Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #247

Jan. 22 – Jan. 28, 2017

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

  1. How Two Young Kenyans Used Soccer to Gain a Foothold in the Construction Industry
  2. PBR Welcomes Home an Unsung Hero
  3. Exploring the future: Where is sport for development going next?
  4. Former Olympian and NFL linebacker launch market research platform for the sports tech industry
  5. Richard Branson’s Next Big Idea: Sports Festivals
  6. Where Americans Come Together
  7. Right to Play to Give Vulnerable Children a Sporting Chance
  8. Californians Cheer the Home Team, in Tijuana
  9. Famous Athletes Pushing 40—And Pushing Boundaries
  10. Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley wants to disrupt American soccer and improve the USMNT, one club at a time

Iraqi refugee volunteers brave chill for Nordic combined World Cup (Peace and Sport)
Letter to My Future Self (by Boris Berian) (The Players’ Tribune)
Sported and Women in Sport to Promote Female Participation (Beyond Sport)
Inglewood Made Me (by Paul Pierce) (The Players’ Tribune)
Coaching at Soccer Without Borders Helped Patrick Move Forward (Up2Us)


Most of the stories we feature involve those in the earlier part of their lives, whether they are boys and girls who are the beneficiaries of the many great sport-related programs geared toward them, or high school, college and pro athletes who never cease to amaze us with their determination, skill, and excellence. It is not that the older set is not doing anything, of course, but just a reality of our sporting times. Well, this week was a great week for my peer group (okay, the plus/minus 10-year peer group)

We offer a story that highlights some very well-known, elite athletes still doing their thing as they approach their fortieth birthday. Their sustained excellence has inspired millions around the world. They also just happen to include those who are often considered the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time). So kudos to Venus and Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Tom Brady, Vince Carter, and Tiger Woods for fighting the good fight, and many times coming out the victor. (this 46-year old supports you!!)

The other stories we are happy to feature this week include: a sport-related program in Kenya helping individuals to also find a career; a special moment at a PBR event; a smart discussion about where sport for development is heading; some elite athletes following their entrepreneurial urges; Richard Branson’s next big idea; a timely piece about the importance of social gatherings and how we benefit individually and as a community; the ongoing great work by sports non-profit Right to Play, supported by British Athletics; a fun look at the regional lure of Mexico soccer team Club Tijuana; and an technology entrepreneur’s foray into semi-professional soccer team ownership.

Finally, we want to make you aware of an event being organized by our friends at the US Soccer Foundation. The 2017 Urban Soccer Symposium will be taking place in late April in Washington, D.C. Please follow this link to learn more about this great event.

Please continue to send along your stories. You are both our audience and our best source of stories. Our Twitter handle is @sportsdoinggood, and you can find us at

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

How Two Young Kenyans Used Soccer to Gain a Foothold in the Construction Industry
Eight months ago, Pamela and Tom enrolled in Sport for Kenyan Youth Employment (SKYE), a sport for development initiative launched by IYF and Barclays Bank PLC, in partnership with Mathare Youth Sports Association and Arc Skills. “Our mission is to tap the potential of young people and create pathways for youth employment,” says Grace Karanja, IYF’s Country Director in Kenya. SKYE equips youth ages 18 to 25 with essential life skills based on IYF’s Passport to Success® curriculum, along with technical training in the construction trade, financial literacy education using Barclays ReadytoWork resources, and job placement services. A strong incentive for young people like Pamela and Tom is the chance to develop job-relevant skills while doing something they enjoy: playing soccer, or football, as it’s known locally. “I learned about teamwork, time management, and being responsible,” says Pamela of the life skills sessions delivered on the football pitch.

PBR Welcomes Home an Unsung Hero
He lives on a ranch in Mexico and takes joy in traveling north to watch his strong, confident son-in-law try to ride the world’s most fearsome bulls, attending about dozen Built Ford Tough Series events each year. He loves all these trips. Yet, prior to the surprise at the Chicago Invitational, one memorable PBR event stood out – the 2015 World Finals in Las Vegas. Luis was the big winner. But it had nothing to do with 8-second rides and a gold belt buckle awarded on the shark cage, or any kind of lucky run at a casino roulette wheel. No, that was the weekend Luis and Meghan made a life-long commitment, and Hector, beaming with pride, was there to give away his daughter to the Brazilian bull rider. Like many events in Hector’s life, there’s a story behind the wedding. The couple, who fell in love in a Texas dance hall after Luis won a bull-riding event, had been talking about getting married. The November weekend in Vegas was going great.  Even though Luis had missed a big chunk of the 2015 season, traveling back to Brazil to care for his mother who was undergoing cancer treatment, he made the World Finals by riding two bulls at the Velocity Tour Finals to earn a wild card berth into the big dance at Thomas & Mack Center.

Exploring the future: Where is sport for development going next?
In order to look at where we need to be next, we have to stop looking at where we are currently doing work. Extremism has always left scorched earth in its path be it in the Middle East or Africa. When the situation there returns to a semblance of calm, sport will have a powerful role to play in the healing process. With Rwanda Cricket Stadium Foundation due to gift Rwanda its first ever cricket pitch, the opportunity to introduce a sport for development programme in a country still reeling from genocide not only seems obvious, but absolutely vital. The geographies may be different, but the fundamentals behind programmes healing conflict are the same. How can we enable these smaller organisations to be a growing solution? Natural disasters also leave behind a desperate need for rehabilitation – and sport can fill that gap. Climate Change is another issue we cannot continue to ignore. Coaching for Conservation and others have been doing their part for some time now, but it needs a stronger collective look. The ESRC-DFID Frontiers Development Fund driving research that will hopefully shine new light on how sport can be used to tackle climate change.

Former Olympian and NFL linebacker launch market research platform for the sports tech industry
Kacyvenski first met Ruggiero when the two former collegiate athletes were attending Harvard; their initial encounter came about because Kacyvenski was the “ice hockey stick security guard,” as he tells GeekWire. Ruggiero, who was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015, has spent more than a decade in sports administration, working with organizations like the International Olympic Committee and the Los Angeles 2024 Olympic bid team. Walker, meanwhile, spent more than six years at Forrester and knew Kacyvenski from the Boston startup scene. He said Sports Innovation Lab is essentially mimicking what companies like Forrester and Gartner do, but with a focus on sports tech and fitness. “We’ve continued to see that nobody was doing this,” said Walker, who is also a startup investor. “It wasn’t a single lightbulb moment; there was just a constant need for us to help the people we were working with understand what’s happening with sports and technology.” Innovation Lab co-founders Angela Ruggiero, Isaiah Kacyvenski, and Josh Walker. Photo via Sports Innovation Lab.

Richard Branson’s Next Big Idea: Sports Festivals
When I was in elementary school, one of my favorite moments in the academic calendar was Sports Day. Classes would be canceled and we’d go outside to take part in relays, high jumps, and tug of war. Parents and siblings would come out to support us, bringing homemade packed lunches. There were even special races for the grown-ups. I remember cheering loudly for my father as he competed against the other dads. As an adult, I’ve always found working out and going to the gym to be a chore, but when I think back to my best experiences with fitness, Sports Day always comes to mind. Richard Branson, the business world’s ambassador of fun, wants to package the spirit of these childhood sporting events with his new enterprise: Virgin Sport. The company is going to create sports festivals around the world—taking a page from the playbook of music events like Coachella and Glastonbury—where entire families can come out, bring a picnic, buy a beer or a healthy snack from the food tent, listen to music, and participate in sports. There will be a signature race like a half-marathon, but there will also be less intense events like outdoor fitness classes and yoga.

Richard Branson with students from New Jersey public schools. [Photo: Joanna Ference, courtesy of Virgin Sport]

Where Americans Come Together
I also found myself wondering about the consequences of a beloved shared space closing its doors in this era of great disconnection. Some communities are formed through schools, churches, workplaces. But much of how we learn about one another as a society comes from physically being together in places like skating rinks. Today, we’re more likely to sext than skate, to troll online than to twirl on a floor, to rant on Twitter than dedicate carnations to one another. Social media has created a digital latticework, but it has also, for some, created abusive commenters, silos and validation rather than curiosity. As a Skate World kid, I don’t think I could have told you, nor did I care, about the political leanings of my classmates or their families. We were bound by something different from the angry Facebook stream we grew up to inhabit: a genuine interest in spending time together.

Old skates likes these will be replaced under the new ownership of Skate World in Springfield, Ore. Credit Amanda Lucier for The New York Times

Right to Play to Give Vulnerable Children a Sporting Chance
Right To Play will be the official charity partner for British Athletics at their events in the UK, including the Müller Anniversary Games at the London Stadium this summer. The Anniversary Games is one of the top annual athletics meets and will play host to many of the world’s leading athletes. Right To Play and British Athletics first partnered at the 2016 London Anniversary Games, attended by 80,000 people and featuring athletics superstars, Usain Bolt, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Mo Farah. Niels de Vos, CEO of British Athletics said: “I’m delighted that we’re again able to support Right To Play and the amazing work they do in helping disadvantaged children. British Athletics shares Right To Play’s vision that sport and play is positive and this partnership will go a long way in supporting that message.” Nikki Skipper, National Director, Right to Play UK said: “As a charity that has sport and play at its core, British Athletics is a natural partner for Right To Play.” “Playing is what comes naturally to children and is crucial for their intellectual and emotional development. It helps children to realise their potential, whether through athletics in the UK, as a child experiencing sport in  a remote village in Tanzania, or as a refugee in Lebanon.”

Californians Cheer the Home Team, in Tijuana
That identity, at least from the Xolos perspective, is not bound by the city limits. The first team in Mexico’s Liga MX to go bilingual in its public communications — it has two press officers, one for Spanish-speaking reporters and another for English — the Xolos have from the start courted both an American audience and American players. Those efforts have been remarkably successful. According to Alejandro Serrano, the team’s general manager, ticket sales for the 27,000-seat stadium will put it at 90 percent capacity for the rest of the winter season. The Xolos are not the only team in Liga MX with recruiting programs across the border, of course, but they are a rarity in that they have a handful of starters — Paul Arriola, Joe Corona and Michael Orozco — who were born in the United States and have played for its national team. Arriola and Corona commute almost daily for games and practices from their homes in San Diego. Orozco, who grew up in Anaheim, Calif., has moved with his wife and children to a beachside home in Tijuana, which he said was “like coming home.”

Waving the team colors. “We see ourselves as a regional team and try to be a mirror of what the region is,” says Roberto Cornejo, who manages recruitment and youth programs for the team. Credit Guillermo Arias for The New York Times

Famous Athletes Pushing 40—And Pushing Boundaries
In The Who’s legendary hit “My Generation,” Roger Daltrey sings, “I hope I die before I get old.” That was in 1965. Daltrey and bandmate Pete Townshend, both now in their 70s, still are rocking as The Who and performing spectacular live shows. Getting old barely has slowed them down. The same is true of a number of older (no, not quite 70) professional athletes in the midst of their own renaissances—or continued dominance—despite pushing (or pushing past) 40. And while it’s becoming more common to see high-level athletes continue to compete at comparatively “advanced” ages, one doesn’t always witness so many glaring examples across multiple sports in the span of just a few days. The athletes include: Tiger Woods, Venus Williams, Roger Federer, Tom Brady, and Vince Carter, amongst others.

Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley wants to disrupt American soccer and improve the USMNT, one club at a time
So Crowley scouted Kingston, found it to be fertile ground for his project and got to work. Never mind that he didn’t actually know all that much about soccer, since he’d only been into it for a few years. “You get this false sense of superpowers from doing a project like Foursquare for many years,” he told Yahoo Sports. He’d learned the hard way to just keep going when he was overwhelmed and it all seemed hopeless. “You get used to tackling bigger problems. I just saw that we have 100 things to get done and 300 days to do ’em, so let’s get to work.” “It’s the same type of hubris that you get when you say, ‘I’m not going to get a job so I’ll just start my own company instead,’ ” Crowley said. “That’s an awful idea. It’s never going to work. Well, maybe we can make it work. “It’s very easy to get talked out of some of the crazier ideas you have. But at some point, you just get the confidence to say that maybe you see the world in a way that’s slightly different than everyone else and I’m just going to go ahead with it. I just don’t have the ability to sit on the sidelines when you have good ideas and wait for it to happen. It only happens when someone pushes for it to happen.”

Crowley, co-founder of Foursquare, started his own NPSL club in Kingston, N.Y. (Getty Images)

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Our goal is to have Sports Doing Good be a portal housing original content and excerpts from and links to the increasing number of articles, websites, video, and other media that showcase the good in sports and society. We aim to celebrate those concepts, activities, events, and individuals by highlighting them for a wider audience. Much of the news today, whether sports- related or not, is incredibly negative and increasingly polarizing, biased, and quite annoying. We are trying to refocus some of the discussion on the good, with a focus on sports.

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