Sports Doing Good Newsletter, #258

April 9 – April 15, 2017

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

  1. Autism Awareness Night has special meaning for Red Bulls GM
  2. Myles Garrett: The most interesting man in the draft
  3. Women defy Tehran’s last minute marathon ban
  4. Black Fives baseball caps honor basketball pioneers
  5. The U.S. Women’s Hockey Team Had Boycotted For Fair Pay. Now They’re World Champs
  6. LeBron James Foundation to help launch new public school in Akron
  7. Service Dog Is The MVP Of The University of North Carolina Baseball Team
  8. Meet the community of refugees in the Olympic town of Lillehammer, Norway
  9. ‘Speed Sisters’ Documentary Spotlights the Middle East’s First All-Female Racing Team
  10. GSMP mentee Paola Kuri advocates for a soccer without gender

A Great Time to Be a Celtic (by Marcus Smart) (The Players’ Tribune)
Boston Red Sox Partner With Museum of Science To Bring Stem To Kids
New Zealand Rugby Start Mental Health Program
Peace and Sport and AS Monaco Rally Around the #WhiteCard Symbol
Students’ sports strategy to slash Samoan suicide statistics on World Health Day

11. Crowdfunding effort of the week – Tyler Carr’s Keeper for Kids to benefit Harlem Lacrosse, (Pledge It)

Maybe the cutest story we have ever included comes this week in the form of a service dog becoming an MVP for the University of North Carolina baseball team. We have seen stories in the news about the calming and healing influence of animals, especially dogs, and could not help but see that in the interactions of the players with their special teammate. We applaud the team for doing something different, for integrating something fun and calming in the face of intense competition that may grab us at times. Could this be a trend around the country? It would be nice to see.

The other stories we are happy to feature this week include: a special young lady, Julia de Grandpre, with a connection to the MLS’ New York Red Bulls and the effort to make more people aware of autism; former college star Myles Garrett, potentially the most exciting player available in the upcoming NFL draft; the first Tehran marathon and the fight of women to have a place in it; the offering of license merchandise to recognize and support the Black Fives Foundation, pioneers in basketball in the United States; victories for the U.S. women’s national hockey team on and off the ice; the LeBron James Foundation helping launch a new public school in the star’s hometown of Akron, Ohio; the assimilation of refugees in former Olympic city, Lillehammer, Norway; the ‘Speed Sisters’ documentary, spotlighting the Middle East’s first all-female racing team; and Paola Kuri, an advocate for soccer in Mexico and everyone who plays the game, men and women.

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So enjoy. And have a good week.

Autism Awareness Night has special meaning for Red Bulls GM
But what Marc’s professional family has come to mean in this equation is even more heartwarming, a team of Red Bulls from the playing field to the front office embracing young Julia as one of their own. There’s goaltender Luis Robles stopping on his way to the practice field for a hug from Julia, answering her rapid-fire questions about where his own children are, kicking the ball back and forth as fellow team members stream out of the building. There’s midfielder Sacha Kljestan, wrapping his arm around Julia for a pre-practice team huddle, one she’s been specifically invited to join. There’s Marsch, announcing Julia’s presence as if a Hollywood star had arrived, smiling as the announcement is greeted by rousing applause. “They’re my friends,” Julia tells me later, reminded by her dad to look up, to make eye contact. This is all so important. School days aren’t always so social for Julia, not for most children who operate in a more solitary world, who can get lost in the apps on their iPhones or build entire worlds with their Barbies. Julia plays sports through a challenger program, and takes a mainstream weekly class at Paragon Gymnastics, but peer-to-peer relationships are difficult. With the Red Bulls, she’s found that sort of interaction. She’s found a second home.

Julia, 9, waits for the Red Bulls team practice to begin at the training facility in Whippany on Wednesday, April 5, 2017. (Photo: Danielle Parhizkaran/Northjersey)

Myles Garrett: The most interesting man in the draft
We’re driving through College Station, Texas, in Garrett’s beloved beat-up Volvo, which is almost as old as the guy behind the wheel. The streets here are familiar to Garrett, but there are few reliable maps of where his career is headed come April 27. He is, after all, a once-in-a-decade pass-rushing prospect with NFL-ready skills and a track record of production. He totaled 32½ sacks, 48½ tackles for loss and 7 forced fumbles in three seasons, despite playing much of 2016 with a high ankle sprain. His freakish natural abilities have drawn comparisons to at least half of the Justice League’s superheroes — and that will likely buy him a one-way ticket to Cleveland, home of the NFL’s worst team last season and seemingly every season. The Browns and everyone else know Garrett is a singular talent on the field, but it’s his mind, and his curiosity about the broader world, that makes the biggest impression. To ride shotgun with Garrett, you have to play keep-up. In the span of a few minutes, he navigates the conversation from the genius of Journey to the true nature of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s power (his affability, in case you’re wondering) to how the words of Maya Angelou can infuse every cell of your body with light and love. And that’s before he gets to paleontology.

Garrett, who describes himself as “naturally a shy person,” on the cover of ESPN the Magazine’s NFL Draft Issue. ESPN The Magazine

Women defy Tehran’s last minute marathon ban
Days before the event, women racers — many of whom were in Iran at that point — learned that they would not be allowed to run alongside men, due to the country’s strict segregation rules, and could only partake in an indoor 6 mile (10km) “ladies run.” Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) told CNN there was “no justification for separating women and men.” “By segregating males and females at the last minute and forcing women to run a shortened route away on the outskirts of the city, officials have not only failed in delivering what they promised, but also subjected women, local and foreign, to discrimination.” As a result of the last-minute changes, some women staged their own marathon…Tara Kenkhuis who is originally from the Netherlands, told CNN that although she was disappointed she wasn’t able to partake in the half-marathon she signed up for, she said overall the event achieved what it had set out to do in terms of ‘building bridges.” “It was really cool to see 106 women running together in Tehran in a stadium that’s normally not even open to women. “It was really inspiring for me to see the smiles upon the faces of the Iranian women there who saw all of us foreigners coming (to Tehran) just for this run.”

Women held their own unofficial marathon after learning they could only participate in a 10km “ladies run.”

Black Fives baseball caps honor basketball pioneers
What does it mean to make history now? It’s a motto that Claude Johnson, the executive director of the Black Fives Foundation, adheres to, and it led him to team up with artist Muideen Ogunmola to create art that honors the granddaddies of basketball, the Black Fives. Lifestyle brand ’47 got on board to launch a limited-edition collection of hats highlighting the contributions made by the Black Fives. In their third year, the designs were created by Ogunmola and feature patterns and lines inspired by his Nigerian heritage. The “Black Fives” are not one team but rather a name that was given to the all-black teams that flourished from 1904 to 1950. Like most institutions during that time, basketball was segregated. Also known as “colored quints,” Black Fives played in cities across the U.S. The teams had black owners, black coaches, fans and championships. The Black Fives Foundation aims to ensure that this history is learned, and the caps are a part of that.

The “Black Fives” are not one team but rather a name that was given to the all-black teams that flourished from 1904 to 1950.

The U.S. Women’s Hockey Team Had Boycotted For Fair Pay. Now They’re World Champs
“Our sport is the big winner today,” Meghan Duggan, the team’s captain, said after they settled their negotiations. “We stood up for what we thought was right, and USA Hockey’s leadership listened. In the end, both sides came together.” Hockey USA and the women’s team agreed to keep the financial terms of their deal private. Under the agreement, which covers the next four years, the federation will form a new advisory group made up of current and former players that will assist the federation in efforts to advance both girls’ and women’s hockey. Knight, the U.S. forward who scored Friday’s winning goal, was vocal about the women’s fight for fair pay throughout the battle. “The thing that gives us the most pride, I have to say, is knowing that we set a foundation for the younger generations to build upon,” Knight told the Edge of Sports podcast Tuesday. “That’s something I’ll be most proud of when I can take a second to really appreciate that, years down the line. We did it.”

Kacey Bellamy, left, Meghan Duggan and Monique Lamoureux grab on to the championship trophy after beating Canada, 3-2, in overtime in the gold medal game in Plymouth, Michigan. Gregory Shamus via Getty Images

LeBron James Foundation to help launch new public school in Akron
The school is scheduled to open the fall of 2018 and will start with third and fourth grades and expanding to first and second in the fall of 2019. By 2022, the school will open to students in grades one through eight. Akron leaders, educators, parents and experts will determine several logistics of the new school, and I Promise students will be chosen by a random lottery system. “We are excited about the potential of the I Promise School to provide specialized programming and invaluable resources for our students,” Akron Public Schools superintendent David James said in the news release. “We’ve seen the positive influence of the LeBron James Family Foundation on our students and we look forward to continuing to do everything we can to put our students in a position to be successful.” This innovative project is an evolution of James’ growing foundation, which started out as summer bike-a-thon to get kids more involved in school and has grown to the point where kids who are enrolled in the foundation can receive full scholarships to the University of Akron if they meet testing, education, attendance and community-service criteria.

(Photo: Robin Hecker, AP)

Service Dog Is The MVP Of The University of North Carolina Baseball Team
College athletes don’t typically get to high-five a paw while in the locker room, but that’s not true for the University of North Carolina baseball team. Terri Jo Rucinski, the head athletic trainer for UNC baseball, introduced a two-year-old Golden Retriever named REMINGTON to the team in August. REMINGTON’s official title is “psychiatric medical alert facility rehabilitation service dog.” In other words, he provides physical and emotional support to players who are recovering from injury, or who are having a difficult time, mentally. According to UNC, REMINGTON got an early start on training for his “career.” “[He] began his training when he was just 3-days-old. By 16 weeks, he had graduated to a program for obedience and disabilities skills training. He also learned basic command sets. Now, REMINGTON knows more than 100 commands, including ‘reading’ written commands from cue cards. Last summer, he underwent 80 hours of training and passed a series of certification tests before he joined the team in August.”

Meet the community of refugees in the Olympic town of Lillehammer, Norway
Upon their arrival, refugees go through a two-year program in which they learn the Norwegian language and other skills to adapt to a new country. What makes the program unique in Lillehammer — the site of the 1994 Winter Olympics and a continual hotbed of winter sports events — is that many of the refugees volunteer at those sporting events. The refugees get a chance to interact with locals, practice language skills and watch world-class competition that’s a part of Norwegian life. And volunteering, especially in the sports community, is also an essential part of Norwegian culture. “Probably one of our most distinct and popular words is ‘dugnad,’ which means ‘to volunteer,'” says Jon Erik Rønning, the director of the town’s refugee program. In 2004, “dugnad” was elected as Norway’s national word. When members of sporting clubs volunteer at events, they earn 100 kroners per hour, which is approximately $12 an hour. That money is then given back to their respective clubs. When the refugees volunteer, they are also earning money, which will go toward a field trip to Oslo, the country’s capital, this spring.

Hamdi Mohamoud and Hibo Mohammed Mursal, both from Somalia, help a participant find his bags at the end of his race. “It’s nice getting to know people and to help them,” says Hibo. “It also helps us learn the language better.” Nicole Dreon

‘Speed Sisters’ Documentary Spotlights the Middle East’s First All-Female Racing Team
Filmed between 2011 and 2013, Speed Sisters captures the everyday lives and racing triumphs of the team—Betty Saadeh, Mona Quraan, Noor Daoud, Marah Zahalka and captain Maysoon Jayyusi Al-Jariri—as well as the difficulties that come with living and practicing competitive racing in a war zone. Over time, space to practice becomes limited and Saadeh is filmed getting hit by a tear gas canister, which results in severe bruising. “The occupation is unpredictable and constant at the same time,” Fares tells Newsweek. “You just don’t know when things are going to happen, but they do happen with frequency.” While Fares’s film covers the lives of all five women, it’s two who stand out. Mexico-born Saadeh considers herself both Palestinian and Latina and is busy building her brand as a glamorous, ultra-feminine driver: In between shots of Saadeh at the wheel, she gets her nails painted red and topped with diamante hearts as she scrolls through photos of herself on her phone. While she doesn’t always score as many points as her biggest rival, Marah, whose supportive father is a constant presence in the film, she is fast and “demanded a lot of attention,” says Fares. “But the dynamics were the same of any sports teams I’ve played on.”

Marah, Noor, Maysoon, Betty and Mona, five women in the Middle East’s first all-female racing team, the subject of the documentary ‘Speed Sisters.’ Amber Fares

GSMP mentee Paola Kuri advocates for a soccer without gender
Around that time, Kuri also began contributing articles to a blog dedicated to women’s soccer, Ellas Tambíen Saben (They Also Know). Hoping to marry her love of art and sport, she interviewed 50 different people about what soccer means to them and posted the answers up alongside pictures of her body painted while wearing her soccer gear. Within hours, the post, #YoSoyFutbol (#IAmSoccer), was shared by notable figures in Mexico, including former national team soccer player Luis García and former first lady Margarita Zavala. “I chose not to reveal the gender of any of the people,” Kuri says. “It was an important way of saying: It doesn’t matter whether you are a man or a woman, soccer belongs to all of us, and we all love it for the same reasons.” Kuri’s social media presence ballooned overnight. After receiving calls from newspapers and messages from people interested in discussing her project, she registered Fut sin Género and began work on campaigns promoting the sport. “What we’ve done with Fut sin Género is hit the red button to start the conversation about women’s soccer,” Kuri says. “We have a big task ahead of us — we need to make a statement that will touch the whole country.”

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