Feb. 19 – Feb. 25, 2017
Welcome to week two hundred and fifty-one of the Sports Doing Good newsletter. This week’s 10 stories include:
- The Joker: Nikola Jokic Gets Serious In Denver
- After opening up about his struggle with anxiety, Corey Hirsch now helping other players cope
- Meet Brenda Hawkins: She’s a retired teacher, ranch owner and Russell Westbrook’s biggest fan
- Pittsburgh startup’s high-tech cap scores big in NFL competition
- NFL As Soccer Kit Series: Featuring Football as Football
- Pelicans coach Robert Pack brings mentoring program H.O.P.E. to New Orleans
- Steph Curry’s Secrets to Success: Brain Training, Float Tanks and Strobe Goggles
- In a Champion’s Corner, a Real Coach Who Inspired One on ‘The Wire’
- #ForeverChuck: Converse Throws a Party as Chuck Taylor Turn 100
- I Don’t Know A Thing About Soccer And Now I’m Coaching My Daughter’s Team
Rugby Players’ Association Launches Mental Health Campaign (Beyond Sport)
The Miami Baseball Brotherhood (The Players’ Tribune)
Ability 360: Changing the Game for Athletes with Disabilities (Peace and Sport)
The wushu women of Kabul (Peace and Sport)
U.S. Soccer Foundation Announces Funding Focus (Beyond Sport)
We have featured many stories of athletes at all levels overcoming physical challenges or (apparent) limitations to achieve their sporting goals. We have also had the opportunity to highlight efforts by athletes to help themselves and help others deal with mental health issues. It is a reflection of the evolution of society’s recognition that mental health is no less important than one’s physical health, and that progress with the former will directly impact our success with the latter.
One of the stories we present this week involves former professional hockey player Corey Hirsch and the battles he faced as a player and how he is turning his personal struggle into a cause that supports other hockey players who might be facing their own challenges. This “paying it forward” will surely not just save the careers of some of these athletes but very likely, their lives as well.
The other stories we are happy to present this week include: rising NBA star Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets; OKC Thunder and Russell Westbrook super-fan Brenda Hawkins; a Pittsburgh-area start-up hoping to bring a safety product to market; a wonderful artistic exercise involving NFL team colors and soccer uniforms; New Orleans Pelicans coach Robert Pack and his efforts to support the New Orleans community; the wonderfully eccentric training methods of NBA superstar Steph Curry; the battle in one of the toughest areas of Baltimore to help develop young boxers and people; the 100th birthday of the iconic Chuck Taylor brand; and a dad’s life-changing turn as the coach of his daughter’s youth soccer team.
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The Joker: Nikola Jokic Gets Serious In Denver
“It’s all attributed to Nikola,” says Nuggets sniper Mike Miller. “He does things I don’t think you’ll ever see a big guy do.” His post moves are almost as nifty as his passing angles, coaxing spring-loaded centers into the air, then ducking under them for layups or dump-offs. Because Jokic is so accurate from 5-9 feet—he posts the NBA’s highest field goal percentage from that range—he commands constant double-teams, which play right into his giving hands. “There must be one guy open,” Jokic says, “and I want to find him.” Jokic averaged 23.9 points, 11.1 rebounds and 4.8 assists in January, but traditional stats don’t always do him justice. His efficiency rating of 26.3 is the best of any center and ranks 10th among all players, just ahead of LeBron James. His downfall is defense, and he’s not alone, as the Nuggets cough up the second-highest opposing field goal percentage in the league. For Malone, who built his reputation on D, those numbers induce insomnia. “But then I call my father,” Malone says, “and he tells me: ‘With your lineup, and how efficient you are, your offense might be your best defense.’” Malone will never be comfortable winning games 120-115, but he has juggled his philosophy in addition to his lineup.
After opening up about his struggle with anxiety, Corey Hirsch now helping other players cope
But in addition to sharing his hockey expertise, Hirsch also felt called to share his personal experiences, in the hopes of further opening up dialogue that is still too often silenced by feelings of shame or uncertainty. Players have more resources now than in the past, such as a well-developed NHL/NHL Players’ Association behavioral health program that offers anonymous help for a host of issues, including mental health concerns. But it’s not a perfect safety net. “Guys shouldn’t fall through the cracks at all,” Babych says. “But it still happens.” Hirsch wants to help tighten that net, working alongside another former NHL netminder, Clint Malarchuk. “If I had somebody, like an ex-player who I could have reached out to confidentially — not a doctor, necessarily — it probably could have saved my career,” Hirsch said. “I talked to Clint Malarchuk. He says the same thing.” Malarchuk is no stranger to battling mental health issues. The former Quebec Nordiques, Capitals and Buffalo Sabres netminder struggled during and after his career with depression, OCD and other issues, including an attempted suicide. Malarchuk recalls a casual conversation with Hirsch a few years back, when both were NHL goaltending coaches, during which Hirsch said he hoped someday to be able to share his story with Malarchuk.
Corey Hirsch’s first brush with fame came after he backstopped Canada to a silver medal at the 1994 Olympic Winter Games. Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images
Meet Brenda Hawkins: She’s a retired teacher, ranch owner and Russell Westbrook’s biggest fan
So when Westbrook held his first basketball camp for kids, Brenda not only took a bunch of kids from the southwest part of the state — she got to know them when she was a teacher or a court advocate for children — but she also took several framed cards for Westbrook. She got to know his parents, his brother, and yes, Westbrook himself. He was so thankful to her. When he started popping up on magazine covers, she thought it would be nice to frame them, too. She did some for herself, but she figured he might also want them. Brenda knows that he has the means to do all this for himself, but when she was teaching, she was forever helping someone with something. After she retired, she’d turned that attention fully to Andrew and Haley. For example, she made sure to have all of Andrew’s certificates and honors framed. “So when he got an office … “ she said, her voice trailing off and her eyes misting up. Andrew’s death left Brenda with a need to do for someone else. She gives lots of time and energy and resources to kids in the southwest corner of the state, not only taking some to basketball camp every summer but also providing a ski trip each winter, but she still has time for Westbrook.
Russell Westbrook has no bigger fan than Brenda Hawkins, but she doesn’t have a room overflowing with his memorabilia just because she loves his unbelievable skill or his unique personality. The Thunder superstar provided a lifeline. [PHOTO BY JIM BECKEL, THE OKLAHOMAN]
Pittsburgh startup’s high-tech cap scores big in NFL competition
As for trying to convince athletes to wear the caps and headbands, Palko doesn’t see it as a terribly difficult sell. The products don’t add bulk to the equipment players already wear, for one thing. “If you had told me when I was playing that this (skullcap) would make me safer, I would have worn it in a heartbeat,” he said. In designing the product, Olivares took his inspiration from athletes; the 2nd Skull cap is based on the caps he saw players wearing under their helmets. The company also designed a headband for athletes such as soccer players who don’t wear helmets. 2nd Skull’s caps and headbands, which come in adult and youth sizes, are on store shelves at Dick’s Sporting Goods and are worn by professional athletes like soccer star Meghan Klingenberg — a Pine-Richland High School graduate — and the Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli. Olivares said he has retailers calling him asking to carry the products. While the six-year-old company continues to raise money to develop its next generation of products, it’s not planning to branch out into other body parts. “We really want to stay focused on head protection,” Olivares said.
Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli models with a 2nd Skull cap.
NFL As Soccer Kit Series: Featuring Football as Football
I’ll admit it: I have a problem. It’s taken me a long time to come to grips with this, but I believe that it is important to be upfront about it. It’s something that haunts me every day. I’m absolutely obsessed with soccer kit design. I know, I know. It’s a burden. July is one of my favorite months on the calendar, if only because all the European leagues are busy leaking or unveiling their new kits for the new year. Each kit is its own unique work of art, and I love pouring over all the new kits and analyzing each one. It’s like if my Christmas day was an entire month. So when I stumbled upon the incredible work of the fine folks at Football as Football, I knew that I had to take their experiment to the next level. Below, I interpreted every team in the National Football League as a soccer club, selecting my favorite Football As Football crest to pair with my kit design. Each kit was designed to best reflect the history, culture, and style of each franchise, tying together the unique aspects of each one into a (hopefully) cohesive and individualized brand. My personal favorites are those of the Texans, Rams, and Vikings.
Pelicans coach Robert Pack brings mentoring program H.O.P.E. to New Orleans
The boys in the program were identified by counselors, social workers, teachers and coaches at their schools. Pack and Miller fund the program, with some help from local companies that donate their services. The staff is all volunteers. Team H.O.P.E. NOLA is also one of several programs under the Robert Pack Foundation, which was created 20 years ago. Its annual budget of $150,000 isn’t grand, but Tracy Pack-White, the executive director and Pack’s older sister, and Toni Charles, the administrative assistant, plan activities with the help of board members. They lean toward experiences in which the young men can connect with their roots. In December 2016, for instance, many of the Team H.O.P.E. boys piled on a bus bound for Selma, Alabama, more than two hours away. “I felt like part of my history was right there in front of me,” said Ahmad Waterhouse Jr., 14, who along with more than a half-dozen of the kids attends Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School for Science and Technology in the Lower 9th Ward. “It made me realize I could do more for others.” Last week, they went to a French Quarter theater for a private screening of The First To Do It, a new documentary financed by Carmelo Anthony and Kawhi Leonard about Earl Lloyd, the first black player to break pro basketball’s color barrier.
New Orleans Pelicans associate head coach Darren Erman (left) and assistant coach Robert Pack
Steph Curry’s Secrets to Success: Brain Training, Float Tanks and Strobe Goggles
The goggles, however, are just an aspect of a greater philosophy that drives Curry and Payne’s training. Curry began working out with Payne in 2011 during the NBA lockout, driving an hour south of his home in Charlotte to Fort Mill, South Carolina, and Payne’s bland-looking warehouse, home to his private coaching business, Accelerate Basketball. It was here that Steph Curry started to become STEPH CURRY. Now Curry flies Payne to Oakland all the time so they can work out; Payne spends weeks if not months on the road with him. And all of this is because, in addition to his savvy strength training and physical conditioning, Payne is one of pro basketball’s foremost experts in what he calls “neurocognitive efficiency.” Payne and Curry are a good fit because, the way Payne puts it, “So much of it comes down to the intelligence level of the player. You have to have players who can look past the drill, who can understand the multiple layers of benefit that each drill gives them. And Steph is that kind of guy.” Curry is even better than Payne imagined, because he is uniquely intelligent, curious and unafraid to (a) ask questions, and (b) try new things. And man, has he tried things. Three of his primary experiments are the goggles, a high-tech training tool used during shooting and agility drills called FITLIGHT and a sensory deprivation chamber. Perhaps even more telling than the stuff he’s using is why he’s using it—but first, the stuff itself.
Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors warms up before a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on January 16, 2017 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. (Getty Images)
In a Champion’s Corner, a Real Coach Who Inspired One on ‘The Wire’
Today, Ford is a soft-spoken man who wears track suits and reading glasses secured by a bejeweled chain, a jarringly endearing detail for someone who teaches others how to inflict pain efficiently. And he is a father figure to dozens of children who have been coming to him for nearly two decades for lessons that reach far beyond a three-minute round. Davis, his first world champion, and the youngest living professional titleholder, has been called the future of boxing by no less an authority than Floyd Mayweather Jr. When Davis, 22, entered the gym a few hours later to find a heavily taped cardboard box on the reception desk, it was Ford who handed him the scissors. Inside was a deep-red belt with a large gold logo of the International Boxing Federation, earned with a seventh-round knockout of José Pedraza, who was heavily favored, in Brooklyn on Jan. 14. “Strap me up,” Davis said through a stifled grin. Ford, wearing a beanie with #STRAPSEASON printed on the front, put the belt on the 5-foot-6, 130-pound Davis. The new champion posed for a picture under banners that included Angelo Ward, who trained here before he was shot to death in 2012, and a scowling version of Davis’s younger self, draped in belts and medals a decade ago. Now, with a new belt over his shoulder, Davis glowed.
Davis in the third round of his title fight with José Pedraza. Credit Frank Franklin II/Associated Press
#ForeverChuck: Converse Throws a Party as Chuck Taylor Turn 100
The centenary is being celebrated in a marketing campaign called Forever Chuck, which launched on Feb. 13 on YouTube and the brand’s social media channels with a short clip of Brown pointing out that some of the coolest firm characters (Ally Sheedy’s Allison Reynolds in The Breakfast Club, Michael J. Fox’s Marty McFly in Back to the Future) have worn Chucks. In the video, stylist Stephanie Collie tells Brown why she thinks Chucks are always worn by underdogs. A second video, released on Feb. 17, features rapper Vince Staples, graffiti artist Spanto and NBA Los Angeles Lakers star Jordan Clarkson talking about how Chucks shaped LA style and hip hop culture. More short films are planned in the campaign, which will be found where kids are these days: Instagram Stories and Snapchat, among other social hangouts. In addition, Converse has created the Forever Chuck Social Lookbook Series, which allows consumers to look back through the brand’s history in different cities and eras, Nylon reports. What’s evident in all of this is that Chucks aren’t being marketed as basketball shoes anymore. The last NBA player to wear canvas Chucks in a game was Tree Rollins in the 1979-80 season. Leather Chucks last hit the pro floor in 1982 when they were sported by Michael Ray Richardson. Those days may be gone, but Chucks live on. And while they may be old, they continue to project the spirit of the young.
I Don’t Know A Thing About Soccer And Now I’m Coaching My Daughter’s Team
She played and loved her spring soccer season. It was her first year. She wasn’t particularly good, but she hustled. She listened to her coach and tried to do what he said. I went to the games. I cheered. I encouraged. I told her how proud I was that she hustled, listened, and tried to do what her coach said. And that was about as invested as I got. I mean, it was rec league youth soccer. She had a blast and asked to play in the fall league. Naturally, we signed her up again. Name, gender, date of birth, shirt size. I filled out the registration form and once again left the “I am willing to coach” box unchecked. Then, about a week before I knew that the coaches (God bless ’em) were going to meet, get their team assignments, and pick practice times, I got “The Call.”.. But, if it’s a choice between me sucking it up and coaching soccer or my daughter not getting to play, then I’ll do it, I said. I thought I was doing it for my daughter and the rest of the kids on the Team That Would Not Be unless I graced them with my presence for an hour every Tuesday and Saturday. I had no idea what I would get out of coaching my daughter’s soccer team.