Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #246

Jan. 15 – Jan. 21, 2017

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

  1. On Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Nike Announces New Partnerships to Promote Equality in Communities across the U.S.
  2. President Obama offers final reminder about the value of sports in America
  3. Triumph over Tragedy: Bradley Hayes’ long road ends as a Georgetown graduate
  4. Laila Ali joins mentoring campaign on her late father’s birthday
  5. NFL Players Association launches business accelerator with Intel, Harvard, Madrona, others
  6. This Wild Acrobatic Activity Is Now Officially Considered A Sport
  7. Serena Williams on why social media matters
  8. Sam Saunders Cherishes Arnold Palmer’s Lessons on Golf, and Life
  9. Is this the year? Northwestern and the search for the NCAA tournament
  10. Catching up with former Maryland guard and fan favorite Varun Ram

Girl power: Beyond our limits – inspiring social change through football (Sport and Dev)
Building bridges between Cuba and the U.S through rugby (Peace and Sport)
Power play: Table tennis driving disability dignity in Kiribati (Sport and Dev)
The Moment You’re Weightless (by Mario Gomez) (The Players’ Tribune)
England Athletics Launch RunTogether (Beyond Sport)

We try to be open-minded and more inclusive when it comes to the stories that we feature. When it comes to which sports to include, that same approach exists. The traditional ball sports are often featured, as are activities such as running, swimming, and hiking/climbing. This week we include a sport that we find absolutely fascinating and many times, scary. Parkour, also known as free running, combines elements of running, jumping, flipping, pretty much flying through the air. If you have seen the show American Ninja Warrior, you have seen some elements of parkour. Will we see this sport in the Olympics one day? I certainly hope so. Take a few minutes, after reading the newsletter of course, to check out some videos on Youtube of parkour in action. You will be amazed.

The other stories we feature this week include: a meaningful partnership between Nike, PeacePlayers International, and MENTOR; inspiring words regarding sports from President Obama at his last official ceremony at the White House; Georgetown student-athlete Bradley Hayes and his athletic and educational journey; Laila Ali and her commitment to mentoring; the NFLPA working to give its current and former players options to pursue off the field, this time through access to the world of business startups; tennis star Serena Williams and her appreciation for the potential impact of social media; golfer Sam Saunders and his connection to his grandfather, the late Arnold Palmer; Northwestern University basketball and the very real possibility that it will be part of the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever; and an update on former college basketball player Varun Ram of the University of Maryland, including his commitment to giving back.

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

On Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Nike Announces New Partnerships to Promote Equality in Communities across the U.S.
NIKE, Inc. today announced two new partnerships with world-class community organizations, PeacePlayers International and MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership. These partnerships, launched on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, will expand opportunities and support for youth and their communities, continuing Nike’s strong belief in using the power of sport to promote diversity, inclusion and equality. PeacePlayers International is globally recognized for uniting divided communities — leading with youth — through sport. By developing youth leaders, building relationships and changing perceptions, PeacePlayers is strengthening communities using sport as a tool to bridge divides. MENTOR is the leading national organization in ensuring quality youth mentoring relationships and connecting volunteers to opportunities in their local communities throughout the United States. MENTOR’s mission is to close the “mentoring gap” ensuring that young people receive the support they need to succeed in all areas of life. Today’s announcement of support for PeacePlayers and MENTOR furthers Nike’s long-standing commitment to create positive impact in communities, and support for equality for everyone.

Image courtesy of Peace Players International

President Obama offers final reminder about the value of sports in America
“They said this day would never come,” Obama said Monday to begin his remarks. But his final words resonated the most. He spoke off the cuff, looking at everyone packed into a swelling East Room and using his trademark slow, methodical delivery, sounding as if every word arrived with “fragile” written on it. “It is worth remembering — because sometimes people wonder, ‘Well, why are you spending time on sports? There’s other stuff going on’ — throughout our history, sports has had this power to bring us together, even when the country is divided,” Obama said. “Sports has changed attitudes and culture in ways that seem subtle but that ultimately made us think differently about ourselves and who we were. It is a game, and it is celebration, but there’s a direct line between Jackie Robinson and me standing here.” Later in his closing words, he said: “And I was in my home town of Chicago on Tuesday for my farewell address, and I said, ‘Sometimes, it’s not enough just to change laws. You’ve got to change hearts.’ And sports has a way, sometimes, of changing hearts in a way that politics or business doesn’t. And sometimes it’s just a matter of us being able to escape and relax from the difficulties of our days, but sometimes it also speaks to something better in us.”

Triumph over Tragedy: Bradley Hayes’ long road ends as a Georgetown graduate
Hayes finished his degree during the fall semester, a philosophy major that is now working to complete his minor in Art History. He’s the first person in his immediate family to graduate from college. He’s the first person in his entire family to hold a degree from a university as prestigious as Georgetown. “It’s not just something personal for myself that I have to do, I think it’s something that I have to do for my family,” Hayes said. “Everyone looks up to me. Uncles, cousins, nephews.” They’re proud of him, of the man he’s grown into, of the man he’s still learning how to be. “I’m very proud of him,” Thompson II said, “because I know what he had to deal with. I know a lot of the things that ordinarily I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t gotten close enough to talk with him and deal with him about a lot of things.” “And it’s not like it’s over. [A parent’s death] is the kind of thing that sticks with you, that you still have to deal with, and there are other hardships that are involved with that. But he’s got people that respect who he is as a person enough to give him the support that he needs. And he’s got a mom that’s a rock.” And because of it, he now has that Georgetown degree, too.

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Laila Ali joins mentoring campaign on her late father’s birthday
“It’s a very natural fit for me to get involved,” she said. “I always try to be a positive role model on just the decisions that I make along the way, as far as being a public person, because I know that children are watching me, even if I don’t know them or I’m not actually mentoring them. I’m a public person. They follow you, and they need positive role models, just like my father was such a great role model to so many other people. Anyone who’s in the public light. I also have relationships with people in my life that I mentor, children and adults, and just helping them be confident and be strong. Keep their faith and find their way in this world that we live in.” Ali said she loves the mission of the organization because she has an appreciation for mentoring and she loves that they are a group of people who care enough to spend the time, money, and resources it takes to put a campaign together. “What I love is that they’re going to capture the audience and their attention with these videos, and then at the end of the video, they’re going to be telling people please get involved by going to”

Laila Ali attends the 54th Annual WBC Convention at Diplomat Resort & Spa Hollywood, Curio Collection by Hilton on December 12, 2016 in Hollywood, Florida. Johnny Louis/FilmMagic

NFL Players Association launches business accelerator with Intel, Harvard, Madrona, others
The NFLPA, the union for NFL players, today launched the OneTeam Collective, a new organization modeled after a business accelerator but with its own spin that brings together the power of the NFL with a first-class list of founding partners that includes Intel, Harvard Innovation Lab, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), LeadDog Marketing Group, Madrona Venture Group and the Sports Innovation Lab. The idea is to create a pipeline that helps match more than 2,000 current players with up-and-coming companies of all shapes and sizes that want to partner with athletes for licensing, marketing and content rights, research and development, funding, mentorship, and much more. This makes it easier for NFL players, both current and retired, to exchange their clout for equity. The OneTeam Collective will review applications on a rolling basis for ventures and product ideas at the intersection of sports and technology/business/science — companies working with fan engagement, data analytics, performance and training, mobile fitness, sports nutrition, consumer products, fantasy sports, gaming, wearable technology, new media, virtual reality, and much more.

Photo via NFLPA.

This Wild Acrobatic Activity Is Now Officially Considered A Sport
Parkour also forms the basis of a growing global online community. This activity is predominantly practiced by tech-savvy young people, who leverage the power of social media to improve their skills, learn new moves, and showcase their talents to the rest of the world. Parkour’s popularity has a lot to do with the way it allows people to meld their online and offline worlds together. Innovation and creativity are two of parkour’s major strengths as a sport—and many online videos, Hollywood films and computer games incorporate the spectacular physicality of parkour into their stories and imagery. As such, parkour is at the leading edge of sporting activity, blending as it does physical prowess, digital literacy, and visual creativity. For all these reasons, parkour’s recognition by U.K. sports councils marks an important and welcome moment. By bringing parkour into the cannon of national sports, it may force urban planners and local councils to redress some of the actions taken against the sport. For instance, Horsham council is intent on banning parkour from the town center, while “no parkour” signs are increasingly common across the country. Official recognition sends out a signal that such regressive policies should be countered.

(Photo by Richard Hopkins via Flickr)

Serena Williams on why social media matters
Williams believes the reason people — famous and non-famous alike — are engaged with social media is the relative ease of using the different available platforms. “Now you just open up your phone and you can say something or you can post something, you can shoot a video,” she said. “It can reach so many people and impact so many lives by just taking 10 seconds.” Earlier in the day, after Caroline Wozniacki moved onto the third round via a 6-1, 6-3 win over Donna Vekic, she spoke of her own frequent use of social media. While Wozniacki indicated she definitely knows to keep some personal things private, she’s happy to allow fans  the access and insight into who she is a person. “I think it’s great for the fans to be able to keep up with you and see what you’re doing,” Wozniacki said. “I think as a youngster I would have loved to have followed my idols in that way.” When told that Wozniacki wished she grew up in a more digital savvy world where she could have followed her heroes, Williams was right there alongside her friend in sharing that opinion. x“That would have been really cool,” Williams said. “I would have followed so many amazing people. I mean, every girl on tour would have followed Monica Seles, I think, for sure. I would have followed Steffi (Graf). I would have followed Zina (Garrison). So many people I would have followed. Muhammad Ali, can you imagine?”

Serena Williams celebrates a winning a point during her second round match against Lucie Safarova during the 2017 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on Jan. 19. (Photo: Scott Barbour, Getty Images)

Sam Saunders Cherishes Arnold Palmer’s Lessons on Golf, and Life
“The flights are a lot cheaper out of Orlando,” Saunders said, adding, “My granddad was not wasteful in any way, and that’s something — as a family, we’ve also tried not to be wasteful in any way with money or time.” A keen appreciation for the value of a dollar was one of many lessons Palmer taught Saunders, who is trying to instill the same values in his two sons with his wife, Kelly, whom he married in 2012. Saunders, 29, does not want his children to grow up spoiled or sedentary. So when the couple’s older son, Cohen, Kelly’s child from a previous relationship, recently asked for an Xbox for his seventh birthday, Saunders told him no way. “You can play outside and ride your bike,” Saunders said he told him. “You’re not going to sit inside playing video games.” As a youngster, Saunders won multiple club championships at Bay Hill — but he also raked the bunkers and mowed the fairways and greens as part of the maintenance crew. “The way our family operated was, nothing was given to you,” Saunders said. “Arnold wanted all of us to be successful on our own, and my parents were the same way, and I’m so grateful for that. If you’ve always been handed things, when life gets hard, you won’t know how to handle it.”

Saunders with his Palmer in 2003. “I just want to be a part of it and do my part to carry on how he treated people,” Saunders said of the legacy of Palmer, who died in September. Credit Scott Audette/Associated Press

Is this the year? Northwestern and the search for the NCAA tournament
The Wildcats have never, ever been to the NCAA tournament, a wound made even deeper by the simple fact that Northwestern is the only Division I basketball school to miss out on a tournament that began in 1939. Just to twist the knife, the first Final Four 78 years ago was held at Patten Gymnasium on the Evanston campus, and the 1956 NCAA championship won by Bill Russell and the University of San Francisco occurred at McGaw Memorial Hall. But as of today, Northwestern is 15-4 with a decent shot of making the tournament, according to Bracketology. It all depends on how the Cats fare in the 11 Big Ten games that remain on their schedule. So far, they are 4-2 in the conference and coming off an 89-54 win over a decent Iowa team. “Why not us?” asked captain and junior point guard Bryant McIntosh, who sent a tweet with the hashtag #FlytheW and a GIF of the flag flying above Wrigley on Oct. 31, when the Cubs were down three games to two against the Indians. “We really started talking about it last summer, when it looked like the Cubs might finally win it all.”

Northwestern isn’t shy about taking inspiration from the Cubs and “Flying the W.” Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Catching up with former Maryland guard and fan favorite Varun Ram
The first time Shaun Jayachandran reached out to Varun Ram about volunteering at “Hoops for Hope,” Ram politely declined. The Maryland walk-on didn’t want to sacrifice three weeks from his summer training. But when Jayachandran went around Ram and contacted Mark Turgeon directly the next year, Ram had no choice. “Varun are you crazy? You have to go and do this program,” Turgeon told him. So Ram volunteered at the camp following his junior and senior seasons. After receiving his graduate degree from Maryland last May, he went back for year three. “It’s a basketball camp for three, four hundred kids in Chennai that all come from low-income families,” Ram said. “It is an opportunity for them to learn a new sport, physical fitness in general, and leadership; just a lot of things that aren’t really harped on in the Indian culture per se. That’s been pretty rewarding for me.” Ram described the program as one of the most fulfilling things in his already accomplished life and was proud of his contribution to younger kids that idolized him. “Just to see the community that my parents grew up in and give back to that community,” Ram described, “even basketball wise, it was just the best of both worlds. Every year just a positive and unbelievable experience.”

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