Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #245

Jan. 8 – Jan. 14, 2017

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

  1. Coming Home: How Soccer Without Borders Is Building A Bridge To The Next Generation
  2. Inaugural ‘Dream Series’ to provide exposure and development opportunities for diverse high school pitchers and catchers
  3. Secretly Awesome: Mission Bay’s Street Soccer Park
  4. Denver Broncos’ Russell Okung: Professional Athletes Can And Should Pursue Investment Opportunities In Tech
  5. From a basketball jones to hockey: Seth Jones is in a league of his own
  6. In Soccer’s Hinterlands, World Cup Expansion Opens a Door
  7. WME-IMG Launches Philanthropic Partnership With UNICEF
  8. Rangers, fans show their passion in honoring late Steven McDonald
  9. Kyrie Irving Paying Tuition for Hospitalized Student at His Former High School
  10. The Joy of Six: unsung sporting heroes of 2016

Tennis for all Uganda-The power of tennis to go anywhere (Peace and Sport)
No Matter What Happens (by Mitchell Trubisky) (The Players’ Tribune)
Sevens stars support youth in Vietnam (Beyond Sport)
Family Over Everything (by Jack Sock) (The Players’ Tribune)
A Coach Teaches Resiliency, By Practicing It Himself (Up2Us)

A story we feature this week did not suffer from a lack of coverage. In fact, the story received attention from many parts of the world, and was especially prominent in the New York area. However, we felt it deserved more attention, especially with a connection to sports.

Police detective Steven McDonald died this week, 30 years after he was paralyzed by gunshots from an assailant. Steven’s story and that of his wife and son resonated with many, including those in the sports world. In speaking of Steven’s life, his love of family and faith were occasionally coupled with his affinity for sports, including that for the NHL’s New York Rangers. The bond between the team and the McDonald’s extended to the team creating an award to recognize a special Ranger each year. The strength they took from each other over 30 years fueled great achievements for both and his passing, while difficult, was an opportunity to highlight their special relationship.

The other stories we highlight this week include: the great non-profit Soccer Without Borders; an effort by MLB to help develop young players, some of whom might find themselves playing in the League one day; another great non-profit Street Soccer USA and a special soccer venue; the Denver Broncos’ Russell Okung encouraging his fellow athletes to do the hard work necessary to succeed in tech investing; young NHL star Seth Jones; the excitement, along with some consternation, behind FIFA’s decision to expand the World Cup field to include 48 teams and what that will mean for non-traditional football powers; a potentially powerful relationship involving two very well-respected organizations, WME-IMG and UNICEF; the generosity of NBA star Kyrie Irving; and a look at some athletes who had a memorable 2016.

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Coming Home: How Soccer Without Borders Is Building A Bridge To The Next Generation
“The first experience that I had like this was working at a community center in the Mission (District of San Francisco) called Jamestown. It’s a great organization, an after-school enrichment program for youth, and one of the things that they do is a sports component,” Gucciardi, a native of San Francisco, says. “The sports director was really passionate about creating opportunity for girls, which was very, very rare at that time, especially for young, and mostly low-income Latina women to be playing sports. So, that was really her focus—to create these opportunities, and it was an awesome experience, to see how much it meant to the girls.” Gucciardi helped out with the Jamestown program each summer, when he would return home to San Francisco from Lehigh University, (where he played for the nationally ranked Mountain Hawks soccer team). “That sort of planted the seed, that sports could be used in this very specific way,” he explains, “creating opportunities where before there were none, and there’s this other element of it—it’s not just about sports itself, but also about access and social justice, which resonated with me a lot.”

Inaugural ‘Dream Series’ to provide exposure and development opportunities for diverse high school pitchers and catchers
Major League Baseball and USA Baseball today announced the inaugural ‘DREAM SERIES,’ a special event to provide exposure and development opportunities for a diverse group of high school baseball pitchers and catchers from around the United States. The ‘DREAM SERIES’ is the first event in a chain of diversity-focused amateur development camps in 2017, joining the returning ‘Breakthrough Series’ and ‘Elite Development Invitational,’ which are all primarily designed to serve minority high school players throughout the country. The camps, which are free for all participants, are hosted by Major League Baseball and various partners, including USA Baseball, USA Softball and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA)… These development camps will serve nearly 700 amateur youth baseball and softball players with diverse backgrounds who are selected by invitation. Activities at the events will focus on baseball and softball training from former Major League, Minor League and professional-level players and coaches. Additionally, staff from USA Baseball and USA Softball, particularly Sean Campbell (Sr. Director of Sport Development, USA Baseball; former San Diego Padres Scout and Minor Leaguer) and Destinee Martinez (Event Coordinator, USA Softball; former Team USA member and NCAA Women’s College World Series Champion), will assist with instruction. Participants also will engage in mandatory study sessions as well as receive presentations on a variety of off-field topics geared toward preparing them for the next stages of their baseball and academic careers.

Secretly Awesome: Mission Bay’s Street Soccer Park
In the shadow of AT&T Park, across McCovey Cove, the crumbling piers of Mission Bay transform into expensive game day parking lots for Giants fans during baseball season. The Mission Bay neighborhood is rapidly evolving, and one new feature may surprise you: tucked behind the Yard at Mission Rock’s shipping container complex is a tiny new sports complex making a big impact. The Street Soccer USA park, complete with a pair of turf mini-soccer fields, stadium lights, electronic scoreboards and a locker room, opened on April 26th of this year with local food and drink partnerships, a view of the Bay and an influx of soccer enthusiasts knocking on its doors. The facility is the crown jewel for an organization fighting to teach at-risk youth and the homeless how to build important life skills and cultivate long-term positive change through teamwork on the soccer field. Some proceeds from the corporate, competitive and coed leagues at the SSUSA Park get routed back into the program’s social initiatives and will help generate revenue for its social program, while expanding its overall profile.

Denver Broncos’ Russell Okung: Professional Athletes Can And Should Pursue Investment Opportunities In Tech
The following is an op-ed by Russell Okung, a Pro-Bowl Left Tackle in the NFL for the Denver Broncos and an investor in numerous technology companies, including Andela, Matcherino, Omni, and Shyft. Okung is the co-founder of the GREATER Foundation, which seeks to educate and mentor young people of color to succeed in the tech industry. He is also an Executive MBA student at the University of Miami and a member of the advisory board for the NFL Players Association’s OneTeam Collective, the first athlete-driven accelerator that will help startup companies obtain rights to sports-related intellectual property in exchange for equity. Now, some people are warning that venture capital funds and tech startups are the new steakhouses; money pits luring naïve athletes. Sure, some athletes have lost large sums of money as a result of reckless investments and typically, when this happens, it generates a lot of media attention because it reinforces the aforementioned stereotype. But this narrative ignores that investment failure is not the exclusive domain of athletes. It is, by its nature, a risky endeavor and all investors have the same obligation to be diligent, to self-educate and to consult industry and investment experts. Everyone, not just athletes, needs to do their homework before investing. And athletes are just as able as anyone to do so.

From a basketball jones to hockey: Seth Jones is in a league of his own
NHL All-Star Seth Jones was taught to be colorblind, with one exception: chasing a black puck on white ice. That is how he was raised by his African-American father, former NBA player Ronald Jerome “Popeye” Jones, and his white mother, Amy Jones. But every now and then, the Columbus Blue Jackets star defenseman is reminded about his race and his position as a role model. “There have been a few African-American kids who have come up to me and said, ‘You’re my favorite player,’ ” Seth Jones, 22, told The Undefeated. “They have my jersey or my T-shirt jersey on. That’s pretty cool. I am for whatever I can do to grow the game in all aspects. A black kid cheering for hockey or cheering for me is pretty rare. When you see that, you get pretty excited.” Willie O’Ree broke the NHL’s color barrier in 1958. Today, Seth Jones is one of a mere 18 black players on 30 NHL teams. And it runs in the family. His younger brother, Caleb, was one of a record three blacks to play on a USA Hockey junior team that won the IHF World Junior Championship last week. The future of black players in the NHL seems to be getting brighter. But the small fraternity of black NHL players don’t deem it necessary to call extra attention to themselves.

Then Nashville Predators player Seth Jones #3 poses with his father Popeye Jones after signing a three-year entry-level deal with the Nashville Predators at the 2013 Nashville Predators Development Camp on July 10, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

In Soccer’s Hinterlands, World Cup Expansion Opens a Door
Teams like Uganda, which is currently 72nd in FIFA’s much-maligned world ranking, are likely to benefit the most from World Cup expansion. Africa currently has five qualification spots for its 54 member associations, making qualification a tough task for any team not already among the continent’s traditional powers. World Cup qualification by an African country, Sredojevic said, can have a transformational effect, helping to develop and showcase the abundance of talent that exists on the continent. “Football is a second religion in Africa,” said Sredojevic, who has also coached in South Africa, Sudan, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Rwanda. “Having more places widens the door.” Other coaches have changed their mind about the benefits of expansion after seeing the game for themselves at the grass-roots level. The Dutch-born coach Thomas Rongen said he saw how important the World Cup was for smaller teams when he took charge of American Samoa’s national team in 2011. Back then, American Samoa was FIFA’s lowest-ranked team. In fact, it had never won a game.

Uganda, celebrating a goal against Botswana, is one of the teams that are likely to benefit the most from the coming World Cup expansion. Credit Monirul Bhuiyan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

WME-IMG Launches Philanthropic Partnership With UNICEF
The mega-agency will lend its resources to help create and distribute content that promotes UNICEF’s humanitarian causes and identify opportunities to connect the organization with its clients and feature it in its vast portfolio of events, such as Fashion Week and numerous sports tournaments. “WME-IMG’s employees work with some of the world’s greatest influencers, brands and storytellers, all of whom care deeply about the welfare of our next generation,” WME-IMG co-CEOs Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell said in a joint statement. “Through this partnership, we will mobilize our global network to ignite action around UNICEF’s most pressing issues, encouraging people to get — and stay — involved.” The WME-IMG Foundation will continue its community outreach to its partner schools in Compton, Calif., Brooklyn, London and Nashville, Tenn., but the UNICEF partnership is the first time since the agency’s 2014 merger that it will work with a charity that matches its worldwide reach (WME-IMG has offices in more than 25 countries). The agency announced the partnership at its retreat last week via a panel that included WME-IMG Foundation Executive Director Tascha Rudder, U.S. Fund for UNICEF President and CEO Caryl M. Stern and Lilly Singh, aka YouTube star Superwoman, who is active in women’s empowerment advocacy. Singh’s fellow WME client Tom Hiddleston, who made a much-discussed acceptance speech that mentioned UNICEF at the Golden Globes on Sunday, taped a video praising the partnership that was shown during the panel.


Rangers, fans show their passion in honoring late Steven McDonald
McDonald told their story anyway, turning his misfortune into a blessing. He visited Northern Ireland during the Troubles and spoke often at New York schools. And he became a fixture at Madison Square Garden, during triumphant, disappointing, and then triumphant-again years for the Rangers. He was laid to rest Friday morning at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, with thousands of NYPD officers filling the pews. Rangers great Adam Graves, who won the McDonald Award five times, spoke at the service. Said Graves, “You’ve all heard a lot over the last few days about how much the New York Rangers meant to Steven McDonald, and we’re grateful and humbled by the role our team played in this remarkable man’s life. But … Steven McDonald meant more to the New York Rangers and our fans than we could ever mean to him.” As McDonald would have had it, the service brought together powerful factions that have seemed at odds over the years: Mayors David Dinkins and Bill de Blasio, and the officers who have complained about them. Friday night, though, was for the Rangers and their fans. Around the Garden, team employees wore special badges with McDonald’s name on them. For the pregame skate, every Blueshirt took the ice with a McDonald jersey, wearing 104, McDonald’s badge number, on their backs. The public-address announcer asked for cheers in lieu of a moment of silence, and the Garden roared. For the ceremonial puck drop, Graves and Mark Messier accompanied Patti Ann and Conor (now 29 himself and a sergeant in the NYPD) to center ice.

Julie Jacobson/AP

Kyrie Irving Paying Tuition for Hospitalized Student at His Former High School
Long before he was an NBA champion and LeBron James’ superstar sidekick, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving attended St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Uncle Drew hasn’t forgotten his roots. On Friday, ZagsBlog’s Adam Zagoria reported that Irving is covering the tuition for 12-year-old Spencer Joyner, who was diagnosed with “pseudotumor cerebri, a debilitating condition that results in migraine headaches and can cause vision loss” in November. St. Pat’s closed in 2012 and was replaced by the nondenominational Patrick School, which Joyner attends. “It made me feel really good and lucky to have one of my favorite players do that,” Spencer told Zagoria. Irving also paid for the funeral of 14-year-old Nixon Geraldo, another Patrick School student who collapsed during basketball practice and later died. Kyrie donates money to the school regularly and provides athletic gear for the basketball team.

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The Joy of Six: unsung sporting heroes of 2016
Achmat Hassiem: More notable still is the story of how he lost it: to a great white shark, when Hassiem and his brother were training to be lifeguards off the coast of Cape Town in 2006. “I saw this little triangle moving on top of the water moving towards my brother,” Hassiem said in Rio. “I decided to see what was attached to this triangle and that’s when I saw a 4.7m great white shark. Immediately my first instinct as the older brother was to protect my younger brother, and I started drumming on top of the water to draw the shark’s attention away from him and towards myself. Next thing I know, the shark grabbed my leg and I got pulled 50m under the water towards the depths. The worst part was listening to the sound of the rescue boat’s propellers disappearing. As human beings, we are designed to fight back, and that’s what I did: I started hitting the shark on the side of its head, started kicking it with my free leg. And that’s when I could feel my leg break in half.” Hassiem swam to the surface, survived a second attack by the shark and clambered aboard the rescue boat, where his brother embraced him, and thanked Achmat for saving his life. This year’s Olympics marked 10 years since that incident, during which he won a bronze medal at London 2012 in the S10 100m butterfly, and after qualifying for the same final in Rio, Hassiem hung up his trunks. However, this is just the beginning of a new chapter for the South African, who has a new challenge after being named a Global Shark Guardian by the United Nations’ Save Our Sharks Coalition in February, a conservation role set up to protect the species which left him dismembered.

Clockwise from top: LA Sparks’ Chelsea Gray, swimmer Achmat Hassiem, the Norway handball team and Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer. Composite: Robert Perry/EPA; Leon Bennett/Getty Images; Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images; Kacper Pempel/Reuters

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