Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #240

Nov. 20 – Dec. 3, 2016

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

  1. What I Found in Standing Rock (by Bronson Koenig)
  2. Jennifer Gibson’s cool sports job: Chicago Bears sports science coordinator and dietitian
  3. Northwestern Basketball Team Becomes Good Enough to Dream
  4. Mikaela Shiffrin Ties Record For Most Consecutive World Cup Slalom Wins With Victory In Vermont
  5. Orlando Magic’s Bismack Biyombo inspires with act of kindness
  6. NFL Players’ Causes Take the Field with My Cause, My Cleats Campaign
  7. Two Rice students develop baseball sleeve that can alert you to arm injuries before they occur
  8. Lakers Offering More Than Words in Effort to Heal Los Angeles’ Racial Divide
  9. Sports and Autism: Against conventional wisdom, people with autism are embracing sports
  10. For Deaf Tennis Player, Sound Is No Barrier

ESPN Builds and Dedicates Multifunctional Sports Court and Playground in Mexico (Beyond Sport)
Obama awards his final Presidential Medals of Freedom (Peace and Sport)
Generations For Peace signs agreement with US Institute of Peace (Sport and Dev)
Green-Kenya raises environmental awareness (Sport and Dev)
Prince Harry: Sport has the power to change lives (Beyond Sport)

We were fortunate again this week to put together a collection of inspirational, thought-provoking, and even somewhat surprising stories. From a story of a student-athlete from the University of Wisconsin, Bronson Koenig, speaking on his experience interacting with the Native Americans protesting at Standing Rock; to a wonderful story of Orlando Magic player Bismack Biyombo, who originally hails from Congo, and his outreach to a homeless man in Chicago; to an enlightening piece from Sports Illustrated on the presence of sports in the lives of those with autism. Those and the other stories will make your day/ week.

We wanted to take a moment to recognize a major loss that occurred last week, an event that touched people from all around the world. Brazilian football team Chapecoense was traveling from Bolivia to Colombia to participate in the first match of their two-leg Copa Sudamericana final against Atlético Nacional. The plane crashed minutes before reaching its destination.
This is obviously an immense tragedy that transcends sports. People around the world reacted accordingly with surprise and sadness. But there were also reactions that speak to the power of sport and the connection it gives us to individuals, communities and countries different from us. Players and teams, professional and amateurs and those who just like to kick the ball around, from around the world expressed their support for the club and the family and friends of those who perished in the crash. These fans of Chapecoense, Brazilian football, and the “beautiful game” raised their voices in response to the crash, determined to celebrate this wonderful club, who just a few days before was celebrating together as they prepared themselves for their championship games.
To get an idea of the love expressed for these players and the others who died in the crash, we provide this link to a short video from the stadium at which Chapecoense’s was to play its Atletico in the Copa. More than 30,000 spectators came to the stadium, and many more congregated outside the stadium, to pay a heartfelt tribute.
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So enjoy. And have a good week.

What I Found in Standing Rock (by Bronson Koenig)
It was a trip I’d been meaning to make ever since thousands of indigenous people — water and land protectors — from all across the world had first convened at Standing Rock last spring. I knew that September was going to be my last opportunity to join the protests before basketball season, and my senior year at Wisconsin, began. I didn’t know many people at the camp, but something was compelling me to go. My brother, Miles, our good friend Clint Parks and I made the drive from Madison in 14 hours, with the flag of our Ho-Chunk tribe flying from our trailer. Even though there were over 300 tribes represented in the camp — some from as far away as Florida, Alaska and even South America — I immediately felt a connection. It was hard to describe. Way out there on the prairie, far from home, I felt a sense of comfort. I’d come to join the protest, and also to give a free clinic for the local kids. As a college basketball player, I felt that it was the best way I could show my support for the protests. One of the greatest things about the game is that wherever you go, you can ball. On reservations, there’s almost always a game of “rez ball” happening.

I often felt like a minority within a minority. Not Native enough. Not white enough. Like a stranger in two lands.

Jennifer Gibson’s cool sports job: Chicago Bears sports science coordinator and dietitian
She’s never thrown a 45-yard pass, tried to block a blitzing linebacker or drawn up the X’s and O’s of zone pass coverage, yet Jennifer Gibson is right there on the Chicago Bears sideline for every practice and game. Tucked among the behemoth linemen, coaches and training staff is a fit, 36-year-old Canadian with long, blonde hair dressed in Bears colors who’s in her second season as the team’s sport science coordinator and sport dietitian. Her goal: to help every athlete on the roster perform at his highest level. Gibson came to the Bears after several years working with the U.S. and Canadian Olympic programs, guiding many athletes to the medal stand. She’s also worked with teams and athletes in professional soccer, tennis and the NBA. She has a degree in nutrition, is a registered dietitian, has a master’s in exercise science and is a graduate of the International Olympic Committee’s sport nutrition program. Seeing a sport dietitian at a leadership conference piqued her interest. The combination of liking science and growing up in an Italian family played a factor, too. “I liked food,” Gibson says. “I was trying to find a career path that blended the two, and there it was.”

Jennifer Gibson, the Chicago Bears’ sports science coordinator and dietitian, works with a Bears player during practice.

Northwestern Basketball Team Becomes Good Enough to Dream
Collins said having patience had been the hardest part of his current job. In 2015, the Wildcats lost 10 straight games in conference play. At Duke, it might have taken two full seasons to accumulate that many losses in the league. “Behind the scenes, I saw it coming along well, but the bottom line is you have to win,” Collins said. “We weren’t quite ready to do that. You find out a lot about yourself during those times, how you deal with it and keep moving forward. I think it’s helped me become a better coach.” Also helping Collins through early tumult was his father, Doug, now an analyst for ESPN. “Any time you see a situation that doesn’t have a tradition or long-term success, there’s a little bit of fear involved, too,” Chris Collins said. “You’re going to try to change a lot of things: a perception, culture, attitude. He’s been a great resource to me. He coached in the N.B.A. at four different teams, and every team he took over was a similar type situation. He never had an opportunity to take over a winning team. They needed to change their culture.”

Northwestern’s bench congratulated Isiah Brown, left, after he made a 3-pointer in a win over Texas on Monday night in Brooklyn. Credit Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Mikaela Shiffrin Ties Record For Most Consecutive World Cup Slalom Wins With Victory In Vermont
Since Shiffrin started racing on the world cup in 2011, she has won two world championships, an Olympic gold medal and three overall world cup slalom titles. But she finished a disappointing fifth in the Killington giant slalom yesterday. Then had a confidence crisis this morning. “I put a lot of pressure on myself, and knowing that I’ve been performing so well in slalom, I knew I had a great chance in slalom here,” she said. “I actually really wanted to win the GS as well, but I didn’t put winning GS skiing out there yesterday. I was bummed about that.” Her flagging confidence was fueled in part by questions after she won the slalom in Levi, Finland, two weeks ago. In previous years, Shiffrin has won slaloms by 2+-second margins. But in Levi, she won by 0.67 seconds, and several people asked her what happened, what went wrong? Those questions angered her and also planted seeds of doubt. “I’m not the most confident person,” she admitted. “I tend to have a lot of self-doubt. I’m also generally a really happy person. Sometimes these races, they get to me. I feel like I have to be something special or something different or get somebody else’s approval, get the crowd’s approval, or the media’s approval.” In front of her family and friends, she tried to make the choice that she did not need anyone’s approval but her own, that her truly best skiing would come out if she stopped trying to garner the approval of others. And she hoped that this message would carry over to the thousands of young girls who came to Killington to watch her ski.

Mikaela Shiffrin celebrates after winning the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup women’s slalom on Nov. 27, 2016 in Killington, Vt. 2016 Getty Images

Orlando Magic’s Bismack Biyombo inspires with act of kindness
With the holiday season approaching, you’ll see the Magic and athletes from all sports donating their time and money to the less fortunate. Biz, too, said he has blindly given money to good causes, but wasn’t always sure of the outcome. “I used to do that, make a donation and probably never know what’s going to happen. I changed that,” he said. Biyombo visits his charity in the summers in his native Congo just to see the process in action. He wants to see the kids he’s trying to help and educate, hoping to steer them clear from being recruited as “child soldiers” during times of civil unrest. And back on a cold Chicago street corner, there’s another kind of struggle that doesn’t escape Biyombo’s compassion. He grew up poor, sometimes not having money to eat school lunches. Basketball gave him a way out and made him wealthy beyond his dreams. Biyombo is as genuine as they come. He could have easily handed a homeless man dressed in several dirty jackets some cash and went on his way. Instead, he provided a personal, human touch, inviting the man to a restaurant for a meal. “He told me he couldn’t get into the restaurant the way he was dressed. I told him, ‘Don’t worry.’ It was serious and sad at the same time,” Biyombo said.

Growing up poor in his native Congo, Magic C Bismack Biyombo knows what it’s like to be without some of life’s basic necessities. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

NFL Players’ Causes Take the Field with My Cause, My Cleats Campaign
NFL players will have the chance to share the causes that are important to them during all Week 13 games, as part of the NFL’s My Cause, My Cleats campaign. The initiative is a culmination of 18 months of collaborative work between the NFL and players across the league, and it includes an online storytelling platform, in partnership with The Players’ Tribune. Throughout the season, participating players have worked with The Players’ Tribune to tell the stories behind their cleats via long-form features and profile cards. ?More than 500 players are planning to showcase their causes on-field during games, and many have worked directly with Nike, Under Armour and adidas to design their cleats, which will arrive in locker rooms this week, and will be worn on-field for all Week 13 games. Some teams, including the New York Giants and Houston Texans, worked with an independent customizer to design cleats for players on the team who opted to participate in the campaign… “One of the great NFL traditions is how our players passionately support important causes in their communities and around the globe every year,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.  “They are incredibly creative by nature so we are not surprised how they are seizing the opportunity this week with inspiring expressions of their charitable commitments on their cleats, online and through social media.”–MY-CAUSE,-MY-CLEATS-CAMPAIGN.aspx

In Week 13, Brandon Marshall’s charitable cause takes the field as he proudly displays Project375 on his game day cleats. Check out his story and those of many others at #MyCauseMyCleats #FootballisFamily

Two Rice students develop baseball sleeve that can alert you to arm injuries before they occur
You might be wondering how the sensors from a baseball sleeve could possibly be useful in physical therapy. Well, the beauty of their technology, Dzeda and Natarajan say, is that it can be extremely versatile. While their immediate goal is to work their way up the baseball pitching market — from high school to college to the professional level — their secondary goal is to eventually expand the technology to a variety of different activities. They say the sensors that they created can be used for any repetitive physical activity, like running or working out, and would only require some minor changes. “The software — how we analyze the data and stuff — would have to be tweaked, but the hardware would remain mostly intact,” Natarajan said. But that’s still a long way down the road, so for now, the two students are mostly concentrating on finishing the fourth prototype and getting it ready for beta testing. They’ve been working on it for about a year, but that shouldn’t be a surprise when you consider that they’re still college seniors. Given the rigors of a Rice education, it’s fair to wonder how they find time to work on the sleeve at all.

Lakers Offering More Than Words in Effort to Heal Los Angeles’ Racial Divide
When McDevitt shared several concepts for the Lakers extending the NBA’s “Building Bridges with Basketball” program, there was overwhelming support for this idea of using the Lakers’ brand and gym to facilitate human connection. Inside the room where McDevitt shared his ideas with Lakers players, head coach Luke Walton and general manager Mitch Kupchak, there was a real excitement before the season. Lou Williams, Metta World Peace and Nick Young—three of the older players on the roster and three guys who don’t necessarily fit everyone’s image of a role model—were the ones most eager to volunteer to build a long-term program. Julius Randle then took the Staples Center public-address microphone before this season’s opening tipoff to publicly put the rest of the team on record about its commitment to the plan. That Randle became the public face of the Lakers’ efforts was no surprise. Turning 22 Tuesday, Randle qualifies as the most life-advanced of the Lakers’ young core of players, engaged to be married and so proud he is about to become a father that his unborn son’s name “Kyden” dangles from his necklace, plated in gold script. Randle’s opening-night promise to the fans didn’t involve the usual basketball-themed promises at all. Instead, it was that Lakers players will be involved in the community to make a difference in this day and age.

Police and young men from Los Angeles have formed new levels of respect for each other by playing against each other on the basketball court. Photo by Kevin Dingx

Sports and Autism: Against conventional wisdom, people with autism are embracing sports
Here’s what is not in dispute among treatment experts: the importance of more personalized and more holistic plans. And so, relying on a growing body of research and a wealth of anecdotal evidence, they’re reconsidering the long-held belief that sports can do more harm than good. “Twenty years ago I wasn’t thinking about exercise at all,” says Ann Neumeyer, a pediatric neurologist and medical director of the Lurie Center for Autism at the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children. “Occasionally parents would ask [if kids with ASD could play sports] and I’d say, ‘O.K., but make sure you’re the coach.’ But now there’s an awareness that [autistic] children can be very successful and more accepted [in sports]. I’m pretty much recommending it to everyone.”… Six years ago Ross, a developmental and behavioral-health pediatrician practicing in the Philadelphia suburbs, founded a nonprofit, Autism Inclusion Resources. She was motivated largely by what she saw in her practice. Much of the public discussion of autism centered on funding and cures and the controversies over causes. Ross’s patients and their families had more pressing concerns: How will they get through the week? And what will the future portend for ASD children? “These two things speak to the same point,” Ross says. “How do you make people in the community as independent as possible?”
(Video,  60 MINUTES SPORTS correspondent Jon Wertheim reports on how daily sports and exercises benefit people with autism, including professional MMA fighter John “Doomsday” Howard.

For Deaf Tennis Player, Sound Is No Barrier
Though no deaf players have achieved professional success comparable to Lee’s, there have been a handful of deaf and hard-of-hearing tennis players who have excelled at the collegiate level in the United States. Paige Stringer, who founded the Global Foundation for Children with Hearing Loss, played for the University of Washington, where she had a doubles partner who was also deaf. She hypothesized that deaf players’ disadvantage in not being able to hear their opponents hit the ball can be compensated for by increased visual acuity. “People who were born deaf or hard of hearing may have a stronger sense of intuition in general, and tend to see subtle clues in a person’s face or body language better than people with normal hearing,” Stringer said. “They are more visual, because when one sense is compromised, other senses are heightened to compensate. If my hypothesis is correct, people who are deaf or hard of hearing may have an advantage in tennis because they can pick up visual cues faster and better as to their opponent’s plans, and may have better reflexes because they see things sooner.”

Lee and his mother, Park Mi-ja. She taught him to speak and to read lips, and she committed to help him build a career in tennis. Credit Jean Chung for The New York Times

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