Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #232

Sept. 25 – Oct. 1, 2016

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

  1. Working-class fighter gives win bonus to opponent who needed it more
  2. Amy Trask Literally Wrote The Book On Women In The NFL
  3. Alexis DeJoria Racing to offer free mammograms at NHRA events
  4. Illinois Fighting Illini give Nebraska signed Sam Foltz jersey
  5. Gomes: Cape Verde Islands will fight all the way
  6. Young students in Haiti get a new school thanks to Seahawks’ Cliff Avril
  7. To the N.F.L., 40 Winks Is as Vital as the 40-Yard Dash
  8. Marcus Allen Joins Sport for Good Weekend in New Orleans
  9. Jordan Morris, Christian Pulisic share a trait not seen before in American soccer prodigies
  10. This College Hockey Team’s Secret Weapon Is An Autistic Defenseman

Xavi to inspire kids, refugees through football as Generation Amazing ambassador (Beyond Sport)
From Combat to Coaching: How One Miami Veteran Is Making a Difference in His Hometown
Paralympic Legacy: Together We Will (Beyond Sport)
Take Care of Your Players (Richard Sherman) (The Players’ Tribune)
Levi’s Stadium, Home of the 49ers, Unveils Rooftop Farm (Green Sports Alliance)


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Working-class fighter gives win bonus to opponent who needed it more
Awaiting the post-fight ring announcement, Castaneda sidled over to McLaren. He’d had a pre-fight chat with Cruz, who thanked him for taking the fight. He’d learned a little about Cruz’s family. He saw the difficult situation Cruz was in, fighting because he needed the money. And so, McLaren said, Castaneda leaned in and whispered to him, “Give Cruz my bonus.” It was a remarkable act of selflessness because Castaneda himself isn’t getting rich by fighting and he moonlights as a trainer at Lifetime Fitness to help supplement his income. Castaneda almost sounded embarrassed when asked about it. McLaren said he became emotional. “It really choked me up,” he said. “I’d never encountered anything like that. MMA is a very charitable sport and you see fighters starting GoFund Me pages to help each other a lot. But this was a little different situation and it was so impressive. This came in the heat of the battle after a very tough fight.”

John Castaneda, left, embraces Angel Cruz after their bout. (Courtesy of Combate Americas)

Amy Trask Literally Wrote The Book On Women In The NFL
Thirty percent of the National Football League’s (NFL) front-office jobs are currently held by women. One of the first to make her mark there was Amy Trask. The Angeleno’s 30-year stint with the Oakland—then Los Angeles—Raiders began with an unpaid internship and progressed to CEO. Indeed, at one point, Trask was the only woman in the room at NFL owners meetings. Trask resigned from the Raiders in 2013. Recently, the NFL announced its commitment to the inclusion of women beyond the front office. As the organization’s new director of football development, Sam Rapaport is encouraging women to step into positions from scouting to coaching. It’s definitely been a time for firsts, with Sarah Thomas serving as an official; Jen Welter coaching with the Arizona Cardinals; Kathryn Smith coaching with the Buffalo Bills; and Cathy L. Lanier coming on board as the NFL’s head of security. Trask, whose book You Negotiate Like a Girl: Reflections on a Career in the National Football League was released this month, isn’t surprised by the increase in gender inclusion. Asked about offering advice to women joining the NFL’s ranks, Trask is quick to say they don’t need it. But, “Were I to share any observations with them it would be this: Do your job and don’t spend any time thinking about your gender.”

“Here’s what I believe is the only picture I have of me w/Al. I shall forever thank him for giving me” (1/2)

Alexis DeJoria Racing to offer free mammograms at NHRA events
According to the American Cancer Society, the cost of mammograms is cited as one of the main reasons women forgo mammography screenings, even though one in eight women will develop breast cancer at some point during their lifetime. Alexis DeJoria Racing has been doing various fundraising events throughout the season as well as collecting donations in order to raise the $31,000 needed to afford to run the program. “Alexis DeJoria Racing is committed to providing free mammograms as long as we are out on the racetrack,” adds DeJoria, “the outpouring of support for this program is astounding. “We’ve provided around 350 mammograms over the last three years and I think the more we do it every year, the more people find out about it through word of mouth, through press and what not, so we hope that number will just keep rising.” While DeJoria’s championship battle has not been going to plan, as she sits 10th in the NHRA Funny Car points entering this weekend’s event, she’s aware that there is a much bigger battle left to be won. “Breast cancer awareness is a subject very dear to our hearts,” adds DeJoria. “Early detection is key, and being proactive is the best way to fight this.

Alexis DeJoria will be sporting a new livery at the next three NHRA events to help promote Breast Cancer Awareness. Gary Nastase Photography / Alexis DeJoria Racing

Illinois Fighting Illini give Nebraska signed Sam Foltz jersey
The Illinois Fighting Illini and the Nebraska Cornhuskers haven’t been Big Ten West rivals for very long. That doesn’t mean the programs don’t have a great deal of respect for each other. Nebraska has received tributes from opposing teams to honor the life of their late punter, Sam Foltz. Illinois was pure class in their gift to Nebraska. Shortly before their kickoff from Memorial Stadium at 3:30 PM ET on Saturday, the special teams unit of the Illini presented the Cornhuskers with a Foltz Illini jersey signed by the entire Illinois football team. Illinois long snapper Michael Martin is seen speaking kind words about a guy he never knew before handing the jersey to Cornhuskers kicker Spencer Lindsay. Special teamers are a unique bunch on football team. They always stick together. Their bonds through playing the crucial third phase of a football game often have special teamers from other programs in their tight circle.

Gomes: Cape Verde Islands will fight all the way
Just like the rest of his compatriots, Gomes is a firm believer in his team: “We all feel we can reach Russia 2018 and that’s driving us on even more.” His goal, like any player, is to run out at the World Cup: “Taking part in the biggest competition of them all is a dream for any footballer. The people of Cape Verde Islands are full of enthusiasm and they’re dreaming of seeing their team at Russia 2018.” Though they made the 2013 and 2015 CAF Africa Cup of Nations, Cape Verde Islands were knocked out of the qualifiers for Gabon 2017 after they lost their last match, to Libya at home. A victory would have seen them progress as one of the best second-placed teams. As it was, Togo sneaked through ahead of them, an outcome that has the islanders investing all their hopes in the World Cup. Reflecting on their unsuccessful bid to make next year’s African finals, Gomes said: “Going out in the last match was difficult to take. We wanted a place at the Cup of Nations but it wasn’t to be. What we need to do now is focus on the future and not look back. The match in Senegal is coming up and we’re aware of the responsibility on our shoulders. We have to make up for the disappointment of the African finals by qualifying for Russia 2018.”

Young students in Haiti get a new school thanks to Seahawks’ Cliff Avril
The blue-and-white cinderblock structure is a far cry from the previous school, and there are more coming. “A lot of different things” contributed to Avril wanting to build the school, he said on Friday. “Your perspective on life is completely different from age 15 to 30, having kids, having a wife, having your values change over time. I had the opportunity to work with an organization called Free the Children that goes to different third-world countries. I met them, they do work in Haiti, and I realized this was the perfect opportunity to do something in Haiti and I’m fortunate to make it happen.” The group also handed out backpacks, donated school supplies for the classrooms, and purchased shoes and uniforms for the kindergarten students. The old schoolhouse served 450 children, and was spartan, to put it mildly: it was essentially 4x4s supporting a rusted tin roof, all of the children, of every age and grade, crammed under it. But Avril has committed to building six different classrooms, one for each grade. The new structures will provide a better environment for learning, and the hope is that more children from the area will be able to attend school. The realities of Haiti still exist: electricity is scarce, and there isn’t an internet connection. But it is undoubtedly an improvement.

Young students in Haiti get a new school thanks to Seahawks’ Cliff Avril. The new schoolhouse in La Chanm, Haiti (Avril Family Foundation)

To the N.F.L., 40 Winks Is as Vital as the 40-Yard Dash
The players filed past a table and picked up the electronic wristbands as casually as any of other piece of equipment designed to make the Seattle Seahawks perform at their peak. But rather than protect or help them power through a game, this new one, distributed to the players at practice on Monday, is aimed at a more subtle effect. Very subtle. “Get your nine hours of sleep!” receiver Doug Baldwin shouted to Trevone Boykin, the backup quarterback, as Boykin fiddled with his band, a motion-sensing monitor designed to ensure he does just that. The Seahawks want to become sleeping giants. N.F.L. teams obsessively track almost everything they can about a player: weight, muscle mass, hand-eye coordination and more. Yet in recent years, in the never-ending search for an edge, teams have opened their eyes to sleep as a priority, backed up by science that increasingly points to its importance for physical and mental health. A solid night in the sack particularly helps players recover from the inevitable wear and tear of a taxing season.

Marcus Allen Joins Sport for Good Weekend in New Orleans
Laureus Sport for Good’s efforts in New Orleans are grounded in the spirit of collaboration. This past weekend, we co-hosted a Sport Sampling Field Day that showcased the power of joining forces. The event brought together Laureus Academy Member Marcus Allen, 8 youth sport programs and 200 local youth. For the second year in a row, we celebrated the limitless potential for sport to strengthen the social fabric of New Orleans. The event took over A.L. Davis Park with a colorful range of activities to keep families engaged and active. Participants had the opportunity to sample the broad range of sports that are available to them in their very own community. In addition, there were arts and crafts, a DJ, free giveaways and tons of snacks. The entire event was completely free and open to the public, all thanks to the support of Mercedes-Benz USA. Each of these organizations are valued members of the New Orleans Sport for Community Coalition, powered by Laureus. They have a collective goal of using sport to address the challenges that local youth face. Despite focusing on different sports and age groups, these organizations meet frequently to learn from one another. Their sharing of experiences helps to propel them towards their vision of a happier and healthier New Orleans.

Jordan Morris, Christian Pulisic share a trait not seen before in American soccer prodigies
When he left Hershey, Pa., in January 2015, he was an unknown quantity to all but the most obsessive U.S. national team fans, even though he’d had a torrid career with the under-15 and under-17 national teams – 50 goals in 62 combined appearances. So there was no expectation, or even awareness, at the outset. But that changed soon enough when the attacking midfielder played a dozen times and scored two goals for Dortmund’s senior team in the second half of last season. And so we, the American soccer community in all our angst and insecurity, began warning ourselves. Go easy. Don’t say too much. It’s too soon. The pressure will crush him. We bandied about the names of the fallen. Adu. Altidore. Agudelo. Green. Those who didn’t quite deliver and those who never worked out. All of the phenoms who proved not to be the savior after all. Of course, we built Pulisic up anyway. Soon enough, he was the biggest thing in American soccer since Freddy Adu. But the unperturbed Pulisic kept on playing well and even scoring, even though he conceded publicly that he felt the pressure. It made for a confusing narrative, turning on its head the assumptions we’ve made. Morris, likewise, hasn’t apparently been affected much by the hubbub made over a collegian playing serious minutes for the senior national team and at times looking like its most threatening forward.

Jordan Morris and Christian Pulisic have gracefully handled the pressure of high expectations so far. (Getty Images)

This College Hockey Team’s Secret Weapon Is An Autistic Defenseman
Walker Aurand, like so many young men who started playing hockey when they were knee high, spent frigid Saturday mornings being schlepped to practice by bleary-eyed parents. Eventually he would live out his dream playing for a college team, his childhood, and teen years having been shaped by the game. But hockey would do something else for Aurand as well: help him tackle autism. Many of Aurand’s Davenport University teammates had no idea he had autism, a developmental disorder that can impair communication and social interaction, until he penned a first-person piece that ran on local hockey blog MiHockey over the summer. That his autism wasn’t obvious is a testament not only to intervention, but also to the positive impact hockey has had on Aurand. “Autism and the severity of autism, it varies,” Aurand tells GOOD. “I have a milder form of autism now …  and that’s due to the fact that when I was younger I got put through umpteen hours of therapy.” Both of Aurand’s parents were proactive in ensuring he got the help he needed, and it didn’t hurt that his mother is a speech pathologist. “That was sort of an advantage really that my mother knew what kind of therapies to get me,” he says. Including ice time. “When I’m on the ice, any learning differences or autistic feelings that I have all just go right out the window,” the 20-year-old defenseman says. “The rink is a place where I’m able to kind of feel whole. I don’t think about the struggles that I’ve had or any of the challenges that I’ve faced. Hockey is where I feel like I can be myself and not have to worry about anything.”

Image courtesy Alexis Hoffman/AlexisJoyPhotography

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