Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #235

Oct. 16 – Oct. 22, 2016

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

  1. There Was No Room For Soccer Fields In This City Neighborhood, But They Built One Anyway
  2. From Gang Members to Goalies, an Anaheim Ducks Coach Wins Trust
  3. The Biggest Stop Of Kevin Love’s Life? It Wasn’t This One
  4. Slum Soccer receives inaugural FIFA Diversity Award
  5. Scottie Pippen’s connection with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols pays off
  6. Nike Co-Founder Phil Knight Gives $500 Million for University of Oregon Science Center
  7. Kelli Masters Is an Agent for Change
  8. The N.B.A.’s New Brand of Activism
  9. Dollamur and Olympian Adeline Gray to reward deserving wrestling program with #MatMakeover
  10. Sparks win WNBA title in one of the wildest finishes you’ll ever see

Beyond Sport Award Winners Bring Innovation to Life (Beyond Sport)
I Wear My Emotions on My Sleeve (Richard Sherman) (The Players’ Tribune)
Insight series launched by Sporting Equals (Beyond Sport)
What Does a Trauma-Sensitive Sports Practice Look Like? (Up2Us)

We want to start off by congratulating our friends at the Women’s Sports Foundation on another successful event, the 37th Annual Salute to Women in Sports. This great organization is a supporter and champion of opportunity and advocacy for girls and women in sports. Its accomplishments are many and its goals unwavering and we applaud them on the occasion of its signature event.

One of the stories we feature this week features another trailblazing female in the world of sports, Kelli Masters. One of the few female agents in the business, Kelli has not only established herself as a top-flight business advisor, she serves as a mentor to other current and future female sports business professionals. When it comes down to it, people should be evaluated on whether they can get the job done and the way they go about their business. Masters has proven to be someone to emulate.

The other stories we are happy to feature this week include: a creative approach to providing essential facilities for kids and adults to play despite the challenge of population and abnormal physical areas; Sudarshan Maharaj, a committed former player now making his mark as a NHL coach; the story of NBA All-Star Kevin Love that speaks to his resilience and his team-player instincts; a much deserved award for the non-profit Slum Soccer; how NBA Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen’s receptiveness to a young reporter’s inquiry led to that reporter’s, Rachel Nichols, growth as a leader in sports journalism; another amazing donation from Nike founder Phil Knight to his alma mater, the University of Oregon; the “new” form of activism by NBA players; a great contest sponsored by Dollamur and Olympian Adeline Gray to help a youth wrestling program; and a game/series for the ages, as the LA Sparks defeated the Minnesota Lynx in arguably the best WNBA Finals ever.

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

There Was No Room For Soccer Fields In This City Neighborhood, But They Built One Anyway
Several urban spaces in the densely populated Khlong Toei area of Bangkok are being transformed into some of the oddest and coolest soccer pitches you’ve ever seen. Conceptualized by developer AP Thailand and digital agency CJ WORX, the “Unusual Football Field” project aims to provide local kids spaces to “express their creativity” in an environment which previously had lacked usable open space—and, according to an AP statement, show that “any abnormal space can achieve the highest benefit.” The partnership identified several locations to develop. They are cleaning up the spaces, some of which have been filled with garbage, and then paving and painting the areas—none of which are rectangular like standard soccer field. One pitch is a trapezoid, another has a 90 degree turn at “midfield,” and yet another is essentially two overlapping rectangles. Then there’s the would-be standard shape pitch interrupted by the outcropping of an adjacent building and another that is vaguely diamond-shaped. The spaces then are to be opened to the community. What has resulted at the diamond-shaped field is local kids having an outlet to play, and to meet and interact with one another, which wasn’t always happening, despite them living in such close proximity.
(Video,  Caption: The Unusual Football Field Project

From Gang Members to Goalies, an Anaheim Ducks Coach Wins Trust
That ability to patiently reach out to young people from troubled backgrounds also helped in working with goaltenders. “There’s definitely an element of personality management,” Maharaj said. “You have to know when to push and when to back off.” Those skills eventually caught the eye of Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro, who urged the team to hire Maharaj as its goaltending coach in 2003. Under Maharaj’s tutelage, DiPietro, the first pick in the 2000 draft, immediately established himself as a franchise goaltender before his career was derailed by injuries. Maharaj’s Islanders contract was not renewed after the 2012 N.H.L. lockout. A year later, he arrived in Anaheim, where he was assigned to groom a group of young goalies that included Gibson, Frederik Andersen and the third-round pick Igor Bobkov. Andersen and Gibson developed into standout N.H.L. goalies, with Gibson earning the Ducks’ starting nod after Andersen was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs on June 20. “We clicked right from the start,” Gibson said. “He understood me as a person and my style and didn’t try to change it. He’s become a coach but also a friend.”

Sudarshan Maharaj, who played professionally in Sweden, is Anaheim’s goaltending coach. Credit Stuart Palley for The New York Times

The Biggest Stop Of Kevin Love’s Life? It Wasn’t This One
“Hardest thing you’ve ever done?” Bosh asked, when he ran into Love after the Finals at the Montage hotel in Beverly Hills. “Oh, yeah,” Love sighed. “Hardest thing.” Winning changes people, and while Love struggles to articulate how, the man nicknamed Champ does not. “When you’re losing, you’re constantly searching because you’re never getting the result you want,” explains Jones, who has accompanied LeBron to three titles. “When you win, you start to trust yourself, because you see that the path you’ve taken works. You can finally sit back and say, ‘I do have the skill set. I do have the approach. I do know how to prepare.’ And you have the confidence to do it again.”  Love returned to Park City with Moore this summer for another six-week grind, but he wasn’t just building endurance this time. When Love reported back to the Cavaliers practice facility, he was a chiseled 248 pounds. Stories about players adding off-season muscle are a training camp cliché, but Love did 15 reps of the dumbbell bench at 100 pounds compared with 10 at 80 a year ago. Then he hosted the Cavs for dinner after they screened The Birth of a Nation. Of course, there will be nights that Love scores eight points. Such is life on a super-team. But it’s easier to endure the lean times after experiencing the ultimate upshot. “In a weird way, winning made me hungrier, like I have more to prove,” Love says. “It always comes back more to what I can’t do than what I can.” He swears he has not replayed Game 7, has not deconstructed the Stop, and he may be the only person in Northeast Ohio able to say that. Even in L.A., the Harvard-Westlake water polo team studied the sequence one day this summer, to examine the effort a champion expends. Tyler Kandel sat quietly among them, the scar running down his left hand, watching the friend who did what he had to do.

Slum Soccer receives inaugural FIFA Diversity Award
Indian NGO Slum Soccer has won the inaugural FIFA Diversity Award today. The award was created by FIFA to recognise outstanding organisations, group initiatives and football personalities that are standing up for diversity and inspire unity, solidarity and equality among all people. Slum Soccer uses football to connect individuals, teach life skills and work towards improving the living conditions of women and marginalised populations in Indian society. The other two finalists were the International Gay & Lesbian Football Association (IGLFA), which promotes and fosters the worldwide growth of football for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals (LGBT) while also strengthening the self-respect of the global LGBT community, and Kick It Out, of England, an organisation which enables, facilitates and works with football authorities, professional clubs, players, fans and communities to tackle all forms of discrimination. The award was presented by FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura alongside former Dutch international Clarence Seedorf and former German international Thomas Hitzlsperger, members of the jury for the FIFA Diversity Award.

© Getty Images

Scottie Pippen’s connection with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols pays off
Rachel Nichols likely had no idea when she first interviewed Scottie Pippen as a Northwestern journalism student in the early ’90s that one day she’d have her own show and he’d be a guest analyst. But even back then the seed was planted. “That was the starting point,” Nichols, host of ESPN2’s “The Jump,” told Inc. “I was stringing for the Washington Post when I was still in college and doing a number of Bulls stories during that time. …. Not every athlete is going to have the time for a college student, to talk to them as a serious reporter. And he was always incredibly gracious and respectful and something I always really appreciated even back then.” ESPN recently expanded the NBA-focused TV show’s schedule as it prepares to air its second season Monday, and the network was looking to add new blood. “When his name came up in conversation I jumped at the idea and we pursued him,” said Nichols, whose show will air at 2:30 p.m. weekdays. “Scottie gives us someone who is sort of the missing component from our group (which includes Tracy McGrady, Stephen Jackson and Byron Scott), someone who was a champion six times over and has that perspective,” she said. “And when so many conversations these days are about where does Golden State rank in terms of the great teams in the NBA, what it’s like to be Steph Curry or Kevin Durant, well, Scottie Pippen has been in a lot of those shoes.”

Nike Co-Founder Phil Knight Gives $500 Million for University of Oregon Science Center
The Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact will focus on finding real-world applications for more basic scientific discoveries, according to school officials. In coming years, the university expects to build three research facilities across from its current science complex in Eugene, Ore., hire 30 new research scientists and add spots for 250 graduate students and 150 postdoctoral researchers. “This is a seminal moment for the University of Oregon, an inflection point that will shape the trajectory of the university and this state for the next century and beyond,” President Michael Schill said in a press release. In 2013, the Knights announced a $500 million matched gift for cancer research to the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland; the school met the challenge last year. And in February, they announced a $400 million donation to Stanford University for a graduate scholars program. So-called mega-gifts to colleges have become more commonplace in recent years, particularly at institutions like Harvard University and Stanford. Each of those schools netted more than $1 billion in donations last year alone, anchored by a handful of nine-figure donations. But such massive gifts are still relatively rare at public universities.

A rendering of the University of Oregon’s the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact. Photo: University of Oregon

Kelli Masters Is an Agent for Change
For Germain and White, Masters is an inspiration for taking a chance on herself and showing that it is possible for women to be successful in the industry while also supporting each other. In fact, the two women, who met at the Women in NFL event, are now working together to sign a player. As for Masters, her approach as an agent has evolved over time, but she remains dedicated to her original cause of helping transform the lives of her players in a positive way. “In the beginning, I was willing to take on responsibility for things that really weren’t my responsibility,” she said. “Now I think it’s a matter of communicating effectively in the very beginning about what players can expect from me and also laying out my expectations for them.” These basic expectations range from returning emails and phone calls to showing up to appointments on time. Those things, she says, help her and the player work together as a team. Through creating those boundaries and expectations, she learned that she earned more respect from her players and they valued her work more. Today, Masters has expanded her agency to include athletes in a number of sports, not just football. She represents baseball players, an MMA fighter, and three Olympic athletes, including Johnny Quinn, a NFL player who went on to compete as a bobsledder in the Sochi Games. “I guess I just like challenging myself,” she said when asked about her new clients. “I wanted to see if I could do it.”

Photo by Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The N.B.A.’s New Brand of Activism
In 2015, Richard Lapchick, the director of the Institute of Diversity and Ethics in Sport, gave the N.B.A. an A-plus for racial hiring practices and a B-plus for gender-related hiring practices, the highest marks of any sports league. “It’s a wonderful feeling to be at a place where you are valued for bringing different ideas,” Tatum said. “We recognize having diverse points of views makes us better.” But when players express their diverse points of view on controversial topics, leagues often struggle with how best to respond. Twenty years ago, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, a guard for the Denver Nuggets, declined to stand for the national anthem, and he was suspended indefinitely by the N.B.A. The league relented after one game, when Abdul-Rauf agreed to stand for the anthem on the condition that he be allowed to bow his head in prayer. “I think the world has changed in the last twenty years,” Tatum said, when I asked him about that precedent. In July, the Women’s National Basketball Association, which is backed by the N.B.A., fined players on three teams and their organizations for wearing black T-shirts during pregame warmups to protest recent shootings by, and violence perpetrated against, police officers. After a social-media backlash, the W.N.B.A. rescinded the fines. Commissioner Silver expressed support for the women, while adding that he wanted all players to adhere to their leagues’ uniform rules. “I would greatly prefer that the players use the platform they’re given,” Silver said at a meeting of the board of governors in July. “Social media, press conferences, media in locker rooms, however they want to do it, to make their political points of view be known.”

As the preseason has gotten under way, multiple teams have fashioned a new approach to the national anthem that acknowledges recent protests while presenting a less confrontational image. Photograph by Brian Babineau / NBAE via Getty

Dollamur and Olympian Adeline Gray to reward deserving wrestling program with #MatMakeover
Dollamur Sport Surfaces (Dollamur) – the world’s leading manufacturer of high-performance sports flooring for martial arts, mixed martial arts, wrestling, gymnastics, cheerleading and yoga – have teamed up with three-time world champion and Olympic wrestler Adeline Gray to announce the #MatMakeover Contest with the winning wrestling program receiving new wrestling mats or wall pads (up to $12,000 value). Social media users are asked a simple question: “Why Does Your Wrestling Program Deserve a #MatMakeover?” Contestants can enter by submitting a photo or video via Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with a caption and #MatMakeover. Adeline Gray, U.S. Olympic wrestler and member of Dollamur’s Athlete Advisory Council, will be present during the event unveiling, taking place in early 2017. “Dollamur embodies the Olympic spirit and helps athletes across the globe train on the safest, most durable mats in the world,” says Gray. “My hope is this commitment to serving local communities will inspire the next generation of athletes.”

Sparks win WNBA title in one of the wildest finishes you’ll ever see
Plenty of basketball fans are waiting in anticipation of the start of the NBA season next Tuesday. But the WNBA Finals offered a winner-take-all Game 5 on Thursday between the Los Angeles Sparks and Minnesota Lynx that rivaled any game in any league for excitement and drama. A back-and-forth series culminated in a thrilling final two minutes between the two Western Conference powers. (The WNBA reseeds playoff teams after each round regardless of conference affiliation.) The biggest stars on the court took over and came through with plenty of big-time highlights, though not without legitimate controversy. The result came down to the final few possessions. A Candace Parker lay-up with 19 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter put the Sparks up 75-74 and forced the Lynx into calling their final timeout. Minnesota quickly got the ball to star Maya Moore, who buried a jumper to grab the lead right back. It did not last long. 2016 MVP Nneka Ogwumike’s followed up a block of her own shot from Sylvia Fowles and with an off-balance fadeaway to put the Sparks up for good and clinch the franchise’s first title since Lisa Leslie’s heyday in 2002. Lynx point guard Lindsay Whalen attempted a half-court heave at the buzzer but missed high to cinch the result.

The Los Angeles Sparks captured and dramatic and thrilling winner-take-all Game 5. (Associated Press)

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