating the tangible positives that can come from gaming,” said Peter Moore, Chief Competition Officer, EA. “The reach of our audience is substantial and it is important to explore how that influence can be shaped to maximise impact.”

Dutch Soccer Fans Shower Sick Children With Stuffed Animals
When a story hits the news about European soccer fans throwing things in the stands, it usually doesn’t end well. Soccer hooligans are known to hurl smoke bombs, beer bottles, and even bananas from the rafters, disrupting games and creating a dangerous environment for players. But last Sunday, Dutch fans of the ADO Den Haag football team made news for throwing something totally different: stuffed animals. When the traveling fans of ADO Den Haag bought their seats to an away game in Rotterdam, they learned they’d be seated a deck above a group of sick children from the Sophia Children’s Hospital. So they decided to do something truly memorable. “A call to all away supporters,” a fan group posted on Twitter. “Take with you a little cuddly toy to the game. Just make sure there are no hard things are in the toy. So no beads and buttons, children from the Sofia Children’s Hospital will take be under us at the away end. Throw your cuddly toy to them in order to make an unforgettable day a lasting memory!” So in the twelfth minute of the match, ADO Den Haag fans rained hundreds of stuffed animals on the seats below creating a moment the children will never forget.

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Our goal is to have Sports Doing Good be a portal housing original content and excerpts from and links to the increasing number of articles, websites, video, and other media that showcase the good in sports and society. We aim to celebrate those concepts, activities, events, and individuals by highlighting them for a wider audience. Much of the news today, whether sports- related or not, is incredibly negative and increasingly polarizing, biased, and quite annoying. We are trying to refocus some of the discussion on the good, with a focus on sports.

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